in advertising, you meet a lot of colorful characters. the brooding creative. the militant project manager. the awkward but lovable techie. the self-entitled intern.
and then there's joseph. the overachieving eccentric, resident enfant terrible and also a good friend. he's utterly impatient with the status quo, yet unlike many, arms himself with laundry lists of ways to make things better. joseph and i worked on countless projects together, from a cayman islands website to the branding for a chicago skyscraper, with a little oprah and motorola sprinkled in along the way.
before major presentations, he could often be found "scrambling" at his desk, leg shaking as he put the finishing touches on the 50-pages of documentation he'd have to present. once saved, he'd click print and send a couple trees off to meet their maker at the printer that was steps away from his desk. as he stood up to collect his masterpieces and prepare to impress the client with his thinking (and his pseudo-British accent that would make Madonna proud), he'd often mutter a question that would always strike a chord—or rather more like a nerve—within me.
"do you ever feel like your life is leading to a single moment?"
it was a rhetorical question (he was usually whisking his way out the door by the time he uttered the last word), but it summed up the importance of the moment: the potpourri of anxiety, excitement, simultaneous pride and insecurity of putting yourself out on a limb...and not knowing what the outcome would be. every single time, he acted as if this moment, this was the big presentation that would finally catapult him to greatness (whatever that meant).
in agency life, those moments happen to be more the rule than the exception. but every time he'd ask the question, my thoughts would go to life. my life. in roughly a minute of contemplation, it would all rush over me, scenes of my life in fast forward.
"is my life leading to a single moment?" and if so, "what was it?"
falling in love? buying a house? having kids? landing my dream job? buying a bigger house? winning the lottery so i can quit my job and travel the world?
do you ever find that when you finally achieve the "moment" that you've been striving for, there's another one waiting right around the corner?...and another one?...and another one?
we've been brought up to believe that life is linear, a collection of milestones that assemble perfectly on the path toward that "one defining moment." but i believe it's a fallacy. a quixotic exercise in "tilting at windmills."
the truth is there's no such thing as a "single" defining moment. life is messy and chaotic and your path, like mine, has probably taken many a detour along the way. the key is embracing the now. and not some ambiguous, unattainable moment in your distant future.
appreciating the little moments as well as the big. the small victories and knock-it-out-of-the-park successes. the ones that propel us forward, whether in work, in our relationships or in life. not moving toward a finite "end" but rather a continual path toward self-discovery.
there's a wonderful piece by alan watts called "music and life" that equates life to a symphony. it's not about the build-up to the dramatic climax at the end. rather it's about something much more profound:
"...we thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end. the thing was to get to that end—success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven when you're dead. but we missed the point the whole way along. it was a musical thing and you were so supposed to sing or dance while the music was being played."