Colin Wright is quoted as saying, “You have one life to do everything you’re ever going to do. Act accordingly,” and I thought, How will I ever do all I want to do in this one short and unpredictable existence on earth?
I panicked. Everything I’m ever going to do on earth must happen now. Today!
I immediately repurposed myself. I changed my priorities. I found what matters to me.
So, one year ago… after reading another quote credited to Earl Nightingale, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway,” my brilliant husband guided me in a direction that would align my emerging ideas with implementation. I jumped on a rollercoaster without any seatbelt… and here’s what happened…
July 6, 2017 – July 5, 2018
Summary (non-confirmed numbers):
1 —> House sold
1 —> Song written and produced
4 —> Academic papers published
4 —> Books written, revised, edited
6 —> Graduate courses completed
7 —> Conferences attended
7 —> Events attended
7 —> Airplane rides
12 —> Road trips
I’m exhausted, but the memories we made were worth every second of lost sleep.
~~~ The Long of It All ~~~
After extensive research and comparison models, I chose a direction and wrote about it here. I’m interested in defining what it means to have an engaged community. One where everyone contributes toward a common pursuit of growth and sustainability. I’m interested in embracing new opportunities and writing more, reading more, researching more, learning more… doing more. I’m interested in creating something more than nothing. So, I drafted this, “Local government sets the overall tone for our everyday lives. That’s why it’s so important to love where you live,” and then I applied to a doctoral program to gain the perspective and conversation that would help me pursue this interest.
In JULY, in between traveling to Orlando (Orlando Book Festival), National Harbour (conference, fun and games, and research), Duck Key (more book research), and Key West (times I’ll never remember with the guy I’ll never forget), I drafted the story of an adopted Asian American girl forgiving herself for not knowing how to fit in and not settling for who everyone else wants her to be. This book was different. It changed me. It wasn’t easy giving up what I thought I needed, but it was exhausting holding on to heavy things like anger and bitterness. It may never be picked up by a publisher, and the world may never get the chance to read it, but at least I took the time to write it. I also worked on edits for book two of my South Beach series and attempted to plot book three, and then… one month was gone.
Then came AUGUST. More creating, revising, and editing. Also, Boston for the 2017 Americas Conference on Information Systems where Simon discussed Project Complexity and Constructing Clarity. He is my favorite smarty pants, always reminding me that the sky is not our limit (someone posted this at MIT). After wandering around Boston collecting memories, we drove to Concord for a family visit and to do more research on the city for my next novel. Also, this is when I learned that my undergraduate transcripts prove that someone can fail a class and still end up a nice person.
Key West reminiscing about our last first date twenty-three years ago. Talk about time passing! The next week, we traveled to New Orleans and returned to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma (8 Ways to Help After Irma blog), where we found out that part of our county were devastated. Places we visited often were devastated. …and in between speaking with community role models helping me clarify inconsistencies, my first class at Northeastern University started: Introduction to Doctoral Studies, where I reshaped this statement: Local governments are perhaps the most important level of government for their residents, because local governments impact their constituents far more frequently than either state or federal governments.
Three months ago, I hadn’t believed I could be doing what I was doing, and I wished I’d believed in myself sooner. Because time passes, and in learning how to differentiate between fiction writing and academic writing, someone told me I was privileged. Based on my own background, I never would have considered myself a “privileged researcher,” but because I was raised in a country where education is not only accepted but also encouraged for someone like me, I am able to read and communicate in ways others may never comprehend. So that’s how I spent OCTOBER — researching, writing, and communicating.
We flew back to Boston in NOVEMBER, where Simon filmed several lectures and presented best practices and strategies at a conference at Northeastern University. After another family visit in Concord, where I also added more research on the city for my work-in-progress, we looked at the calendar and realized five months had disappeared in the blink of an eye.
In DECEMBER, I said, “I want to watch sunsets all over the world with you,” and he thought that was a pretty good idea. So we started with Key West, because there’s something significant about a place that erases my insecurities and promotes my goals. My first doctoral class ended, and Simon and I co-wrote an academic paper (Toward Understanding the Impact of Entrepreneurial Leadership Skills on Community Engagement) and submitted it to a peer-reviewed conference.
Then, in JANUARY, we moved to Seattle. Starbucks Reserve, amazongo, views from our balcony of both Elliott Bay and Lake Union, and biscuits… along with three classes: Transforming Human Systems, Learning and Human Development, and Project Management Practices, one event at City University of Seattle, more creating, writing, reading, revising, editing, and… did I mention we came west with two suitcases and two backpacks?
By the end of FEBRUARY, my first middle grade novel had a rough outline, a blurb, and a couple of characters aching for an adventure. But I was in the middle of co-writing another academic paper for possible peer-reviewed publication (Cybercrime Post-incident Leadership Model). My project management class ended, and I found time to squeeze in another academic paper (Toward Cybersecurity Leadership Framework), co-written with my favorite smarty pants. We did some more touristy stuff in the Pacific Northwest: Space Needle, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Snoqalmie Falls… and then there was the chamber event at the Seattle Aquarium where I saw a fish with teeth. I also saw snow, tents with homeless people, and used needles–on the sidewalk.
By the time MARCH surprised us out of nowhere, we packed up and headed to Washington, D.C. for my first academic conference, where my co-author (amazing husband) and I presented our ideas on what it means to empower those around us to explore different levels of life and to take ownership of our limited and ridiculously unpredictable time on earth. We met with amazing scholar-practitioners, I wrote in the wild (National Portrait Gallery), and then, in the middle of a snowy night, I had another idea. In combination with my Learning and Human Development course and researching cybersecurity articles and news releases (the internet is amazing and terrifying), I said I wanted to write a paper regarding ethics in cybersecurity. When someone told me about a cyber breach that wasn’t reported, and another incident where leadership ignored cyber issues, I asked a friend of mine, who is studying computer science or something tech-related, to co-write an article (Ethics in Cybersecurity) we would submit to a peer-reviewed journal.
Back in Seattle for our first New Tech Seattle event and then my first Northeastern University residency, where I had the opportunity to present another research problem of practice, Community Leadership Development Programs and Community Engagement. I also began solidifying my own definition of becoming a change agent, we attended another chamber event, Simon attended MIT’s AI Forum, and right before the month ended, Simon and I attended a fundraiser for the Seattle Humane at Fremont Studios (Seattle Scotch and Beer Fest).
And then it was APRIL. Two more courses: Leadership Theory and Research and Organizational Learning and Systems Thinking. More articles to read, more opinions to form, and two more conferences (CAE Executive Leadership Forum and 2018 ABET Symposium). So… Bellevue and San Diego were nice. But I missed Naples. I missed Tommy Bahamas and my agent and her family and pink pools and St. Germain’s and friends and role models who helped shape my journey.
By the time we flew back to Seattle, one of Simon’s friends we haven’t seen for sixteen years stopped by for a visit, and it was fun catching up with a guy who knew us way back when… and now it was MAY, and in between our trip to Mt. Rainier and presenting our two papers (Cybercrime Post-incident Leadership Model and Toward Cybersecurity Leadership Framework) at the Midwest Association for Information Systems 2018 conference, a photo of National Wine Day appeared in my social media feed, we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary, and Simon booked us a trip to Napa, where I tested my liver and my ability to write in the wild surrounded by delicious wine.
Driving up the coast of California, we took detours with Redwoods so large they put my life in perspective. It was now JUNE, and because I read it in a magazine, National Rose Day found us opening our Limited Edition Rose, Summer 2018 from Chandon, and I have to admit for a sparkling wine and for a rose, for someone who has only ever preferred champagne (that’s changing after this), I have to say this fun bubbly impressed me. But I still had classes to take and papers to write and novels to draft.
In the middle of the month, Simon presented a webinar (NSA CAE Forum) on cybersecurity, and then we rented a car and drove from Seattle to Big Sky. We stayed in Big Sky Resort, the Village Center, and wow! So much space! Head space. Work space. Just space. So much inspiration right outside our window–with a perfect view of Lone Peak. I almost refused to get out of the car at Yellowstone National Park because the admissions woman handed us a flyer that read, “Yellowstone is a Dangerous Place” and “Animals are Dangerous” and “Be Prepared to Encounter Bears.” But I’m glad my hubby convinced me to go on a short walk, because I saw elk, bison, and the most amazing geysers scattered along a path curving around Old Faithful.
The No Hike Required Lone Peak excursion took us into thinner air, and I happily slapped one of my “There is no box…” stickers in the Visitor Log Book at the summit, elevation 11,166 feet. Then, my wonderful husband told me that hiking through the woods would be fun. Normally, I wouldn’t mind walking in the rain, but after being chased off the path by a marmot and discovering my jacket was not waterproof, despite the claim on the sleeve, I concluded that I do not like to hike through the woods. So… wet, cold, chased by a rodent. Yup. That was me. Meanwhile, Simon is whistling and laughing and kissing me and promising me a hot shower, hot coffee, and lots of cuddles if I make it back without him having to fireman-haul me home. I survived. Because there were cuddles involved.
After we returned to Seattle, my friend from Naples gave me a day in between her other commitments to visit with me, and it was so great to walk around the city and talk about random nothingness and reminisce about all that little things that led to us visiting with each other in a city across the country from where we first met. She said she liked to walk, and she had this step counter thing she kept checking, and she had these awesome sneakers ready to trek all over the city… and our total steps equalled 25,793 = 12.1. miles. We’ve already agreed that the next city where we meet should definitely have more drinking and talking and less walking.
My next classes at Northeastern start on Monday, and they are Global Perspectives of Organizational Culture and Contemporary Models of Leadership.
Paulo Coelho said, “One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”
So easy to think. Slightly more difficult to implement. But yeah, the time will pass anyway…
Some people do a lot of little things, some people do a little of big things. Ours shouldn’t be to compare our lives to others, but to compare our lives to how we are living versus how we want to be living. I hope you’re spending your time wisely.
If you’d like to see more photos, please click here to visit my Instagram (@thereisnobox).
xox ~ Risa