I was hanging out with a good friend recently and we were talking about work and how things were going as fathers and husbands, and he reminded me of something I told him back when we were roommates in college. Apparently, I remarked, I only do things I want to do. I can imagine that I said it jokingly, but with a hint of truth. He said that’s always stuck with him. Little did I know that even then, I’d already formed a pretty clear approach to relationships, career, pretty much anything in life. Do what I love. Spend time with people I love. And if I notice that what I’m doing isn’t what I love, reexamine if it’s worth my time. This aligns with the best advice I heard when I became a father, which was to remember that the days may be long, but the years are short. Find what you love on the journey and don’t let go.
I have a history of pursuing what I love, wholeheartedly. My wife and I were reminiscing about how we met freshmen year in our college dorm, and at the time we were both pre-occupied with other endeavors when our relationships started to really heat up. Instead, we both choose to plunge headfirst into this new and captivating relationship to see where it would take us, and everyday it takes us somewhere new. Best decision I ever made, hands down.
I tend to follow my heart vocationally. Unlike many students who attend college and sort of flounder in choosing a major or perhaps choose a major based on a specific career, I did neither. I took classes that aligned with my interests which were then and are still now, politics, community organizing, nonprofit work, and economics. I ended up with majors and minors in political science, community building and social change, and economics.
When I graduated, I taught elementary school in southeast Atlanta, near where I’d spent the previous summers doing community building work. I loved every minute of my classroom teaching experience. What I didn’t love was the bureaucracy and what felt like a stifling amount of rules. But even this part of the work had something to teach me. Afterwards I held an assortment of jobs, coaching teachers, developing leaders, managing teams (that one wasn’t so fun at times lol), but all of them started with some spark of passion. Even during my time working for a public school district in the belly of the beast (for a central office team), I was intrigued by the department title: strategy and innovation. Surely, I thought there would be an opportunity to do what I love there. And sure enough, I was able to carve out this space to do what I love.
Today I’m involved in a number of professional and civic projects, and all of them speak to some aspect of what I love. Probably though my favorite past time right now is spending time with people that I love.
Last week we traveled as a family to Delaware and Baltimore to spend time with friends and family, and it was a good reminder of the people, places, and things I’m still loving on this stage of my journey through marriage and fatherhood.
What I’ve learned over the years is that even if following what you love doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped or expected, you can still find things to love on the journey. That’s a lesson I’m trying to seed in my daughters as they grow up. We spend a lot of time asking them questions like, what do you love? What do you care about? What are you learning about yourself and your place in this world? The self-directed school that they now attend creates space for them to explore these questions as well and it’s been a breath of fresh air.
If I could go back to my 18 year old self who made that initial remark, I’d give him props for his foresight. But I’d also warn him, try to be a bit more open and don’t be so preoccupied with getting what you want. Sometimes you find new things to love in unexpected places and experiences. Knowing what you love and being open to finding new loves everywhere you go are both equal parts of the journey.