Of Tardiness

As the New Year approached, I thought of a great resolution: Arrive on time. Eliminate all ideas of lateness.

When I am late, I feel horrible. One of my personal values is following through and keeping to my mind. The idea that I didn’t arrive when I said that I would arrive or when I would deliver something shakes me to my core. The fact that guilt settles into my bloodstream for hours on end that I profusely give apologies (or in some cases, avoidance due to fear) is unsettling.

What if I never was late? Wouldn’t that be crazy?

What if I could always arrive on time so that other people would soon start doing the same?

Because after all, many reasons leading to lateness were usually procrastination, misestimation of the time to travel or to produce, not valuing someone’s time, enjoying my sleeptime. Ridiculous shallow stuff.

But then I thought about the repercussions. Sure, that meant that I would have reduce the time I spend on other activities in order to make sure I arrive on time. Or that I would have to spend more time thoughtfully planning my days and minutes, which isn’t a horrible bad thing.

But the worst part, the one reason why I couldn’t do this as a resolution, was the dependence on factors beyond my control. Whether it was public transit or unforeseen traffic. Or a passenger or a driver that didn’t prioritize the same way I do and made me late. Or even worse, team members that were responsible for delivering something that I couldn’t personally provide due to my lack of skill (or time).

And so as a result that resolution was crushed. The fact that many things that I do rely on others—companies, devices, colleagues—meant that punctuality couldn’t be guaranteed 100% of the time. That I couldn’t predict that someone was “tired” or “just couldn’t get to it”. Or that they overslept. Those images rile me up and there’s so little I could do.

In college, when I was interviewing for a job, I arrived one hour early, partly because I didn’t want to arrive late (and didn’t have anything else planned). The interviewer spotted me in the hallway as I was patiently waiting. “You’re early,” he said.

“Yes,” I smiled. “I’ll wait here.”

“Um…okay,” he said uncomfortably and returned to the conference room.

I always took that as a cue that early was not a good thing. A sign of desperation? A sign that I was not a busy person? I was rejected that year and reapplied the following year, arriving only 10 minutes early. Less than a week later, I got the job.

Do you have the freedom to speak freely?

In the early 2000s, I told the world about what I thought about my roommate and boys. No filter. No censorship. I just wrote what was on mind, even if it was blatantly insulting or self-centered. (Back then, I didn’t quite embody the consideration that I would value in life.) Sure, there were times that it backfired—like my supervisor asking me to take down a post or a former roommate getting angry about my complaints about her demands. But overall, I was allowed to speak freely.

And today is quite a different world.

I have specific goals in mind. Some days, it’s to be a design thought leader. Perhaps some kind of TED speaker. Other days it’s to be a writer. A writer of a beloved novel. Whatever the case, the best path to success involves being spotlit in the public eye. The word matters and the intention behind that word matters.

Today, I read about the terror of J.K. Rowling’s twitter feed. She didn’t want to participate initially, but eventually pulled by its instant congratulations and ego rubbing, she couldn’t resist. In doing so, she alienated fans and disgraced her work.

All because of speaking freely.

How can I be the perfect person all the time? Especially when I am representing myself. And how I certainly don’t want a PR person representing me. I want to show the real me, all the time. And yet. I know how I should portray myself, but is that who I want to be? To create an identity, almost like a brand where there are specific principles and structure to every decision, to every spoken word, and every action.

That’s not what I am. And no rules can capture every aspect of my personality or even its dark side.

When I talk about my recent trip abroad, I hesitate to speak badly of anyone or anything. Because I think, it’s not that I hated it, it’s that only I hated it. The person who is me in that particular sense, so I feel almost constrained in what I say. I didn’t like it, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t like it. That preface floats nearly in front of every sentence that drips from my lips.

But then when I say what I love? It’s easy to spill the beans. People love hearing that. Positivity is the essence of being human. But how can we be like that all the time? Without the darkness penetrating?

to be me is to be me. Whole, imperfect, and real.

Things I learned in Turkey/Finland/Sweden/Estonia

In this trip, I experienced near misses of travel mishaps. Mostly around being late for a flight, poor planning for a train, etc. Like packing too much? But did we learn a lesson? I turned to Chris each time after we resolved those stressful points and mimicked his mother when she admonished him as a child, “Did you learn your lesson?”

We smirked and replied, “Nope!”

It should be said that better planning in terms of time and navigation could helped. Setting expectations would have helped. But of course, our priorities in seeing as much as possible, acquiring the goods and foods superseded everything else.

But here are random things that we learned (and potentially observed):

  • Northern lights are truly transient. That is, there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll see them even if you have a clear sky and went as north as possible in a Nordic country.
  • Cruises from Finland are popular with the locals not because of the destination, but because the duty free shops offer alcohol significantly marked down than when on land. Finns would buy all alcohol needed for their weddings on a $18 USD cruise.
  • It’s so much easier to sleep during the winter when abroad. As Americans (and San Franciscans), we find it impossible to sleep in warm, humid climates unless the AC is on full blast and silent. Sixty degree temperature is best.
  • Overnight trains in Nordic countries are clean and well-designed
  • Finns and Swedes trust their people. Security is unnecessary in parks and zoos, because they expect visitors will do the right thing. Right?
  • Likewise, liability is very unlike the US. If you fall, it’s totally your fault! I mean, didn’t you see the cracked sidewalk?
  • From my talk at Interaction 16, healthcare isn’t always perfect abroad. It can be frustrating and disenfranchising as the states. Like in Singapore, the Netherlands, Germany. And yes, even in Scandinavia.
  • It can be comfortable to sleep on top of a frozen lake if you’re in a mobile cabin powered by a gas heater, a comfortable mattress, and a compostable toilet. Is this like glamping?
  • A refresher in the metric system is always useful.
  • But as an American, I will never be quite satisfied with the lack of English, the different currency, and the non-use of the imperial system
  • Volvo is the pride of Sweden. Safety. Safety. Safety!
  • Swedish drivers (and possibly even the Finns) are incredibly patient. Cars will stop for pedestrians. Cars will never cut off other cars. Cars will even yield to fast-moving vehicles
  • Pedestrians will never jaywalk. When it says don’t walk, it really means that they don’t walk.
  • Swedes ski in resorts that have wide trails. The weather is always bad—windy and low visibility.
  • There’s no such thing as a beginner Swede on skis. Because shortly after Swedes learn how to walk, they learn to ski
  • Visiting four museums in one day is possible and very satisfying!
  • Having Chris as a chef helps with the budget, especially in expensive countries
  • It’s always worth it to cook in an area with limited (and potentially disappointing) food options
  • It is possible to make a multiple diverse meals with tomato sauce, tortellini, frozen berries, meat balls, dill seasoning, potato product, eggs, lettuce, ham, cheese, milk, butter, cherry tomatoes, apples, oil, salt, pepper, pasta, popcorn, butter
  • When giving a talk, insist on seeing the stage and presentation setup before going on
  • Just breathe when giving a talk
  • Alcohol-free pairings are the BEST at fine dining