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 exists again.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.