Friday, February 12, 2016

What's behind you

When I was in grad school, I went through a major life change that caused me to question myself and my decisions more deeply than ever before. It was one of the darkest periods of my life, and I was searching desperately for direction and a sense that I'd be ok.

It was during this time that I found myself at a Krispy Kreme donut shop - vulnerable, but ready to delight in the comfort of a freshly brewed cup of caffeine. When I picked up my coffee at the counter, the Krispy Kreme employee looked me in the eye and said, with gravitas,

What's behind you is behind you.

Those words hit me like a brick, and I stood there, staring. I felt... comforted. It took a minute before I turned to my not-yet-husband to say, "I didn't realize they had started giving fortunes at Krispy Kreme." He looked at me with confusion, but then laughed, "Katie, he was talking about the sugar and the cream. They're behind you."


It's funny how our receptiveness, how our vulnerability can make us malleable. How we can hear things that others don't. I went in for a coffee, but I walked out realizing that my path, my life's work, wasn't wallowing somewhere behind me. It was facing forward.

Sometimes, during the course of our careers, we may look with regret upon a suboptimal year, a lousy grade in a course, a botched proposal, an unwritten manuscript. There is so much emotional baggage there, and thinking about all of the things we could have done or should have done if only we had worked harder or submitted to a different journal or hadn't spent so much time role playing Angry Birds in the backyard...  It doesn't get us anywhere. If you aim to be better, if you want to do more, no matter if your goal is a higher H index or a better relationship with your mother- you can't worry about yesterday's crap. Yesterday's crap is going to bury you.

What's behind you is behind you.

Leave your baggage at the front door, pick up your pencil, and move forward.