Keeping it in Perspective

I have a love/hate relationship with change. I love new challenges and new opportunities, but would love to have them completely on my own terms.

Of course change doesn't exactly work that way. At times we have to endure waiting for change. Sometimes we make one choice and other unintended changes tumble out. At other times change is hurled upon us before we're really ready for it.

Whether just a few minor instances of change, or a deluge of them, being able to adapt as life moves along is something everyone must do.

The last five months of my life have been filled with change. After accepting an amazing opportunity of coming to work for Balsamiq, an endless stream of changes followed: giving away most of my belongings, leaving family, friends and my cat behind, living out of a suitcase for three months until I could move into my new apartment, learning a new job and industry, and dusting off those old Italian books.

At times, that OVERWHELMED feeling began to creep in, and I have had to just breathe deeply as the mass of changes I initiated unfolded.

In dealing with change I have found a mantra to rely on: "Keep it in Perspective."

Moments of Dread and Panic

A little over a month ago I had the opportunity to remember this lesson. I was traveling with my aunt to a doctor's appointment, and had brought along my new Balsamiq MacBook Pro in order to work while waiting.

Stopping first at the coffee shop, I was distracted by new emails, and I delayed putting the lid on my caffe latte to read them. A minute or so later, my elbow and my cup united sending a tidal wave of hot milk, coffee and sugar over my keyboard, speakers and track pad.

Panic ensued as I poured off the liquid that surely would have a lava-like effect on my electronic device.

Since I am the bean counter here in Bologna, let me give you this moment in the form of a mathematical equation using my favorite Bolognese statue:

+

=

Arriving shortly thereafter to the waiting room with my aunt, I set my now darken computer upside down like a tent and watched in horror as it continued to drip the light-brown sticky liquid. There sat my roaming Balsamiq office, an expensive tool purchase for me less than two months before. I was grieved by my own stupidity (as I certainly know better), and by the waste of money, resources, and my team's time. Staring at my computer, I thought of the past two months of work and endless changes I had initiated in my life to take this new opportunity at Balsamiq.

I thought, "Peldi, are you really sure you want to hire me?"

As that OVERWHELMED feeling crept in on me, and I felt the tears well up, I looked around with more personal horror. My aunt (an AMAZING woman!) is in remission after her second fight with Leukemia. I sat weeping over this silly dripping silver box while in the blood cancer ward of UCSF, surrounded by those fighting for something a thousand times more precious than the object I held.

Life's little reminders

I stepped outside to sit on a bench (inverted computer in lap) to compose myself.

Behind me, I heard the giggling of a child and the joyful words of a mother. I turned to see a delightful glowing face looking over my shoulder. Her mother said cheerfully, "Don't bother her Anna, she's working."

"Oh no, I'm not working," I said. And I related my brief and sad story.

Anna's mom said, "Don't worry, I'd cry too if I ruined a computer."

I said thank you, and began to chat with her. Anna was laughing and her mother, with overflowing love, coddled and hugged her.

Anna's mom talked about Anna's upcoming birthday party, and noted with a huge smile that it was going to be great because Anna deserved it.

It was then that "Keep it in Perspective" calmly entered my mind.

Anna you see, was about to turn two, but faced severe developmental challenges. She is almost completely deaf, and has therefore not started speaking. Her body had not developed properly in many ways, so her back was not strong or straight and she couldn't yet walk. She has a rare genetic disorder, so rare, her mother called it with a gentle tone "Anna syndrome."

But seeing Anna and her mom didn't affect me because I had noted someone else's struggle or suffering. Anna and her mom, without knowing it, shouted to me "Keep it in Perspective" because of their overwhelming joy.

I'll admit, I didn't immediately forget my liquid-based mistake. Change and challenge in any situation are not immediately cured. But again and again I thought of Anna and her mom, and perspective was regained.

Keeping a sense of perspective doesn't fix the situation, but regaining a calmness of mind and a joyful heart go a long way in keeping me focused on the big picture, allowing me to find solutions to the stuff, large and small, that enter my work and personal life.

Coda

And my computer? Well miraculously after two days of tented inversion, I closed my eyes and pressed the power button. To my great surprise, besides a rather sticky few keys, and a noticeable smell of coffee grounds, all seems well enough.

In fact, every day for the last month when I open it up, it's rather a happy surprise to see it wake up. No doubt all that caffeine is keeping it going.

Natalie for the Balsamiq Team


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Comments (4)

  1. We get so caught up in work, clients, and deadlines that we fail to see the futility in it all. After so many years, you look back and see that a good part of it was pointless. The code that you agonized over is heavily outdated, the project you stressed over was killed 3 months after delivery, and that 3/4th’s of the deadlines were meaningless because they were some aggressive abstract date set by somebody who ended up taking months to do anything with the delivered product anyway. You get jaded.

    Then, your mind quickly wonders to what was sacrificed in all that time and stress—the memories, the time with loved ones, and growth in other areas and then you are suddenly reminded that life is about the ‘living’ and everything else is more or less dead.

    This is a wonderful post and I’m glad you shared. I’m sure that Peldi wouldn’t have given a second thought to fixing an honest mistake. Things happen. Your little ‘corner bistro’ seems to have everything in perspective and balance and that is a rare and awesome thing. God bless you all!

  2. Right on time for me in a less drastic, but similar hectic and difficult situation. Thanks for sharing your personal story on a blog that awaits smashing product updates ;).

    froschfinger
  3. great post Natalie…

  4. This is really great.

    Almost everything I need to know in life, I’ve learned from pre-schoolers.

    BTW, I coffeed my first laptop a couple of years ago at my last job after a twenty-year perfect track record. It never woke up. The IT guy said, “no worries, if we made employees pay every time they destroyed a laptop, the executive staff would all have to buy smaller houses”.