looking back

Peddling In Memories

2017 hurtles to a close.  Well, the year is going at the pace at which every year has gone by.  A clutch of stuff that got done while a heap that stays in the ‘to be done’ mode make it ‘hurtle’.  Green pastures, unspoken aspirations, dormant desires, dry deserts, severe floods dot my year.  Peddling in memories is an acceptable indulgence this time of the year. From newspapers to magazines to every other Tom, Dick, and Harry.  I am another random Tom who is going to peddle in memories of 2017.

The ever so connected digital lives that we lead makes everything easy. Including, peddling in memory. I don’t have to hunt between the whorls of the brain to recollect a chance interaction or a chosen meeting. In all probability, a trail would emerge from somewhere.  From my calendar or mail.  Perhaps from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too. And several other places. So, it’s easy.  That is the indulgence that I am going to allow myself. I call it indulgence more because I am running against time on a few other projects. But this must be done too. Scan the year through the trail I have left behind.

Well, why would you care? Seriously, you shouldn’t. I have ordinariness imprinted on me.  From the life that I lead to the occasional prose that I post. Maybe you could make good use of your time and do something useful. For a start, how about finding how this year has gone by and plotting the next year.  And maybe, what I put down here may trigger a thought or two and you do your own exploration of your 2017. If a few things emerge for you, if you are game, we should grab a coffee and have a conversation. For no other reason other than letting each other know that we are all in the same boat. Some pulling the oars and others watching the waves.

And so I begin. Game?

Within the first few minutes of scanning my feeds, one realisation stands tall. Through the year, I have been inconsistent on social platforms.   I recall how I began booting several apps off the phone as I began to understand how much they control my life. Available for access, sans notification at a time, place, emotion and setting of my choosing.  That in itself is a significant shift. More on that later.

As soon as I put consistency of use as a barometer, it is easy. The one app that strings all 2017 and its attendant passing is my ‘calendar’.  It holds a trail of the meetings, the conversations, the people, the places. The ones that I have declined and the ones that remained. It is a treasure trove and I like a deep-sea diver who has found a ship that sank ages ago, begin the examination.  With curiosity and compelling intent. I want to know where the year went. Suddenly, peddling in memory is, as the daughter says, ‘easy peasy’!

With a short, simple stroke of my finger, the year emerges on the iPad screen. I have a quick first go at it scanning through the months. In seven-eight strokes, the year is over. I see the empty patches and periods filled with ‘back to back’ meetings. At times, I notice myself lingering. At other times, the hurry in glossing over a bald patch is palpable.  Even as the finger does its dance on the screen, flicking a month away like a speck of dust, I catch myself looking inwards.

Specific events show up. Like a meeting that went well and another that went downhill. One where very senior managers in a company tried hard to load a big monkey on my back much to the annoyance of the monkey too. I smile. But only to quickly realise that I must not drown in the easy pit stops of ‘events’ like these. I am keen to trade these ‘events’ for ‘themes’ and ‘direction’.

After about an hour of pondering and a mug full of coffee disappearing these are the four bundles that I am left with. I feel energised. Perhaps it is the coffee. Perhaps it is the ‘being awestruck by the prowess of hindsight’ moment!

‘Productive’ is a label.

The number of interactions / meetings / experiences that I thought didn’t lead up to ‘productive’ results are many. It looks like litter falling off a faulty garbage truck! All over the calendar.  At least, that was how I thought of it when the purpose for which the event showed up on the calendar went down with a whimper.

But hindsight presents a different the view at the end of the year.  While that meeting or interaction may not have lead me to the desired result, the experience was invaluable. That experience often, I realise, lead me to learn something new. Or meet an interesting person and my curiosity helped me power on in another direction.  And thus, the realisation: Every experience counts.

Especially so, if I gave it some time to reflect on how the experience was. Reflection is underrated. And no one has the time for it. But without it, the experience is almost pointless.  Reflection on a periodic basis is important. (Once in a year, is not good enough for ‘periodic’. I made a mental note of that).

Projects and proportions.

Projects and work have a way of evolving.  To expect that they follow a steady pattern in a dynamic world is round pegs in square holes in a shaking lotto machine.  Massive chunks of time thinking through every possible outcome have often come to naught.  One month they are there and the next month, they just disappear. Because there is something outside of what was thought through, that emerged.

Our plans have to be nimble enough to respond to the response of the world, to our first steps!  I realise what I keep realising again and again. I realise I have to draw more comfort from direction alignment whilst getting sharper with making changes ‘as you go’. Put the big milestones in, strike deals but always stay prepared for change.

I realise I have to sharpen my stoic resolve to move on irrespective of outcomes: Good and bad! And the spaces that they have filled on my calendar.  The longer I expand the arc of time the easier it is to see a different perspective of real success and failure. Plan the big milestones and projects but what happens is a function of what happens! So, keep moving and allow for grey. Grey is a good colour.

Henry Mintzberg, a fantastic thinker that I follow writes about ‘PAT problems’. Problems were the problems and solutions come in a box! With the amount of precision dominating our lives going manifold (‘you will reach your destination in 9 minutes’), I seem to be inching towards precision where it’s not needed. If the reason for doing what I decided to do is expansive the answers cannot come in easy made-to-order boxes. Even though that’s a seductive promise many meeting invitations seem to make.

Bald is beautiful.

On a whim, I decided to search for white spaces on the calendar. Where I didn’t have anything written down.  There were a few. Most of it revolves around the Daughter. A sigh escapes. And another stays. The first one with relief and the second with mixed emotions. Other than the time with the daughter on her special days, the calendar points to this huge need to ‘maximise every passing moment’.

Commute times have been filled with calls. Lunchtimes have been over meetings. Coffee has a business flavour and dinner, I realise, has often been a function of projects.

It brings me front and square of certain facts. The number of books I have read and the posts I have written is perhaps at the lowest ebb. Ever. Let’s not even go in the direction of the movies I have watched.  The visits to the doc notwithstanding, it’s a slippery slope and I am stopping right there to summarise.

More downtimes and pursuing passions is necessary. While grey is a good colour, white spaces are important for gray.

‘Just Data’ is an incomplete view.

The data on my calendar is a treasure trove. I have far more to dive into and sit with.  As much as it reveals, it conceals a lot too.  It doesn’t cover how many times I missed a sunset or a saw a beautiful one. It doesn’t cover the sighs and the smiles beyond the obvious. And in those nuances, there exists a world.

I recall dropping my daughter one day at school, and she asked me ‘when do you plan to go to school?’. It doesn’t find a mention in the calendar but a space in time that holds a question of reckoning!

The lens of viewing the world through the calendar gives me a stark picture of how time went. But time, just by itself is not complete. Filling time up is easy. Leading life in a linear bullet train wearing a straight jacket embossed ‘growth’, fueled by the pursuit of ‘more’ is common.  That’s the gravy train to several of life’s attendant complications. The trouble is we never know when we boarded or for that matter, how we did.  However, we board, the option to get onboard to jump off at stations is a choice that rests with us.

So, Peddling in memories..

So, it’s been a good year. Its been full of experiences, conversations, right angles and frayed edges. All punctuated by a hurry and hurtle that has given way to a new grammar. Let me be honest. It’s not as though, I dislike the hurry and bustle or that it didn’t lead me anywhere.  Like a swimmer at sea who has been negotiating sharks, I raise my head to take bearing. While I have covered a very good distance, I realise I need to take a new bearing.

I grab my finished mug, collect the four bundles and head to the terrace. I reckon I have to build vast spaces of empty white. That will tell a different story perhaps at the end of the year. Perhaps there will be more music, more stories, and more prose!

From the terrace, I look at the vast expanse of the sky with its patches of clouds.  And as they change form, I wonder which I other lenses I must pick to look at the year though.