The Long Game

The past week has been relaxing. A couple of big projects reached, if not their conclusions, at least solid guide markers that indicated clear progress.

One, of course, was quitting my job. That’s been in the works for a year, or three, depending on if you mark from the moment that I  knew my situation had to change or the moment that I truly decided to do something about it.

The second was my friend’s wedding, which also has served as a motivator for my efforts to lose weight. I’m currently down more than 60 pounds, which is a bit less than I was hoping for (the first three months of the year were tough) but still an achievement I’m quite pleased with.

The common lesson in these stories is that life, and time, are long. Long enough, at least, to solve problems that you don’t necessarily have answers for when you start. That’s certainly the situation I was in three years ago with my job, and one year ago. And then, I set a deadline, and while I haven’t solved the problem of getting a new job yet, I’ve got a lot of prospects that I didn’t have before, and a lot of reason to believe that my goal is attainable.

It’s also the situation I was in with my weight; knowing in theory how to get fitter but having a long history of trying and failing to do so. The difference this time was in getting the help that I needed, which wasn’t even that big–just a bit of a different approach to exercise, which helped to make a few other things better. When I started, I was hopeful that it would have an impact, but not necessarily confident. Now, after a year of sometimes-steady, sometimes rocky progress, I am confident in what is still to come.

These two things have helped me to internalize the fact that problems can be tackled over time. I hope that this bridled but genuine optimism can be applied in a professional setting. I’m thinking back to the Center for the Future of Museums’ post on science museums having to choose how to tackle politically divisive topics like evolution or climate change. I’m at least sympathetic to the pragmatic approach in situations like that — I’ve covered librarians forced out of their jobs for stocking the “wrong” books on shelves, so I can at least imagine museums facing similarly unjust consequences if their exhibits go against the beliefs of determined anti-science advocates.

With a longer view, however, it’s possible that today’s far-fetched idealism can become tomorrow’s pragmatism. The proper question, for some problems, may not be “How can I solve it?” but rather “How can I put myself in position to solve it in the future?”

Perhaps quicker solutions would be preferable, but when quick solutions aren’t possible, slow ones feel awfully good.

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