On Patterns

I don’t trust words. I even question actions. But I never doubt patterns.

When I was a child, I was a big fan of Nancy Drew. I imagined myself a detective, ferreting out information to solve a mystery. One of the things I do best is collect information, about almost everything I interact with, and then look at the data and analyze it. It’s like solving a puzzle. The Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes—the list goes on and on—all are childhood and adult favorites of mine. Today, in my career as a scientist/engineer, many times I gather or select data for a specific problem I am trying to solve, to help to draw a conclusion. But the more exciting version is to look at the data as a whole and tease out the forest from the trees. Let the data tell me the story. There’s a bit of art and experience plus gut instinct involved, and the “a-ha” moment of clarity when a solution presents itself cannot be beat for satisfaction.

I enjoy people watching because it allows me to see another view of life through people’s actions. These brief snapshots in time stimulate the imagination and spawn stories I like to create. That mother with her three children at the coffee shop, who seems harried: what happened that morning? The strange man who is sitting on the bench next to me in my neighborhood to watch sunrise: what are his thoughts? Is he a visitor from out of town? These are all machinations of my own mind, for as far as I know, we cannot truly read another’s thoughts. The closest we can get to knowing the person inside is their words, whether spoken or written, actions, and the cumulative sum of their life choices and experiences.

In my life, there have been plenty of examples of people who talk the talk but do not walk the walk. I’m sure we all have that friend that says they are going to take that trip but never do, the coworker who brags about improving their athletic abilities but never practices, and the person who promises to meet up for coffee or a drink, but somehow is always too busy to set a time to meet you. Sometimes this is because of life intruding, but is it really? People prioritize what is important to them, and the actions they take usually reflect that. Sometimes, it could be that the words that are said give us comfort, let us think there may be another version of our lives or ourselves, if only…and that can be a good thing. The words we may not have the ability to act on today, may be what we find the strength to act out tomorrow.

So with that in mind, I’m getting ready for bed and when I wake it’ll be a new day. One with a lot of important decisions being made that may, in one way or another, impact my life. But based on past history, which has been a lot of words with minimal actions, I’m not holding my breath. All I can do is spin a tale of hope that one day all that is will be seen and valued. Until then, I’ll keep walking my path and doing what I do. Fortune favors the prepared.

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