NYC 2014

Last month, the New York Times ran a series of articles focused on the life of Dasani, bigstock-New-York-loves-me-19847534a young girl living in poverty. The five-part series was beautifully written and used Dasani’s family and school life as a window into the psychologically windowless experience of poverty.

The article brought forth a shocking data point: almost half of all New Yorkers live at or below the poverty line. One in five American children live in poverty, a number only rivaled by Romania. As NYC, and many other cities across the US, experienced a rebirth in the past decade, the number of people who have fallen kept pace with this growth in a desperate, inverse fashion. The experience of desperation is one that roughly half the US population dances with at least once in a lifetime.

This backdrop heralded the start of 2014, a year of contrasts, exemplified by tensions erupting across NYC: the DeBlasio era vs. the Bloomberg years, NY’s wealthy vs. poor (without much in between), an $800,000 average price for an apartment in Manhattan vs. what the average person can afford. It is a year born from tension.

I feel such tension myself, in my own professional life. The year began with a fantastic assignment working on a merger integration. Anyone who has done this work knows how all-consuming it is. The tension I feel is my own balancing act – how to open space for current and prospective clients, how to keep engaged in family needs, how to keep my health in check. I even feel the tension of getting this blog entry written and published. Don’t mistake this for complaining…I welcome this tension because, frankly, it is the result of progress. But tension is still tension and maintaining the proper balance point is hard.

I go back to myself. Last year, in this blog, I broached the concept of balance a few times (All Work and No Play, Workplace Warriors). I’ll confess that my interest in the topic peaks when I am in a period of imbalance. But the value of experimenting with balance is no less relevant when the need is pressing. This is what I tell myself.

So, like the cash strapped New Yorker coveting a pre-War one bedroom on Riverside Drive, I focus on using the tension to bring me forward. It is said that to get to something you have to go through something, and it is this axiom I hold as I articulate my own prescription for going through the tension:

  1. Bring compassion, for yourself and others, to the opening second of each activity.
  2. Be clear about what you promise, and meet it.
  3. Remember that completion is your friend; multi-tasking is not.
  4. Be grateful for what rides alongside the tension (work, change, inclusion)

Taken as a whole, this imbalance – this tension – should be accepted with a kind of gratitude. I am not skirting with poverty. I am not without a home. Even with long days and work-heavy nights, I am better than just OK. In fact, I am fantastic.

Adding to these obvious and fortunate riches will be what awaits me if I manage gracefully during these times, wisdom. A kind of wisdom I can bring forward to the next assignment, the next job. A wisdom that, I suspect, only emerges from what I swear, when I am over-tired, that I will never do again.

As for now, I’ll just follow my own cure in fits and starts, and see where this tension leads.




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