We are encouraged every day to be productive, to make a living, to be creative, to make something out of our talents, hands, minds, to be pro-active, to set ourselves goals and keep motivated.
I don't think this is a bad thing. Since I opened my blog and my Medium account two months ago, I have discovered the amazing amount of literature posted about it (“it” being inspiration, motivation; purposefulness). Although this topic is not my cup of tea as a writer, I enjoy reading these posts. They are, truly, inspirational and motivating. I also found it soothing that, in the turmoil of this world, people — mostly “first-world people” like me, but still — could actually keep a positive mind and share it for free with perfect strangers.
Starting a blog and sharing my writing online several times a week has opened my mind to a world I was — stupefyingly — completely unaware of.
Bricks and buildings
These inspirational posts underline, relentlessly and very much to the point, that we are the bricks that build the world. That reaching a goal, namely building a future or a project, is achieved brick by brick. That it’s in our hands. Everyday, a new brick.
Starting a business? Don’t give up, go one step at a time, every brick that you put in it participate in your success. Starting a blog? Don’t get psyched out by low stats or scam-ridden GA reports: every post, every contact, every minute spent networking, is a brick and you’re building your blogging project, your future as a freelance writer, right now. Patience, wisdom, hard work, faith. This is all about bricks and buildings.
I don’t know about you, but what with my everyday job — the one that pays for the rent — and my writing, I feel pretty busy putting bricks together. Writing, especially travel writing, is what I like the most. I am more busy, more strained, but also beaming since I started doing it for real, since I took the jump by clicking “Publish” for the first time.
And then the other day, a colleague called me. She asked if I wouldn’t mind meeting her son. She felt worried for him since he had dropped out of college and, as I am much younger than she is — and as I have the huge advantage of not being his mom — she felt that I could talk to him and give him some advice.
That day when she called me, I was very busy with my bricks. I had just launched my newsletter, I had lots of exams to grade, an important meeting to get ready for, a whole book to review, and I also was badly in need of some sleep. Because I like her and I didn’t feel like saying “no”, I accepted to meet her son the next Saturday morning — my Saturday morning! No brick that day, then, and no sleep either.
Drops and ripples
First, I saw it in her eyes. What that “yes” meant to me was not at all what it meant to her. Their was gratitude in her eyes. Relief.
I spent four hours with her son. We talked a lot, about a lot of things. What worried me the most was not his dropping out of college — he is very smart and will rebound — but his feeling of being lonely, remote from most other people his age, misunderstood about his identity (origin, political views, cultural references). We kind of “clicked”. I think he enjoyed talking and this was probably the first of a series of meetings at the local café, discussing politics and blogging.
Walking back home, I thought how the most inconvenient arrangements for me (meeting that boy, helping my Italian — and French-impaired — old widowed neighboor with her insurance papers, spending two extra hours at work with a student to explain those basic notions to her for an exam that she will undoubtedly fail again) have been the most meaningful to others.
Everytime you give your time for someone who is completely disconnected from you in terms of kinship or network, you are not adding any brick to any building. These people will live on without you, and succeed — or fail — making their own brick building without you.
What you are adding then is a drop to a pool of water. It’s our common pool, and your drop makes ripples.
Now I don’t want to go all “be good, brothers and sisters!” on you. I am just asking a question: what will have the biggest impact on my life, future, and projects? (A) The building I am adding bricks to, or (B) the ripples my drops are making?
This is not an easy question. Plus, if I answer (A), I will pass for the cynical “produce, produce!” kind of person nobody really wants to be; if I answer (B), I will be that cool Hippie you’ll eventually want to slap with her own leather sandal.
I can see what my bricks are building and I can see how it gives my life direction. This is very “utilitarian”. But now and then, it fails to make me feel useful. Every other morning, it fails to give me a sense of purpose.
On the other hand, I can see the ripples my drops are making and it gives my life substance — I was going to write “purpose”, but I just mentioned how my building gives it direction: maybe direction and purpose do not necessarily converge? Or am I losing myself in a semantic trick here?
Anyway, we probably need both — direction and purpose — whether they are converging, or not. I guess my conclusion, after some weeks of thinking about it, is this:
Your drops are the bricks with which others are building.
Of course, this means that your very own bricks, the ones with which you build your future, your projects, originate in other people’s drops.
Maybe this is what life is all about: drops conveyed by way of ripples, from one person to another person who uses them as bricks to build something of their very own.
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