Gratitude notes for January 2020
Today I learned that snowboarding in 50+ degree weather is a thing. And not much
was compromised by doing it. The snow was constantly soft so that I’d always
have something to plow with my board. Falling didn’t hurt at all; I braced
myself with my forearms tons of times and felt zero pain 90% of the time. And
taking breaks for food and hanging were warm and pleasant, especially when the
sun was out. I only wore Under Armour and a t-shirt all day.
We went to a smaller mountain close to the city, and the friend I went with
speculated how the crowd was much more relaxed than we’re used to at bigger
mountains. He was right. People were having themselves a “casual Sunday” on the
slopes everywhere we looked. Strangers seemed more amiable than I remember,
though I can’t tell if it was because there wasn’t any wind and chill to
distract us from talking or if people didn’t feel the pressure to maximise the
investment they’d made to travel to a full-sized mountain. There are 6 distinct
people I remember meeting on the mountain today, ranging from people I’d chatted
with on the chairlift to people I only encountered while I was whooping on the
slopes about being able to snowboard at all. The thing about smaller mountains
is that the same 200 (?) people are on the same slope you are all day; you’re
bound to recognize them after a few runs.
I love how much there is to discover about activities I previously thought I’d
mastered. Today, I learned a new way to look at snowboarding as a casual weekend
activity and with somebody who I think had as much fun as I did. How lucky I am
to have the time and means to spend a day like this.
When I was in high school and in university, I remember feeling like I was
surrounded by friends wherever I went on campus. There was a good chance that
I’d be able to say hi to at least one person that I knew wherever I went. It was
a great feeling. I felt like I was part of those places.
I’m noticing that I’ve been feeling this way recently, as well. The organization
I’m a part of has grown its headcount from twenty to over one hundred. In the
beginning, twenty people isn’t large enough to feel serendipity with those you
know. You see all of them everyday, so none of it feels like chance or bigger
than your immediate surroundings. At a hundred, though, serendipitous occasions
seem to happen all the time. You see familiar co-workers after spans of days or
weeks because of physical separation and the disparate focuses of your work. And
it’s starting to feel pleasantly similar to my days growing up at school. The
effect has been gradual, so it’s only recently occurred to me that it even
When I was in school, I knew that my time to enjoy this immediate sense of
belonging had a ceiling. I knew that everyone parts ways after graduation and
that seeing each other in the same light wouldn’t be possible after that. Of
course, I still maintain meaningful connections from that time, but the
serendipity within the community I was a part of would never be the same.
My time at my current organization has taught me a few things, though:
- Serendipity is not over. School is not the last place it can exist, which
means I could conceivably encounter it over and over for the rest of my life.
- Much like graduation, everyone’s time at every company will end sometime,
which makes it just as precious as my days at school were. And so I ought to
cherish these days in the same way and make them count while they’re here.
Not everybody gets the same chance that I do to meet their neighbors, whether
because of circumstances beyond their control like war or disease or a lack of
safety to do so, or simply because they do not recognize the opportunity they
have in front of them. I’m very lucky and thankful that I get to know mine and
that they find it worthwhile to spend their time getting to know me, too.
I’m really inspired by Vienna Teng. In her
December 29th performance, she describes how her relationships with her exes
have felt to her over the years. She reaches the conclusion that, in general,
you always kind of know them, even as you grow apart and dip back into and out
of each others’ lives. You both grow and you make mistakes, and all the while
that connection lasts in some special way.