Thursday, October 06, 2011


"You have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future."
~Steve Jobs

I didn't start out with the idea of quoting Steve Jobs, but of course he is on our minds. Some events, some people leave a mark on life's time line. Before, and After.

Before Apple was a lifetime ago, and After Apple... well, it's about one of the most significant technological, even cultural, events of our time. Steve Jobs brought computers home. To more homes, and more schools, and he made them accessible and beautiful. And you don't have to be an Apple Person, to realize the significance. He made the PC vs Apple debate possible after all.

I do remember my first Apple. I was in a great little school, and the Apple sat, like a piece of art, an emblem of an ingenious present, and future. But it was not the kind of art that is roped off and guarded. The real beauty of the Apple was that everyone was welcome to get their hands on it, and play. And we did. Remember the click and whirrr, the expectation when you slipped in a disc?

I love that ever since Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak gave us Apple, I have had an optimism about technology, and an expectation that things will work well, surprisingly, delightfully well.

Of course it wasn't just magic, or good luck that made it possible to enjoy our home computers, and listening devices. And I like to remember that our pleasure in these tools came as a result of many dots being connected, including creativity, curiosity, and effort, work, persistence. A lot of people are reflecting on what Steve Jobs did, how he changed the world. I hope that what he did will serve to push us forward... forward in many directions, down new paths, through untested waters, so that we are following our hearts, and working, making, sweating, creating.

"Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart. Even when it will lead you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference."
~Steve Jobs

I hope that we will continue to be a country where innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity will be supported, and encouraged. I hope we are safeguarding the opportunities and resources for the next generation of inventors and artists, so that they can do great work.

I didn't start out with the idea of writing about Steve Jobs. I wanted to post some sketches I find around the house. Alex never stops drawing, doodling, painting, thinking, designing, imagining. All those dots! William, Max, and Maria too. Seems like for about eighteen years I have been keeping in mind that I need to get more paper, pens, supplies! Binders, tables, shelves, boxes overflow... time lines of images and ideas, of connections, concepts, and visions, they are everywhere here. I like to pause, and really see them. I like to take photographs of them.

It's time for college aps. Applications. Alex has some work to do, some decisions to make. It's his job, but it's a weight we all feel and carry, each in our own way. There is a pressure... to excel, to succeed, to get into the "right" school. And I admit, it feels like a final exam on the parents: If we did everything right, then he will be welcomed into an amazing school, and then he will launch, have a brilliant career, and all will be right in the world. But only if we did our job as parents. I honestly do not want to think this way, or believe this notion, but trust me, the notion gets planted, and it grows.

What I want is for Alex to continue to feel curious, and excited, to believe that outside of high school is a landscape of opportunity, and answers waiting for his questions. I want him to go to college so he can experience new resources, and new voices, and practice his own voice. In a practical sense, I believe school will do him good. But I do not believe that it is the only gateway to success, or that a degree will guarantee him entry into a career and happiness.

I have to say, parenting has never been harder than it is right now. I never felt uncertain, or unprepared when they were newborn, when they were toddling. But now. Now is hard. I can't seem to figure out how to approach letting go, or how much to let go, or how much to hang on. I am scared of doing too little, or not letting them do enough for themselves. And even saying this out loud, knowing they may read this and know their mom is confused, uncertain... too much? Damaging?

But, when I reflect on what Steve Jobs said at the Stanford commencement, I realize that a lot of my fears and concerns are about the expectations of others, about trying to follow a well worn path, one that is actually unfamiliar to me, but which society insists we must follow. My comfort and confidence as a new mother came from my pleasure in following my own path, finding my own experts, and parenting by the instincts that I felt comfortable with. I found what I loved. So... maybe it feels hard now, because I am not parenting a child, but someone emerging, someone nearly separate, someone looking for what he loves, and connecting his own dots. And society and cultures want to intrude on this process, which makes it all very complicated and conflicted.

"You've got to find what you love. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
~Steve Jobs

there is no perfect choice, no exact right path. And you know, sometimes our best plans get messed up. Ink spills. Systems fail. The key may be to keep moving forward, keep looking for what you love. And work. Work to fix the mistakes, work to find the answers, work to clean up the messes. Work to make form and function serve your purpose. Work with respect, and for respect.

I believe you have what you need to do well. I believe you will find what "well" means for you, and I hope this brings you comfort and satisfaction. There is no final exam. We just keep moving forward, and some days we realize that the dots are connecting, and we find ourselves having beautiful adventures.


Rebekka Seale said...

Wow...he is so incredibly talented. Wow wow wow. Wow.

Jennifer said...

You know I'm going through my own microcosm of this as well, for the high school process that feels so very much like a preview of the college process that's to come. I keep telling myself that the right things will happen -- that the school(s) that will be right for him are the school(s) that will want him, and that any places that say "no" will say it because they know how to gauge the connection between what they offer and who my boy is (and I can even know that the "no" decision will always be their loss and not his). But it is so, so hard. Hard to let go, hard to believe, hard to hold this much hope in one heart. We, simply, are mothers. It's what we do....

Alison said...

1. You have some amazingly talented children. And I'm not just saying that to blow sunshine up your skirt.

2. If in doubt, let go. They will let you know if they want more support from you. They will come back to the nest, because they know they can depend on you.

3. I can't remember #3. :)

Alison said...

Oh, I remembered #3! The legs under those wings remind me of Suki. I think it's the striped socks.

word verif: grapple...seems appropriate

Kim said...

Natalie! Your words are beautiful. Since Alex grew up with a mother who feels and says those beautiful things to him...I think he will live a fabulous life. My goodness, such a talented artist! How exciting to watch his adventure unfold!

test said...

It reminds me of the time when Patricia & I had some of the same thoughts, Patricia kept a journal, before blogs, and shared with it her doubts and then let it go and let the universe take care of it.

Tracy said...

It was so sad to read the news yesterday about Steve Jobs... Such a brilliant mind, amazing man... He will be missed. Seeing Alex's creative talent on paper dazzles the heart... what a gift he has! I love the imagination in his sketches. :o) Happy Days to you all ((HUGS))

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Do you all know how good it feels to read your thoughtful responses, to hear about your experiences? I really do appreciate the feedback.
"Grapple" indeed! These life transitions are something to grapple with... and in time, I hope, something to accept and know: it's all right, alright, and even quite good. Thank you, friends.