Susan Craig

Live, Love, Learn……Every story is a journey

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Achievement – How to keep going.

A desire for achievement underlies every goal or plan. But as we pursue our goals, life tends to throw up obstacles that throw us off course. This post considers how we can keep going when life throws us a curve.

When I was forty-five, I quit working as a scientific researcher to become an entrepreneur. The timing was perfect. Our research group had lost a grant and downsized from a team of six to a remnant of two. I had been the last person hired—you know how that goes. I had some offers to stay in research–one was even an assistant professorship at Harvard. But for personal and family reasons, I turned them all down and decided to strike out on my own.

woman running alone
Photo by andrew dinh on Unsplash

My reasoning was simple:

I was a scientist studying Alzheimer’s Disease. The field was a boiling cauldron of discoveries, each rising to burst gloriously only to be rapidly swallowed up by those following, and all of them together rapidly assimilated into the mix of knowledge my colleagues and I all fed upon as impetus for our own research and thinking. Every day seemed to bring a new article heralding yet another major advance in understanding. 

But the reporting in the newspapers and magazines was almost always unbalanced and often inaccurate. This is not a condemnation of journalism… it was hard for those of us in the field to keep up; how could one expect even an experienced generalist to stay abreast of developments? The counsel among my peers was that if your name was correctly spelled in the press, you should be satisfied—and grateful! 

The rapid growth of knowledge made it nearly impossible for Alzheimer caregivers, burdened with the huge task of caring for loved ones, to understand what was really happening.

And therein lay my bright idea.

My plan was to translate the fast-moving events of research into language understandable to the average person. I would put out a newsletter that went behind the headlines to the actual scientific articles and, in addition, provided the background necessary to understand how new findings fit into the overall picture. 

Having been an educator before I became a scientist, my background was admirably suited to the task.

sad dog
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

It made perfect sense.

So, I made a one-person business plan, set goals, secured financing from our family coffers and began. Six months later, I refunded my subscriber’s money and went out of business.

What had I learned?

I learned that what seems a perfect solution may still not work. I learned that success lies in being true to who you are, and that we have to know ourselves well enough to be comfortable taking what may seem to be a step backward. I learned that, as John R. Platt wrote in 1949, that we move forward not by the way that we plan, but by the way that we must. Platt espoused that idea in a lovely little book called The Excitement of Science. In it he compared progress in scientific research to the process of climbing a mountain.

Man climbing mountain
Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Not by the way that we plan, but by the way that we must.

A truth worth remembering as we travel through life. Intermediate goals—a certain job, a particular award, a specific companion—may move beyond our reach. The way we must travel may not be the way we planned. It may not be a way we would choose.

But as we journey on regardless, a life well-lived is still within our grasp and will always remain so.

We just need to carry on.

A child is born handicapped, a spouse deserts us, a job opportunity comes to nothing, a loved one dies. Yet, we carry on. Not going the way we planned, or by a way we choose, but by the way we must.

You're not lost. You're here.
Photo by Thiébaud Faix on Unsplash

Sometimes nothing makes sense. Life doesn’t have to be fair, and we may not always win, but the only time we truly lose is when we refuse to keep going.

Until next time,
–Susan.

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Three Secrets to Coping with Change

We all have to cope with change. We transition from childhood to adult life, from singleness to relationship, from youth to age, from job to job, from house to house, from place to place. We go from sickness to health, from school to the real world of work, and from work to retirement. For most of us, I suspect it would be fair to say that our lives are always in transition of one kind or another. And we know that coping with these changes is not always easy. So today I offer you three secrets for coping successfully with all kinds of change.

Old woman with infant
Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash  

Let go of the past

1. Leave the  past behind. Let go of the things you used to have, and the places you used to go, but keep the people. Making new friends does not mean you must abandon the old ones.

Embrace the present

2. Do what needs to be done. Focus on NOW. Try not to make comparisons with what used to be–for better OR worse. Accept your new reality and do your best in it, even if the situation is only temporary.

Autumn leaves on a dirt road.
Photo by Doug Linstedt on Unsplash

Be kind to yourself

3. Don’t expect perfection all at once. Give yourself time. Every transition brings with it a learning curve and an acceptance curve. It takes time to navigate and accept new circumstances. Persevere.

Words "and breath" on neon sign with green leaves in background.
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

These three secrets will help you move gracefully through all kinds of change, be it minor or major, easy or difficult.

Until next time,
Susan Craig.

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From Corn Plants to Fire Ants—Costs and benefits of a mobile lifestyle

   

I wrote the first version of this post a number of years ago, when my husband and I moved from a small town in Nebraska to Austin Texas. Literally a move from corn plants to fire ants. We’ve moved again since then, but the costs and the benefits of a mobile lifestyle remain the same, so I offer this post again, dedicated to those who move and to those who stay.

Roadside flowers along barbed wire fence

The adventure of moving on

Home is where the heart is, so they say. But eleven days ago, I accepted a new job in the busy, crazy city of Austin, Texas. My husband and I have until July 1 to vacate our present home in a small town in the midwestern United States, find a house in Austin, and move in.  Fifty-nine days to go. We gain much by being willing to move from place to place. Exposure to new places and people, greater financial stability, career advancement, adventure–these are all benefits of our mobile society.

Today, unexpectedly, I was reminded of what we lose.

I sat in my office at the college, working my way through checking a large stack of final exams, when a former student walked in. With him was a lovely child, his three-year-old daughter. What a treat!  He was in one of the first classes I taught here, probably eight years ago.

corn plants at dawn in Nebraska

And it suddenly struck me that should any former students drop by after July 1, I will not be here to enjoy seeing them.

A benefit of staying

I have a colleague who has been at our university for thirty years now. He teaches the children of his former students. Given another five years, he could possibly teach the grandchildren of his former students. How cool is that?

And when they come to visit, they know he will be here, in the same building, in the same office, giving the same excellent education to their offspring that he provided for them so many years ago. It is a legacy and, these days, a rare and valuable gift.

Home is, indeed, where the heart rests

I value this colleague greatly. His choices have been different than my own, but his dedication to his students and his discipline is as strong as mine, if not stronger.

When we talk of my impending move, his eyes are a bit wistful, but we both know he would never want to leave this place. His roots are sunk deep into the soil of this Nebraska town. He knows the birds, the animals, the trees and grasses. His life is intertwined with the lives of the townspeople. His heart is here.

fields with church steeple in background

The nine years I have been here cannot compare. And that’s okay.

I admire my friend, and respect him, but I have no desire to live his life. You see, I have roots, too. Not in a place, but in a person.

Not in my husband, much as I love him, but in my God. Wherever I go, with my life’s companion or alone, my roots are deep in God, and in his love. So you see, for me also, what they say is true. Home is where the heart is.

*****

Which do you think is best–to move or to stay? Or some combination of the two?

Weigh in with your opinion in the comment box below! And whether you go or stay, God bless your journey.

Until tomorrow…
–Susan.