Life In Tangent


”I want to be a scientist,” my eight year-old says with enthusiasm. His dark brown eyes flickered with excitement. There were bread crumbs around his mouth. “A scientist, huh?” I said between bites of my apple. I handed him a napkin, we were having our afternoon snack.

“What type of scientist?” I asked out of motherly curiosity. He paused, looked thoughtfully down at his plate and smiled deeply. Raising his head he beamed, “I’m not sure yet but I do love the stars and looking at things under my microscope.”

I touched his hand warmly, “I think that’s awesome, you can be whatever you want to be.” I’m not sure he heard that part; he was too busy inhaling the rest of his sandwich. Shortly thereafter I listened with marvel as my son went on to describe his fascination with the heavens.

I wish I had his clarity when I was that age. In my adolescence, I struggled. Whenever an adult would ask me — “What would you like to be when you grow up?” — I made sure I had a canned response. Lawyer. Doctor. Anything that would make me seem like I had a clue about myself. Then came my sarcastic teenage years when I’d retort, ” Alive, I plan to be alive when I grow up.”

I thought my childhood best friend had it figured out. In second grade, during recess while we ate our candy necklaces she was the one who clued me into saying, ” a lawyer.” She said she wanted to be a lawyer, so I wanted to be one too, whatever that was.

Truth is it wasn’t until high school that the light came on for me. Not a big spectacle of lights, just a little itty-bitty shimmer. My granddad and I were watching CBS News — as we did every night. I really admired the anchor, Dan Rather, I thought he had such a cool job. I started watching the other stations and became captivated with the role of a news anchor. The world of journalism at-large fascinated me. Oprah Winfrey. Katie Couric. Diane Sawyer. Deborah Roberts. I developed a profound respect for their craft. So much in fact that I was on the yearvideo team in high school (I’m really dating myself here. . . yes, we made a video yearbook). I walked around campus with a tripod and camera hoping to catch candid moments of my classmates on film.

I studied journalism in college and grad school, I was determined. But all the while I was doing this I still wasn’t sure. It gnawed at me. I wanted it but I was interested in other things too. Business. Technology. Philosophy. I thought about it and thought about it. And before I knew it I was doing more thinking than doing. I felt the need to have it all figured out. It was overwhelming.

Sometimes we’re caught between thoughts, living life in bursts of tangents.

Now well into my adulthood I realize that we don’t have to always have the answers. Sometimes we’re caught between thoughts, living life in bursts of tangents. Even as we go on about our days, working, living and being, most people are still trying to figure out their purpose in life. Here’s the rub — I think — while tangents are healthy I don’t think you can dwell there otherwise we’d spend more time thinking about possibilities instead of making things happen. And when I say make things happen, I don’t mean a physical act, it is rather the act of making authentic connections with people, telling your truth and inspiring others all while on your life’s journey.