“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ~ Brené Brown
This past Friday was the end of summer vacation for schools, and indirectly, for some business, including where I work. Technically, summer ends on September 23rd, but for the sake of this post, it ended this Friday. So in order to celebrate the end of this season, a group of coworkers got together in someone’s apartment, in a quiet little neighborhood of South Miami. My coworker had invited to the gathering one of her neighbors, an 84 year old former university mathematics professor, who lives a few doors down from her. He lives by himself, with 24/7 help from a private nurse, so she thought attending the gathering would brighten his day.
We had a great time talking with the Professor about how he ended up teaching in Miami, and he shared his life story and some anecdotes, including how he did not like any of the official textbooks the university had decided to use. From his own notes accumulated over many years of teaching, he created his own textbook, gave it to the students in pdf form, and told them to print and bind it themselves. What a novel idea! After a couple of hours, the Professor excused himself and returned to his apartment, extremely tired from the interaction, but (visibly) extremely happy. Afterwards, we returned to the usual talk about work, music, sports and favorite TV shows, which is what usually happens in these coworker encounters. However, after some time, we all commented on how talking with the Professor had made us think about our own futures.
Slowly, we started sharing personal details, which is something we had never done before! Someone mentioned how her parents moved to Miami in order to provide more attention to her during her school years, instead of sending her to boarding school, like they had done with her older siblings, and how that made her see parenting in a particular way. Then someone else talked about how she and her mother had a difficult time understanding each other because of having similar personalities, and how those years influenced the raising of her own daughter years later. I shared my own experience of my parents sending me to the USA alone when I was 13, and how that shaped my behavior later on. The level of our conversation increased from mundane topics to deeply personal ones. We were still coworkers by the end of the evening, but by openly talking about our experiences and ideas, we had become much closer.
I believe after talking to the Professor and seeing how his life turned out, not good or bad, just the fact that it did, we noticed that life is not only really short, but filled with stuff that at the time seems really critical, (and some definitely is), but it really won’t matter once we arrive at our later years. Although nobody wants to really think or talk about those years, they are coming regardless (if we are fortunate). We may as well use our precious time to fill our life-force tank with people and experiences we enjoy, and live without regrets. Let’s evaluate our schedules and see what “priorities” we can remove from there, and instead fill those slots with opportunities to connect and share with the people close to us, or even those we are not close to, but can become friends later on. The end of summer is the end of another season in our lives, and one in which we should strive to achieve deeper connections.