Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I remember this time last year.

I was marooned in New York and in the midst of a major bout of contemplation. It wasn't a crisis, but I was deep in thought, trying to figure it all out.

I had turned 40 recently and was a graduate student at Columbia, living in a spartan room in a graduate dormitory, sharing a bathroom with fellow graduate students who had a high tolerance for filth. I was mulling what would come next, after graduation, my career, my life. I wanted to start a family, yet have a fulfilling, meaningful career. Can both be had? Must one give for another? Which should yield first?

And I had a thesis to think about, an anchor on my mind. I had designed the scaffolding, but I had a lot of beams still to put in place. It was a mental load.

I walked into the office of Marguerite Holloway, my science professor and my thesis adviser, sat down, and let it all out. The birthday. In school. Again. Career. Family. Thesis. What the hell am I doing?

Calm down, she told me. She was much more diplomatic than that. "You know," she said, "The decade after you turn 40 is a wonderful time. A time of centering."

"Centering?" I asked.

"Centering," she said. "You figure out what's important to you, and you concentrate on that, eliminate the distractions. On the way, you find contentment. You know you're heading in the right direction, and you are comfortable with the pace of the journey."

I don't recall whether she said in exactly those words, but I do recall that's what she meant. And she was right.

Life is good. I am happy. I am healthy. I love my wife dearly. I live in a great place. I have everything I could possibly desire. The family will come. The career dreams will come. And if the career milestones don't materialize, something equally good, if not better, will take its place.

I feel centered. Thanks, Marguerite.

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