Sunday, May 3, 2015

On being present and engaged

I met Joel in grad school. He was in the class ahead of me but we were in the same group for a year and we became friends. Our friendship started when he helped me navigate dealing with a particularly abrasive woman in his class. I’d thought perhaps I’d done something to offend her but it turned out that she was an angry woman with everyone so it wasn’t personal.

Anyway, I’d offered to drive him from the Kansas City airport to his graduation in Manhattan, Kansas (he lives in Lexington) and he took me up on the offer. On the drive back to Kansas City, I was doing my normal thing of interacting with everyone I met and I’d asked the toll collector how her day was going. I think I said something about the bitter cold and I bet that her feet were tired. We chatted very briefly in the 20 seconds or so it took for me to pay the toll. As we drove away, Joel looked at me and said something curious. “You are 100% present with people.” I’d never thought of it either way to be honest but realized he was right.

In the nine years since he said that, I’ve paid attention to what I do. Kent likes to say I get everyone’s story and that’s true. Everyone has a story after all, and most people really want to share their story. So I ask, and I listen. Partly it’s because I’m very curious (or nosey depending on your perspective) but it’s mostly that I want to know, I want to share however briefly in that person’s life.

But what I’m not so good about doing is getting and staying engaged. Joel excels at this. We both attended SIOP a couple of weeks ago and I was able to catch up with him and just hang out. And what I realized is that I have something to learn from Joel—that getting and staying engaged is critical for me if I ever hope to establish roots anywhere.

Tomorrow I start a new job as a permanent employee. I’m leaving behind my consultant days. And how this all ties together is that being fully present will still be important in my new position. But getting and staying engaged will be even more crucial. I am making the shift from second person (“You might consider doing X”) to first person plural (“We will need to think about X”). That’s a big shift. I think I’m up for it. I hope I’m up for it.


Magpie said...

Good luck tomorrow!

Jeanne said...

It will be a good challenge. You're up to it.

kd said...

We could all learn from this. For the record, I've never experienced you this way. In fact, your engagement keeps my head level and my anxiety from spinning my thoughts of control.

You'll be an excellent manager. <3

kittiesx3 said...

Aw thanks Kerry, that means a lot to me.