As a child, I thought of life like a timeline, from a hospital room to a pinewood box in the ground. I logged a few more years of life and discovered it’s more like a series of circles. Year-long circles, daily circles, decade-size circles all looped and linked over and around each other, and encased in one big circle.
(Of course, my circle is part of the chain that makes history, but that’s more than I can think about right now.)
Sometimes these circles follow the calendar. More often, they are seasons that carry individual themes. Sometimes themes wrap themselves in a full circle, other times the seasons end without a tidy, completed lesson until a later season unwraps a new layer of the old theme, bringing me full circle and writing a new ending.
Themes like learning to be cared for. Learning to rest. Learning to work hard. Learning to trust that there’s a bigger plan. Learning to stay. Learning to leave. Learning to listen. Learning to speak out. Learning to turn on a dime (Mom’s way of saying, “be flexible”).
During these seasons, I feel like a student in the classroom of a Creator and Universe. Conversations with friends and strangers, book suggestions, life puzzles to solve, and challenging decisions to be made are woven together and cleverly inserted in just the right places…at just the right times.
Two winters ago, I stayed in a little cabin on the bank of a frozen river on the fringe of Denali National Park. It was overcast most of my stay, but one day it cleared up enough to see the peak of Mt. McKinley. I stood in the picture window and thought about the stories I’d heard of climbers braving the mountain range in December.
I’m going to climb a mountain someday.
My mind wondered. My grandfather climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro—I’d always been enamored by that story. I wondered if I’d really have an opportunity to climb a mountain one day. And if I do get the opportunity, I figured, I bet I won’t have a lot of time to prepare. (Things usually happen pretty fast in my life.)
Be ready. The start of a new season and new theme. It was the time to prepare, I realized. My thoughts switched from the daydream of climbing a real mountain to looming projects ahead. Grad school. A career shift. A new home in a new state. Life is basically a mountain range, right?
There are no ice picks and -20º sleeping bags in my immediate future. Maybe never. But the other plans and dreams—my glass mountains in the air—the time for training and preparation starts now. Even before there is a concrete opportunity dangling before me.
I was a lone freelancer, comfortable with accepting an assignment and delivering a finished project. But my dreams are too big to scale alone. I need others. People to make things with, to struggle alongside, and to swap strengths and perspectives. People who see the world differently than I do. So much more could happen in learning to collaborate with others.
So, I learned to collaborate. These are some of the stories.