A few weeks ago at work, I received an unexpected request to write a 15–20 minute award acceptance speech for a member of our senior management team. In the same breath, they also admitted, “I have no idea what I want to say,” because they hadn’t at all been expecting to receive this acknowledgement.
This story is at least ten times funnier if you actually know my colleague. Devoid of that context, I’m sure you can still appreciate the refreshing honesty and reassurance of hearing your boss’s boss’s boss admit in a moment of surprise that they weren’t sure how to respond to something that had been asked of them.
When I met with them a couple weeks after that to actually discuss their speech, we’d both thankfully had more time to prepare. I’d had time to clear my schedule to write, and they’d had time to ruminate about what they wanted to talk about—a topic that, coincidentally, I’d also spent extra time contemplating recently—
Providing for others.
This is a theme that recurs often on my blog. It came up back when I was still a student and writing tutor at Berkeley and I also touched upon it in the weeks following the Northern California fires last year. Now I’m returning to it not because my work calls me to do so, but because of how my family and friends have provided for me, particularly over the past month.
In this past month, there’s been a not insignificant amount of extra projects to take on at the office. I’ve been trying to add more marks in pen, as opposed to pencil, in my five-year-plan. Friends both new and old have been asking to meet up.
Each of these sentences could probably be elaborated at least two paragraphs each, but to keep things tidy: Because of everything I’ve mentioned, I’ve been considering the ever ambiguous, ever looming future from new angles and haven’t managed to arrive at any Sharpie-worthy conclusions.
Most people who know me also know that I’m not the type who feels comfortable with uncertainty. I think, rethink, and overthink questions that don’t come with obvious answers until I’ve thought myself into an anxiety that prompts me to question the even the simplest, unrelated matters like, did I turn the lights off in my car? (Yes.) Did I lock the door? (Yes.) Did I get all my belongings out of the gym locker? (Yes.)
Whether or not my family members or friends realized it at the times we spoke, they each helped me calm down and slow my thoughts. Some did so by sharing moments their own lives, others by providing honest advice from personal experiences, a few by just offering me their time, and one by learning precisely what type of love I needed most.
It was in the midst of this support that I wrote the speech at work about providing for others and finding the joy of living a meaningful life through these acts. It was in the midst of this that I also had the chance to help Candle Boy mentor a high school student, providing him advice and support on his writing.
A couple years have passed since I last attended to my writing tutor duties, so I don’t feel as confident as I might have back then about how successful I was at providing this student with the support he needed. The timing, significance, and effect of each of these events, however, was not lost on me.
There is much to be said and gained from being on the receiving end of others’ support—but there is even more to be found from being the provider and knowing that your work has the potential to bring about even more positive change in the people you touch and affect. Everyone has periods of giving and providing in their lives, so when you can, remind yourself of how much you have benefitted from others providing for you and continue to pay it forward. You don’t know how much good you could be putting into the world.