This is not a ‘Reflection on 2016’ post

Rodin's famous sculpture, 'The Thinker'It will likely be the last post that I write in 2016, but this is not one of those philosophical reflections of what I’ve learned and achieved over the last twelve months. I will not be spruiking my successes, nor sharing with you the mistakes I’ve made. You won’t be reading about the wins and the losses; the ups and downs; and the ultimate triumph (or disillusionment) that the year may have brought. Nuh-ah. None of that. Because, really – who cares? I do obviously, but let’s be honest – I’m probably the main audience for that reflection. Which essentially needs to be the basis of my business planning for 2017 … Anyway … I do love that this little break at the end of a year and before the beginning of the next gives me some space for thinking and reflecting and writing (because that’s what I do, right? I WRITE!). I get so little time to write just for me, so this post is a bit self-indulgent. Most of it was written a few years ago, on a plane, heading home from Paris. Let me explain how it’s popped back onto my radar …

The Inspiration

I happened to be on a plane recently and just prior to my journey was fortunate to have taken delivery of the inaugural edition of The Cleverness Biannual, put together by the super smart and wondrously thinky Dr Jason Fox and his superb team at The Cleverness*. So, I had some inspirational reading material for the flight. As I perused the pages, Dr Fox’ s piece on that peculiar and dark stuck-ness that often precedes a breakthrough of some kind gave rise to a reflection on the importance of honouring the journey and process of musing, pondering, brooding, and, well, thinking. We’re so often all about the outcome of this process; the simple adulation of the lightbulb moment at the end. It’s truly magical when you’ve been stuck on something for aaaages – a problem, a philosophical conundrum, a mess, a state of confusion and disorder – and finally, (often when you’re just about to give up), the clouds part and you see how you can blaze a trail forward. There’s so little reflection on what it actually took to ‘see the light’, as it were. It also made me think about the literal journeys we take in life. When we travel somewhere new, not really knowing what to expect. Or when we are being transported back to the comfort and familiarity of home after a vibrant experience of somewhere different to the everyday. How there’s this whole chunk of in-between time that we tend to kind of wish would hurry up so we can get to where we’re going. I don’t think there is enough love given to the time in between destinations. There is so much potential for this ‘non’ time, when we’re suspended between realities. But instead, we just wish it away.

All this musing about journeys – literal and figurative – reminded me of a post I had written at the end of a most wonderful trip to Paris with a girlfriend about five years ago. It was penned somewhere up in the air, between Singapore and Brisbane, after a couple of glasses of champagne, and after I’d given up on trying to sleep. I’ve always loved this post for its honesty, but it never got published. Probably because I couldn’t find an ‘angle’ to make it professional or related to work for my business blog. But I’ve decided I really don’t need an angle. It’s my blog, and I can post about what I want. Plus, it’s the holidays and I’m pretty sure you won’t mind indulging me in the spirit of the season. It’s a naively raw piece of writing about people, humanity, travel, journeys, musings, and being in the moment. Which is kind of fitting for this time of year. I hope you enjoy my little folly. Wishing you many of your own indulgences — professional and otherwise for 2017.

*Yes I may be fawning a little. But ya’ll know how I revere the thinky. No, this post is not sponsored.

A Final Reflection on a Most Excellent Adventure

The cliché about life ‘being about the journey, not the destination’ is doubtless trite, but is a platitude for a reason. This is true for me literally, as well as figuratively. I love the act of travelling. Moving between places. I love road trips, and train trips. And I love flying. I love the whole rhythm and routine to flying. I love the rules and the hoops that you jump through every trip to get you to your destination. I love the mind fuck. I love that you climb into a gigantic metal tube with 500-odd fellow humans; you sit there for any number of hours, watching movies, reading, working, listening to music; and when you climb out again, you’re in a completely different place. Yes, I know it’s naive, but that’s still how it feels to me. And it will never get old. It’s like this incredible ride at the Ekka (Royal Show for non-Brisbanites) that I want to go on again and again.

I love the order and ceremony. I love that a bell sounds and the crew will perform the next step in their strict schedule. I love how the meals come in their allocated portions in their little containers and packets. I love that I’m anonymous up in the air. I can be whoever I want to be – friendly Aussie, weary traveller, or brooding insomniac writer.

And I love the humanity. Flying brings out the best and worst in people. Here we are, crammed in a glorified tin can, hurtling through the air at more than 900km/hr, wedged in like sardines (if you’ll allow me to extend that tin can analogy), invading each other’s personal space for 6, 10, 15 hours at a time. Most of us are tired, uncomfortable, certainly without our creature comforts, and many are way out of their comfort zone. How do we act? Do we become insular, retreat into our shell for self-preservation and morbid self-reflection? Do we become more outgoing and relish the opportunity to meet new people who can’t escape our rampant extroversion? In my current idealistic frame of mind (due partly to two champagnes, and partly to the anticipation of getting home), I think it makes us better people. We re-learn tolerance, generosity, selflessness, and just plain good manners. No-one is entitled to more than anyone else on this aircraft – except maybe those folks who pay exorbitant amounts to sit at the pointy end and get served proper champagne. But you know what? They’re just people too.

Tonight I have a window seat. And as I sit in the glow of my little iPad and look out the window, into the night sky I see one of the wings and a massive jet engine that is thrusting us through the air in concert with its counterparts. And I marvel at how this can be. How is it even humanly possible that we’re up here in the clouds, and how can it be that I have the privilege of being part of this?

Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation. Maybe it’s the effects of champagne at high altitude. But this is one of those fleeting moments of elation, like you have in a great love affair (you know, those ones where your heart is inevitably broken), where you think ‘if I never feel this way again, I’ll still be happy for having felt it once’. Or maybe that’s just me …

One Comment

  1. Yeah Susan, I know that feeling well. I’ve done far too much flying in those cans of congealed electricity spewing greenhouse gases into the high atmosphere to feel comfortable about it. But, yes flying gives you time to be different. No one here to impress (except that lovely flight attendant that insists I have another beautiful shiraz). No deadlines until the destination. And, no mobile connection (but they’re fixing that, bugger them). I love watching the clouds while listening to classical music, and also going down back and watching the contrails forming, or seeing the shadow of the aircraft and its contrails on the clouds below. I’ve also met some fascinating people on aircraft (ncluding fleeting mini-romances with gorgeous people – you can share a great deal in 15 hours with the ease of a few reds – just another take on your “fleeting moments of great elation”)….. And, I’ve also made some incredible decisions while isolated in the sky, and able to let my emotional intelligence have its freedom unhindered by spreadsheets, and data!

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