Friday, October 23, 2009

On focusing on the RIGHT thing

It’s often easier to focus on what one misses out on than what one actually does or accomplishes. The famous last words (of someone smart, I am sure) “I only regret what I didn’t do” says it all – in hindsight it is not the paths we walked, but those we didn’t get to explore that haunt us.

Having now spent close to three months in the USA, I find myself discovering new things every day that I “should have done”, while I frantically try to utilize my last week here. Naturally I want to make sure I don’t miss out too much, but at the same time, it is important to take a step back and consider all the things I have done. Counting accomplishments and experiences I find plenty, both on a professional and on a personal level (and I am sure several other levels as well).

• I have successfully gathered plenty of sources for my master’s thesis. Sure, I could have done more, I could have consulted other resources and I could have been more efficient at doing so, but in all probability what I now have already exceeds the limitations of my thesis. It will simply have to do.

• I have spent (less than desired, yet some) time at my office in the heart of Washington, D.C. I may not have struck gold there, but it’s been a nice experience nevertheless. The walk to and from the metro each morning and afternoon among suits and motorcades, passing the buildings where the fate of the world is determined, makes it worth the effort alone.

• I have met a lot of interesting people. This includes some good, old friends; some good, new friends; random discussion partners; friendly passersby; and president Obama (the last is a joke. I haven’t met him, even if my office is only a few blocks away from his).

• I have gotten to see a new part of the world, a new country, and several parts of that country. The USA is no longer a vague mix of impressions from movies, books and television. I’ve had expectations and prejudices both confirmed and contradicted, and in total I can say with my heart that when I return to Norway it will be with a wider understanding of the USA and the people living here.

• I have been able to explore one of the world’s most interesting cities (says the history/international relations geek), something I’ve been wanting to do for years. There is of course plenty left to see, but no one visits all the museums when sightseeing here, right?

• I have made some potential contacts in terms of networking, in several respects (meaning both personal, professional and blog ones – the blog ones being something in between). And speaking of blogging…

• I have blogged almost every single day since I started in August (wee!). It has become a habit of sorts, and even if I am not sure I will continue blogging every day once October (NaBloWriMo) is done, I intend to keep the blog up also after I go home.

• I have contributed to with 100+ giraffes (with more to come). Just another friendly reminder to check out the project and make one of your own ;)

• I have successfully managed to survive my second longer stay in a foreign country, all on my own, before I am 24 (my 24th birthday is coming up just after I land in Norway). It is a test of sorts to be far away from your home, your family and friends, in a foreign culture, speaking a foreign language; and I believe I’ve passed.

In the long run I am determined that these are the points I will remember. I refuse to allow myself to regret what I didn’t do, because what I did do was also significant. So all in all, it doesn’t matter if I wasn’t a social butterfly or that I probably haven’t made connections that someday will make me Secretary General of the United Nations. I’ve grown as a person with this stay, and that is more important than what I possibly missed. Finally, if I should discover that the things I did miss were significant, there should be plenty of opportunities in the future to come back.

The Jefferson memorial - taken on my (for now) final sightseeing in Washington, D.C.


Anonymous said...

I love your love for giraffes. Giraffes are my favorite animal by far. They we my mother-in-law's favorite animal too. Glad to see someone else with the same enthusiasm and passion for giraffes.

Stephen Tremp

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I can't believe you are not yet 24, Mari. I am more than 14 years older than you, but feel I have done so much less than you. Or maybe it is just that I have travelled so much less.

And that photograph is stunning to say the least.

Cruella Collett said...

Stephen - if you're looking for enthusiasm and passion for giraffes, then you REALLY should check out It never fails to blow my mind how creative people are in our mutual goal to reach 1 000 000 hand-made giraffes before 2011. Currently about 350 000 are collected. It really underscores the power of the Internet, doesn't it?

Natasha - I hardly think you, of all people, is in a position to claim you have done less than me. Try playing my game for a while - focus on what you have done rather than what yet remains - you've done and accomplished so much (and I probably don't know half of it) that I would be lucky to fill my next 14 years with even a small percentage of that. If I in that time have a good education, a successful carreer, a husband and two gorgeous kids, having worked for several NGO's, having finished a marathon (more than once?), and being a wonderful and always thought-provoking writer (to mention a handful of all the things I know you've done), I think I shall be VERY satisfied.

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