I was inspired by a question in James Clear’s newsletter this week: “What 6-month period of your life was the most energizing and fun?”
Huh. I have no idea.
I turned and asked my husband. Huh. He sat back and did not have a quick answer.
We happened to have our Toastmasters meeting, and I decided I would have to ask the group. Most of us have been meeting every week for a few years now, and we know each other fairly well, but I didn’t have the faintest inkling what my club friends would have to say about this.
Six months, you say? The most energizing and fun?
If you’re a Toastmasters geek, this is something that we do sometimes when nobody has a prepared speech. We do an “extended Table Topics” of 3-5 minutes, and everyone answers the same question. Everyone gets a chance to speak and we skip the individual evaluations.
The meeting flowed smoothly, as I asked who wanted to go first, and after one person spoke, someone else would feel moved to take a turn. Nobody competed and there was no dead air.
Preparing for a mid-life wedding with the adult children as the wedding party.
Preparing for a friend’s wedding, only to meet his future bride during the ceremony.
Preparing for an international adoption.
Childhood travels to visit family all over the country.
A winning football season.
Being a college student in a filthy apartment, eating junk food, and having fun, not even realizing the responsibilities of being a husband, father, and business owner that would come. (That one was pretty funny).
What struck me, listening to everyone else’s stories, was how much they all revolved around relationships and a state of anticipation.
Who has been feeling that lately? The anticipation of being able to socialize with people we haven’t seen in a long time?
The thing about choosing a six-month period is that it might involve a string of events, but it also might incline someone to pass over some of the biggest highlights of life. Something significant and exciting might happen as a flash in an otherwise humdrum time.
Six months can be a long time.
I racked my brain.
You’d think that someone would have chosen a point in childhood, like learning to walk or ride a bike, or learning to read!
Strangely, though, the moments that are probably most exciting to our parents as we grow from infants to accomplished little kids, the moments that fill our early photo albums, are most likely to be times that we take for granted.
The times we learn the most and physically change the fastest, meh. Not so interesting.
I had a suspicion, going into the meeting, that nobody was going to pick childhood, and I was right.
It was also compelling to hear people speak on these topics after having met them in the context of work. These are people with advanced degrees, patents, and academic publications in some cases. I happen to know that a couple of them have been commended for pretty impressive stuff. But nobody talked about that type of success.
Do we not think of our professional or academic accomplishments as “energizing” or “fun”?
I was still quizzing myself about what six-month period I would choose, when a last-minute guest popped in just in time and used the last speaking slot. We were out of time, and it was my privilege as toastmaster to hand over the lectern and escape without sharing my answer.
Then I thought, well, I shall ask my readers. Why suffer this question alone? Perhaps the lot of you will spend the weekend mulling it over.
When, indeed, was the six-month period of your life that you would describe as the most exciting and fun?
I passed over college. The time when I was writing my final history paper was pretty exciting and fun, but then, my roommates had to short-sell their house and I was technically homeless for a couple months, and in that time I also got a nasty respiratory infection and coughed up blood. That actually looks more dramatic in print than it felt at the time! It was, though, a heady mixture of intense stress mixed in with the fascination of researching my topic.
I passed over the time I started dating my husband, although I think that time period came close to meeting the six-month mark. That was when I moved into the first apartment I had to myself in many years, and the crack-smoking parolee moved in upstairs, and I quit sleeping and my hair fell out.
I passed over the time I was training for my marathon, because actually I overtrained and blew out my ankle and had to quit running for a couple years. Then I thought maybe I’d pick 2011 or 2012, when I was running in the regional park by our house all the time and feeling quite fit. But our social life was sort of a mess at the time, and that’s a lot of what I was thinking about those days.
I settled on the summer of 2019, when I was finishing my DTM and campaigning for my election, we went to World Domination Summit, moved to our new apartment, went on two international trips, and had a housewarming party. At the end of that six-month period, we visited my family for Christmas - and little did I know, that remains the last time I’ve seen them. It was the last normal six months.
That’s why this was such a nice topic for everyone to speak about at our meeting. We were all able to cast backward with nostalgia and come up with happier times. Everyone softened, and what we remembered were parties and group photos and road trips and plane rides and planning, planning unencumbered with worry.
There’s something instructive in choosing for ourselves, out of our own experience: what six-month period was the most... energizing? Fun? Some other characteristic or qualifier that is meaningful to you? It tells you something about yourself.
For my own life, I have realized that I seem to have a preference for times of transition, times when I am working really hard on some big challenge and I’m about to level up. Not the time of accomplishment, not basking in the results of whatever big project, but the strenuous uphill phase.
What is it for you? If you had trouble choosing, is there anything that your bright windows of life had in common?
What would it take to create similar conditions in the future?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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