Thursday, August 12, 2010

Waiting and the Little Things.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
-- Colossions 3:23-24

A couple months ago, my brother gave me a CD with a pretty wide variety of songs on it. It's got everything from Sleigh Bells to Jack Johnson, MGMT to Kings of Leon. I've spent a lot of time listening through it, and I've picked up on a few new favorites of mine. "Roll Away Your Stone" by Mumford & Sons is absolutely fantastic, and there were a few surprises that took a few listens to get used to as well.

One song keeps drawing me in though, and not because I think the music is all that fantastic. It's a great song, but not what I would consider a perfect fit for my tastes. It's the lyrics.



I haven't spent enough time thinking about the lyrics to try to figure out exactly what Colin Hay is trying to get at, what his ultimate meaning is with this song, mainly because I get stuck every time I hear the title.

"I'm waiting for my real life to begin."

That's sad, isn't it? Maybe I just find it sad because of how close to home it hits for me. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future. I don't think that's a bad thing in and of itself, but I tend to forget that, for now at least, I don't live in the future. My life is happening here. Now.

I heard myself say in a conversation today that someone shouldn't worry too much about something that's going to take up a significant amount of time because "it's really just a means to an end." That's wrong though, isn't it? (Coincidentally, that's why I'd rather email than talk on the phone most of the time. So I don't give stupid advice or say something I actually don't think is true. I'm also horribly awkward on the phone. Don't believe me? Call me sometime...) We really have no idea what the end is going to be, so we really should be focusing on what we're actually doing. I've got a lot of "plans" and things on my "to-do list" that may or may not come to fruition, but for that to happen, I need to be doing something about it now. There are certainly things we don't want to do, or jobs we feel like we just need to get done so we can go back to living our lives, but that ignores the fact that those experiences are part of our lives as well.

I'm sure this philosophy should lead to all sorts of changes in how I approach my down-time, mundane tasks at work, and how I plan for the future, but I'll do that on my own time. This is your life, and I'm not going to waste it with that stuff.

Living in the now (Wow. That sounds horribly cliche.) also requires us to focus in a little bit more on the details of life than the big picture. There's a time and a place for both, but I've been trying to recognize the impact of little things more lately. It's astounding sometimes how big that impact can be.

Once again, I'm going to use a work example. Tune out the next paragraph if necessary.

I spend the last week and a half at work debugging some code. It was a strange problem because the code worked perfectly in one situation, but blew up in my face somewhere else. From what I could tell, both situations were identical. I poked and prodded and talked to my boss and made zero progress for a week or so. After getting frustrated to the point where I was ready to go work on something else just to clear my head for a bit, I glanced back through the code and noticed one subtle difference between two lines that should have been the same. One referenced a student ID number, while the other referenced a record ID number. After swapping in the word "record" for the word "student," everything ran beautifully.

Anyone who's done any programming, or even filled out an Excel spreadsheet with a formula or two can attest to the fact that computers are very picky, and don't give a whole lot of grace when you don't give them the correct instructions.

The same is true in a lot of other things, though. One small, absent minded insult can ruin a relationship. One glance from the road to a text message can cause an accident. I see situations like this every day, and even more frequently now that I've begun looking for them. The rubber hits the road when you begin to realize that you control these little things, and can start something pretty impressive just by being conscious of your actions.

And you can only do those little things right now. Wishing you'd done them does no one any good. Planning to do them doesn't count.

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