Anniversary Edition: We’ve Decided on Forever

Waking in a king-size bed, alone for the last time in my life, I stretched beneath the sheets and cautiously opened my eyes to the morning light.  The previous four years had led me to this moment; a moment I knew then, and certainly know now, I did not grasp the full weight of.  By now the bridal party would have been gathered for hours preparing under hairspray and powdery makeup to greet the photographers’ constant shutter-flash.  It was 9:30.

There’d be breakfast for me and my family down in the hotel lobby.  I’d grown up in this town, and the thought of staying in a hotel was humorous to me.  Such are the the requests of the mother-of-the-groom.  On a day where very little is about the parents of the groom, I figured I’d grant that one request to be in close proximity to one another.  Continental with aunts and uncles, cousins, a brother, a sister, friends from out of town.  In all the excitement, I spent some time with my godmother and her husband, a few cousins and kept the conversation light.  I ate a bowl of cereal on the morning of my wedding.  Golden Grahams.  Breakfast of husband-champions.

First to polish off my vows, which I came to understand were woefully less complex and touching than my bride’s would be.  Then to gather with my groomsmen; a collection of two of my closest friends, my brother, and the two brothers I’d be gaining during the day.  College football was in week 3; probably the worst of all the weeks.  Most teams schedule cupcake games in week 3.  They’ve impressed  the national media with their first 2 out of conference games and are taking it easy the week prior to starting conference play.

When you’re getting dressed for your wedding, there’s this lingering question of whether or not you’re doing it right.  Is the shirt supposed to be bloused? Double-Windsor for the special occasion? Should I lean back against the couch as we’re ribbing each other about football match-ups, the good old days and what the future holds? Am I supposed to be overcome with emotion, or is the steady approach that got me to this moment sufficient? What is going to rock me about our big day? In all our history as a couple, is this truly the biggest day? Or were the scores of encounters between us, that could have gone this way or that, but ended up going positively, more significant in leading us to this moment?

My brother, the best man, drove me to the church in my car.  I’ll always remember he played for me Alicia Keys’ This Girl is on Fire.  It had just come out.  The first time I heard it.  He offered it up as homage to Carolyn’s soon-to-be presence that day.   A quick ten minute ride, and we were there.  On time.  Dressed to the nines.  Is this really how all grooms feel?

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As the groomsmen, the priest, a few friends, my father and I gathered in the sacristy to await our guests, this beauty was stepping out of her carriage into her fairy-tale destination.  I like to think that when I go to heaven, this moment will be what greets me.  As I waited in that sacristy, I had no idea I was about to watch this beautiful woman, who’d transformed my heart and my life walk toward me in such a meaningful ceremony.  I’d thought forever about what getting married would look and feel like, but I’d never envisioned her in such exquisite detail.

We chose the church we did in part because of our ties to it.  We both grew up attending this particular church, had family as parishioners there since the beginning of its existence.  What was most beautiful about the church were the faces filled within it.  As I looked down the aisle, on both sides were memories of happiness and love, of support and constant presence.  I would not describe myself as a traveler.  I do not have wanderlust.  I do not want it.  What I want are those people to remain in my life as readily and constantly as possible.  What I wanted in that moment, and want every day is to come home to my wife, my family, and create a home filled with that same happiness and love.  That same readiness and dependability.

The reception venue was as perfect on that day as it had ever been.  A labor of love, Union Mill was not just where we had our reception, it was where I had shaped my professional identity.  A historic renovation undertaken by my former company, Union Mill was, at its time, the largest sail cloth fabricator in the world.  It went on to house LifeLike products, a company that hit it big when they realized they could take their train garden product and create low-cost Styrofoam coolers.  The Mill was then redeveloped to be a mixed-use facility housing 56 one and two bedroom apartments and 11 tenant spaces for Maryland-based non-profit agencies.  The entire project was dedicated to education.  Teachers got a rent reduction for living there and the NPOs were all in some way affiliated with education.  Its beauty and value resonated with me on every level.  It is one of those buildings in Baltimore I will treasure from a myriad of perspectives.  We built a 4-tiered courtyard within the space the building enveloped.  Our reception was held there.

As the sun set, the lights of the interior courtyard illuminated beautifully and set an ambiance of intimacy and liveliness. It was the perfect combination.  Music, food and drinks abounded.  It was the perfect celebration to begin the formal marriage my wife and I had casually adopted essentially since the beginning of our relationship.

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Five years later and I’m more in love with my beautiful wife.  I thought it would be hard to envision, but on nearly every level, I love her more deeply.  We’ve added so many layers to our marriage for me to love about her.  Children, careers, relocation.  We try and talk more about substance and have fought through the traps that lay for so many newly-wedded couples.  I am by no means a perfect person.  I post about the best of my experiences in hopes to replicate them in my life, and to see them reflected in others.  My most recent post generated a conversation after a disagreement my wife and I had.  We talked about authenticity.  About whether or not I was challenging myself to more constantly live the values I describe in my blog.  This conversation, while hard, is exactly why God gave me my wife.  I am reminded by my wife, that in my efforts to write about and achieve momentary and lasting happiness, I have to approach all of my roles through that filter.  I’ll be working on that until I die.  Its probably God’s actual, ntended purpose for the  Edison Project in my life; to be authentic, focused and driven towards happiness, even in the most stressful of circumstances.  Even with all of my faults, I am an infinitely better person because of her presence in my life.

My wife was the first person I dated who made me feel like I was home around her.  She made me feel like I was home within myself.  Without ever having to verbalize it, she inspired me to make changes in my life that have benefited me the world over.  She has pushed me to stay reflective of myself, has blessed me with three beautiful children, has challenged herself to fulfill a myriad of roles in life, regardless of the lifestyle changes they’d require.  After dating my wife for nine years, I am an entirely different person.  She’s saved me in every way you could save someone.  She’s given me strength and confidence to carry our family when she couldn’t and has picked us up when I grow weary.  There’s not another person alive who could do all of those things for me.  We’ve grown in our faith and understanding of where God has called us together.  We’ll continue to build our lives, a home and fulfill dreams together.  After five years, I’ve come to realize that all of those momentary questions I had of myself, of my wedding day, and of my wife have been answered by the Grace of God, and by the loving partnership I’ve developed with my wife.

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Here’s to another five years of realizing together all of the wonderful joys of life God has in store for us.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

The Travel Down the Mountain

EdisonProject35More frequently than I write, I think about writing.  I suppose that is the same with any passion, but more and more I think about writing my book.  Behind story delivery, plot, character development, scenery, poetry/prose refinement, I am constantly searching for the answer to one looming question; What is it about my voice that is unique? My fantasy is that I’d be read like Salinger or Fitzgerald or Thoreau.  That I’d make an impact like Vance or Kalanithi or Albom.  Those are huge aspirations and provide attitude and a horizon line along my attempt at flight; but those are not my goals.

I have three baseline goals:

To publish a book

To carefully unearth and convey my message

To utilize my voice in a way that only I possibly am able

The rest of the shopping lists are only wants for me.  These three are needs.  If I can accomplish this, I hope the rest will follow in succession.

I had the opportunity to speak with an old mentor of mine yesterday.  The intent of the body of the conversation was entirely unrelated to writing.  But the advice I received and the path forward I saw as we were speaking carries over quite nicely to my goals in the world of pen and keyboard. As my brain often wants to do, I began today to review my Rolodex of analogies.  The more I thought about it, the more I envisioned myself as a drop of water; those around me as drops themselves.  What we have most in common is that we fell from the same system at the same time in history.  We’ve all fallen at the peak of the mountain.  We have no idea what journeys lie ahead.  Some of us will freeze at points, only to melt and resume our trek down the mountainside.  Some of us will filter through plants or trees, others may pass through the gills of a fresh-water brook trout or latch on to the fur of a grizzly bear.  EdisonProject41We’ll start and stop, turn and tumble, ebb and flow down the mountain, part of the greater river, dash against the rapid, cascade down the waterfall.  At the top of the mountain, there’s no telling when we’ll surge and when we’ll get swallowed up.  Even if we knew the path we could never predict the effect the water level would have on us as a drop; never be able to envision which organism, desperate for our nourishment, would require our vitality along their own separate journey within the shadow of the mountain.  All the while, those other drops we started with may reach the gorge for sooner or later than we.  Some may never make it.  Some may toil ceaselessly while others, buffered by more exposed droplets, seem to endlessly emerge as victims of unforeseen obstacles.

EdisonProject42So too, is it with us.  We all journey down the same path.  We all were born within a time-frame of history that allows us to experience the same, or similar, events.  What creates a message, what builds the unrepeatable cadence of our voice is the manner by which we rebound from those unforeseen obstacles.  There’s never a way to know what’s around the bend.  That’s not our role.  Our role is to filter our experience through our passions and create something worth leaving behind for those who might also find themselves searching for a map, or at least a few tools to manage the overwhelming landscape through which we are about to, or are in the midst of careening.  The daunting concept that eludes me more frequently than not is that the system; the world, the mountain, history, the river, your family — those affected by your footprint, need your journey, your droplet, your cover, your protection — in order to be in the physical place they need to be at the time they need to be in order to fill the role they were created for.

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That thought, errant or not, has been vital to the most recent fever-pitch igniting my passion, fueling my search for my voice, pushing me down the line along my way towards publication, and to help me carefully uncover and deliver my message, utilizing the tools and the maps I’ve managed to acquire for myself.

Yours In the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

 

With Whom We Walk The Path

I woke to a cacophony of beeps, compressions and shuffled steps.  Peppered among them were the short, frightful breathes of a woman desperate for the end of this particular journey; freely ready to trade it for the next.  The room was dimly lit; a light over my wife, while all others had been snuffed out.  I found myself under a sheet and what only the most disadvantaged would refer to as a blanket.  Underneath of barely anything, but on top of even less – a twin mattress, unhindered, may have been all of two inches thick.  With my frame, I could easily feel it’s.  There’d be a sterile procedure in a few minutes, I had overheard one of the nurses say to my wife.  Best get your husband up.  He’s not permitted in the room during the administration.  Leave it to me to be the one sleeping through the beginning stages of labor…

I unraveled myself from the linen and put on my shoes; a quick kiss on the head to my wife prior to heading for the door.  It was just past 4:00 AM and there was nothing open.  A jaunt around the perimeter of the hospital took just ten minutes.  I’d have to improvise.  In my rush to leave, I’d separated myself from my phone.  I’d have to go it alone, sans social media for the remainder of the time.  Fortunately, I’d brought my book.  On three hours of sleep, in the wee hours of the morning, its impossibly difficult to read.  The time passed, slowly.  Eventually, I re-entered our labor and delivery room.  Not quite sure of what I’d find, or if I’d be permitted to sleep by the woman who, minutes before, had kindly explained to me that my sleep, or lack thereof, wasn’t really an issue worthy of making the list at that moment.  My brain objected.  My tongue held steady in the moment.  I’d passed that small test.  Upon re-entry, I found a subdued, if not relaxed spouse.  Our doctor was due back around 7:00 AM.  Hopefully with answers, maybe insight is the better word.

As time wants to do in moments of anticipation, the big hand seemed to slow to a crawl at times, leap to a sprint at others.  All the while the little hand was curiously disconnected from its usual concerted efforts with its longer, less important comrade.  Yes, under such a watchful eye I was convinced both of the lazy lot were Bolsheviks.  Lunchtime came.  Nothing.  No pushing.  No sustenance.  No baby.

Finally, as we made the lap around 2:00 PM the word came out of the doctor’s mouth like manna from heaven; it was time to push.  Again, not having any real responsibility, and knowing even less what to do, I was assigned the left side of the bed as part of the delivery team.  30 seconds.  Push for ten.  Breathe for 20.  Do it again.  And again. And again. Between frequent ice chip retrievals and leg support sessions, my wife began to complain of the heat of the room.  After adjusting a few times, the nurse began to realize that the temperature readings they’d been taking orally were compromised by the ice chip habit, or addiction, that had been forming.  A test under the arm revealed an elevated temperature, that coincided with the baby’s elevated heart rate.

Chorioamnionitis also known as intra-amniotic infection, resulting from a burst amniotic sack for too long, had developed as a delivery complication.  As we could see the baby’s head, the doctor quickly assessed that potentially a vacuum (terribly misnamed instrument by the way, its more like a plunger head with a string attached) could be implemented to avoid a C-Section.  Immediately at least 3 more people entered the room.  The bed manipulated in such a way as to rival the brigade of Transformers – lights turned way up from places I didn’t know existed. Still more people entered. The din got louder.  There was an explanation from the labor and delivery person for each new inhabitant. My focus both broad and narrow.  I began to forget the reasons for each persons presence. I had not the time to wonder, either.  The doctor totally overwhelming me in the best sense of the world with  efficient word choice, movement and action.

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What seemed like only a moment, but must have been several minutes, resulted in the successful delivery of Quinn Teresa O’Connor to the world at 3:42 PM, tipping the scales at 8 lbs 9oz, and 21 1/2″ long.  At the very first sight of my daughter, my world expanded.  There was never a thought of “I can’t do this” or, “What do I do here?”  I felt totally prepared for being a father.  What never occurred to me was the total change of perspective, as if I’d just zoomed out on my life twenty-fold and was now staring at a much bigger expanse of area, now filled with a beautiful girl that I had played a part in breathing life into.  What a mental exercise that was, and still is!

In the days, months, and now four years that have followed, there’s not been a day I was paying attention where I haven’t been totally sideways at the thought that this little girl is my little girl.  That this little girl has gone from that moment, which I’ll never forget, to this one.  That I just spent the last few hours of daylight teaching her how to ride a bike! How did we arrive at this moment? How am I going to deal with first dances, graduations, engagements, and on down the line when no gap of time permits that first moment may ever recede from my memory?

While I’ll never fully grasp that concept, I am eternally grateful to God, my wife, and the host of angels, living and en memoriam that have provided the wisdom, grace and providence to bless me with such a captivating little spirit.  I’m completely biased, but there’s not another soul on this earth I’d choose to be the one to make me a daddy.  Four years later and my course through time has altered dramatically.  I’m also told that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  That thought is as unfathomable as any I had, prior to my daughter’s arrival, about the impact fatherhood, my children, my daughter would have on me.  I’m strapped in for the ride, not quite sure what I will encounter, praying it all remains just as magical.

Happy Birthday, Quinn.  We love you so.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

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Providing My Own Authorization: My Journey To and Through Writing

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As a child, I spent as much time getting lost in a good book as I did getting lost in the woods.  Whether leading an expedition against the greatest odds with my creatively imagined friends along the Patapsco River, or reading about the many actual fearless warriors within my books, my dreams were derived from the imagination that the woods and my books cloaked me in.  Time would prove to diminish the frequency with which I ventured into the woods.  School, studies and competing interests made my epic sagas intermittent at best.  But every time I found myself back there – every time I find myself back there, no time has elapsed at all.  It is as though I am a boy reunited with my first love.  Books however, have grown from the vehicle for my dreams, to the method by which I’d like to express my own.  Authorship is the milestone I’ve set for myself while striving to live for me; to live for now.  This goal was not hatched out of a desire to find something to measure my progress; it was something I’ve wanted for myself since the first time someone ever asked me what I wanted to work of my life to be.

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I was with my parents and my siblings on the Metro, travelling into DC for the day to watch a Georgetown basketball game and see a museum or two.  My father likes to throw out questions that require thought prior to response.  I’m not sure how my brother, sister and mother feel about the game but I always loved it.  When he asked the question, I didn’t need to think about it.  Writing a novel had been a goal on my heart for as long as I could remember.  Realistically, reading books for school like Johnny Tremain or Enders Game or Catcher in the Rye always made me question the method of the writer just as much as the tale of the plot, or the character’s challenge or triumph.  I always envisioned F. Scott Fitzgerald coming to his “A-Hah!” moment or Hemingway massaging his scenery as part of the journey I was on.  I wanted to be like them.

I want to be like them.  In so many ways, my happiness project is about creating processes, habits and content that will guide me to the place I need to be to write that book.  I want my book to speak for my generation, or a block of us, much like Hillbilly Elegy recently has for so many.  I want my book to move people, to break something open in the world of others.  I want my book to make some people’s’ lives richer – while for others more of a call to action.  I want my book to represent the woods and the adventures I went on through streams and pages.  I want my book to discuss the trepidation I felt as I was coming into my own, and then the false sense of self I encountered in my teens and early twenties, before finally moving back into my soul to find the greatest journey I’ve encountered thus far – starting a family.  I want to cover all of these journeys through a unique adventure that could only be travelled and then written by myself.  Knowing all of this, I feel I’ve started down my road in earnest.  While I continue to discover the soul of my content I intend to keep writing about what makes me happy, and writing about that process and those feelings are excellent ways for me to convey What Happiness Means to Me!

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I’ve recently focused more frequently on my goal, which is the only major difference in the level of my production.  There are days I know what I want to write when I wake up.  For some reason the topic was on my heart, or greeted me with my morning coffee.  Others have to be crafted during the day between tasks, while others still are penned after my kids go to bed and I’ve waded through a few brainstorming sessions.  While work and family occupy the A slot of my brain, I’m working toward sneaking writing into that space.  When I’m writing, I am the most natural version of me; creatively shaping my thoughts and feelings into a single page of text.  There is nothing that has ever been more innate within me.  I hope to transform that feeling into real progress in the weeks, months and years to follow.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Happiness as a Pensieve

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My wife and I decided a few months back to re-watch the Harry Potter series.  Aside from the fact that kids and a job make watching 7 movies a massively long undertaking, there have been various discussions that have arisen as a result of watching the movies again.  Everything from the plot and characters to the over-arching themes.

Last night we watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Aside from this sixth installment being my favorite, there’s a few scenes in this movie where Harry and Professor Dumbledore are standing over Dumbledore’s Pensieve.  The Pensieve, for those who’ve “magically” never seen the Harry Potter movies or read the books, is a vessel by which one can insert a captured memory, and by placing their face in the solution, revisit said captured memory.  I love the visual aspect of revisiting memories.  I often do so in my own life.  Music happens to be my vessel for such an adventure.  I pop on a song, and my mind’s eye is back in whatever moment most strongly shared with the associated song.  It’s actually my favorite thing about music.  It takes me back, as I’m sure it does for so many.

During the first scene featuring the Pensieve, my wife turned to me and said, “I feel like that is something you’d really like the ability to do.” To which I answered in the affirmative.  She then asked me “If you could go back and revisit your memories in this way, which memory would you visit first?” Both an excellent and an awesome question to ponder.  I didn’t provide an answer.  She pushed me for what my gut said and I again deferred.  Nearly the entire remainder of the movie, I was thinking about what movie I’d go back and revisit.  I want to answer that question now.  There are two answers.  The first is what my gut told me, and the second is what I would revisit since I’ve really thought about it.

My gut answer is to be back in the room when I first convinced my wife to kiss me.  It was July 5th, 2008.  To set the scene, my wife had been babysitting for a family out in Pikesville that day and was texting me about being very good at playing hide and seek.  We’d been working together for about two months and had a friendly relationship, but there wasn’t anything specifically “there” prior to this string of texts.  I playfully responded, while sitting on my couch, hanging out with my parents for their 28th Wedding Anniversary, with how good I was at hide and seek and that I’d beat her in a game (as though such a thing could be measured).  Needless to say, the text string led to questions of plans later.  I had plans to meet some friends later at a bar.  One of these friends had an apartment that was located directly above the bar.  It was a nice setup.  this bar also had a rather expansive deck bar that spread out behind the building.  It was a really cool spot to hang out in the summer.  I was able to convince her to head to me after her babysitting gig was up, even though I honestly had no designs on anything beyond hanging out.  That night was filled with general debauchery.  I consumed way too much alcohol and at last call the four of us headed back to my friend’s place, just a few dozen steps from the cash register.  There, in a combination of my drunkest and most eloquent forms, began to explain to my wife about how I’d really like to take her out to dinner some time.  I really have no idea what I said, but I recall her laughing at me with a greater intensity than the intensity with which she said she would say yes to such an invitation.

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Later that night, somehow I was able to parlay that date request into a kiss, which turned into several.  The rest, as they say, is history.  It was the single-most important moment in getting me from then to now.  My life, without my wife, would like starkly different from the one I have.  Certainly my world isn’t perfect.  I am probably more flawed than the average person.  But I have a life far more blessed than I’d imagined hours before that fateful July 5th night.  My gut pulls me back to that place when I think of her asking “Which Memory Would You Visit First?”

Second, and no less important, takes place about 30 days later.  My wife and I had established that we were serious about pursuing a relationship together, and were spending a lot of time together.  That August, we had an O’Connor family vacation down to the Outer Banks.  I had just taken a new job as a manager of a restaurant, and felt uneasy about taking that vacation with my new responsibilities, so I declined the vacation.  Seeing the fun they were having via social media and phone calls, etc, I decided to talk to my boss.  He graciously granted my leave and out the door I went, sans girlfriend, but very much wishing she was coming.  I made it down to North Carolina without incident, and the next day was able to convince my wife to drive down the next day, and come meet my whole family.  During the period of time when she was preparing to leave, and the time in which she arrived, I had an opportunity to speak to my grandfather alone.  He asked me about my new girlfriend, and relationship, and further pressed me about how long it would be until he had a great-grandchild with the last name of O’Connor.  To which I responded “Five Years.”  His response, “I can hold on that long.”  My wife arrived and met my family.  We had a great couple of days celebrating our love for one another, and it was a seamless introduction into our family.  We left and went home at the end of the weekend.  It was the last time I’d ever see my grandfather.  Eerily enough, my daughter was born five years and just a few days after that conversation took place.  Quinn Teresa O’Connor, while his fifth great-grandchild, was the first to bear the last name he was so intensely proud of.

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I say I’d go back to that memory, not because it all turned out to be true, but because we both failed to recognize that it was the last time we’d ever speak to one another on earth.  Just less than a month ago, we arrived at the 8th Anniversary of his death.  A week or so ago, I was driving home, praying for my grandfather to intercede on behalf on my prayers, thinking about how much I missed him and wanted to see him, when I arrived at the startling reality that I will always miss him this much.  That for the rest of my life, I’ll miss my grandfather.  9 years after our last conversation, I don’t regret not knowing.  Knowing that it’d be the last time we would speak may have prevented the question about great-grandchildren and a different conversation may have taken place.  I’m proud of my response and blessed I was able to see it come to fruition.  I just wish I could have supplemented my response with reassurance to my grandfather that, on countless times already, and probably even more going forward, I’d be faced with a difficult scenario and have the presence of mind to ask myself “What would my grandpa do here?”  Whether its raising kids, pushing to a difficult deadline, placing family above all else or simply challenging myself to grow as a person, I often find myself in a position where I reflect on what my grandfather would do.  This is not to say that he’d actually do what I chose to do.  Sometimes I react in ways that maybe my grandfather would not have thought to do.  But the mere question of what a titan in my life would do pushes me to fight though my obstacle and learn from my mistakes or accomplishments.  I’d go back to that memory to be able to tell him that for however long I live, I won’t just keep his memory on my heart, but his legacy.  That I’m going to work my entire life to use his example to exceed the expectations I once held for myself.

Those two memories share that common bond; they force me to remind myself that what I once thought was impossible now needs to be reflected on what I now think is impossible.  That I can set my sights higher as I gain sure footing on the place I once thought unattainable.  That makes me feel awesome! I makes me feel motivated, strong, capable and blessed to have had such a great family to be borne into, and to have such an amazing family from which I now can draw support and strength.

These and many more memories would I gladly place in my own personal Pensieve.  I cannot wait to collect more, and hope to continue to place importance on memories as a way to continue to grow.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

 

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on a former blog of mine, but as the anniversary of my first “date” with my wife just passed two days ago, I felt it appropriate to share.

The Power of “Why Not”

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Time and time again I battle the question of why I’m writing, or taking pictures, or pushing my thoughts on happiness, hoping to start a discussion – wanting to see where it leads.  “Why start something if you don’t know where you want to go with it?” “Why do you think that what you have to say is so special?” “Why not just stick to construction?” “Why aren’t you focused on dreams or goals that are actually achievable?”  I don’t even need to be asked these questions by others, although I have recently begun receiving them.  The inertia within me asks them every day.  And yet every day, here I am, pecking away.  Each day there’s a different reason to take on Newton’s First Law of Motion.  I’m doing this to realize my childhood dream of being published.  I’m doing this to show my children that I took it upon myself to find happiness and positivity, every day, in the world.  I’m doing this to expand my understanding of happiness, and on the list will, and can, go.  Today, I’m doing this because, “Why Not?”

Why can’t I be a happier version of me? What happiness, energy or grand plan am I stealing from others by pursuing my own? Why can’t I realize my dream of publishing the next great American novel? And why can’t that path to there start right here, every day, day-by-day forming habits that will lead to the my highest calling – no matter what that ultimately ends up being?

When I made the decision to attend trade school – before I ever knew where it would lead me – I expressed my concern over my long-standing pattern of abandoning my studies to the enrollment advisor at the school to which I ended attending.  His response was that my fear of failing may have finally become a push towards success, if I could define my problem.  During the first eight week section of courses at North American Trade School, we started every day with a one hour video-guided, called PX2, lead by the Pacific Institute, focusing on positive self-talk.  I think I may have set the record for getting more out of that than anyone else ever had.  I began to speak to myself in a manner that encouraged perseverance, positivity and persistence.  The results, over the past seven years, have been the most consistently positive of any such period of time in my life.

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Something broke free in me when I began to give myself permission to ask “Why Not?” As an assistant, I asked myself the same question in pursuit of establishing myself as a professional capable of managing a large-scale construction project on my own.  Three-and-a-half years later, I have laid down a track-record of success and quality in my work.  I have gained the experience I badly wanted to achieve, and here I am now, asking the same question again.  I have so far to go to establish myself in the way I desire with regard to my stated dreams.  I still notice myself caring more about the reception of my message than I know I ought to.  I still need to refine that approach.  In order to do my best work it needs to come from the most authentic place within me – and that place does not have room for external forces.  It is locked up tightly enough without weighting those factors, and I’m not disciplined enough to unlock that space amidst competing reasons.

As I look back at the content I have created over the past few weeks, I am reminded that asking “Why Not” is an expression of happiness and self-love. It promotes my creative juices, provides me with a clearer sense of my goals, and pushes me to attain them.  I am made more happy by recognizing this pattern of thought and self-motivation.  I hope it continues to spur my courage and inspires growth exponentially along my journey. Here’s to hoping it creates the same drive and purpose within you, and hopefully bolsters the courage to reclaim your dreams and pursue them again.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Outward Statement on Inner Goals: An Extended Testimonial of the Me.Now.Movement

I wrote the following nearly a month ago as a testimonial to a group I am a part of.  I didn’t send it over because I  wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it.  And then I realized this testimonial works as an expression of happiness, and might be beneficial for me to talk about and for others to see.  So here goes:

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My name is Will O’Connor.  I’m a 32-year-old husband, father of 2, soon to be 3, son, friend, avid reader and aspiring writer.  I’m a fanatic of baseball, and a total junkie for numbers and statistics, although I’m not very competent at higher disciplines of math.  I’m a construction superintendent, and work for a general contractor generally providing supervision and oversight on multi-family projects and light commercial work.  I’ve built apartment buildings as large in scale as 74 units to as small in scale as 3.  I’ve built restaurants.  Most recently I’ve built a pre-engineered metal building housing an expanding indoor soccer facility.  I work in Richmond, Virginia.  I have been here for just over a year, after spending my first 31 in and around Baltimore, Maryland.  I was turned on to the Me.Now.Movement in December of last year by an old friend who aired a podcast with Andrew.  In listening to Andrew and Garrett speak about the movement, I felt the words slide into place in my heart, overlaying on top of what I already knew I wanted but didn’t have the presence of mind to focus on achieving.  Prior to December, I was all of the things I mentioned above.  I loved every single facet of those attributes and labels.  I just didn’t have the vision to structure those components in ways that helped me maximize my potential within each of them.  Primarily, my frustration lied in the competing beliefs that I had to stress my opportunity for growth and advancement professionally, while also knowing that I did not want only one thing to become of me.  I did not, and never have, wanted to round-out skills out in only one arena.  I am intrigued by so many things.  Building is certainly one of them, but it cannot be all that I am.

I like to think in stories and metaphors; to draw the parallels between something easily understood between something far more complex on the surface, yet inherently structurally the same.  I am currently working on my twelfth project as either an assistant superintendent, or superintendent.  Four of those projects have been what are called “gut-rehabs”.  That is to say, we demolish the interior guts of the building, often even items such as the roof, windows and siding, and build back a new system that can further withstand the elements surrounding it.  We upgrade the interior and when all is said and done, a “brand new building” feel is what we strive to provide our clients.  The Me.Now.Movement feels the same way.  It may even go further, to re-frame the interior.  To change the rooms around, maximize the space, provide a new feel to an established building.  Much like the gut-rehabs I sometimes am charged with, The Me.Now.Movement has turned my attention inward; to building new rooms and fresh spaces to explore the passions that lie within me.  To dust off the old plans and revisit them.  To see if they still have a flame, or if relighting that flame will provide a new light by which I can revise old plans and passions into new.

I’m nearly complete with the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  I’ve taken in much of the lessons in this book through the Me.Now.Movement lens.  Most notably, I remember feeling moved at Kahneman’s explanation of the availability heuristic.  I’ll paraphrase, but essentially, we have a far greater memory for remembering all of the instances/people we know who have fallen ill or had bad turns of luck than we do for those who moved the jumbled pieces of life around to create something along the lines of the Me.Now.Movement mission.  In so doing, we create an availability heuristic that suggests the construct of the world around us is dark and foreboding.  We perceive that bad things are far more probable to happen than they actually are, simply because our brain stresses the frequency of these sub-optimal outcomes against the non-headline-making news of all the positive forces in our world.  In recognizing this mental flaw we all seem to all possess. I want to combat that heuristic.  I want to create an availability in the memory of my children that reminds them of why we push forward.  I want to create something, in as grand a scale I can muster, that stands against evil acts, and cancer, and tragedy.  I want to nurture that effort and provide a place for discussion as to how each of us can best enforce the real fact that far frequently, good happens in our world than bad.  I want to make it a tangible, living thought, that happiness and living in the Now is not just about occasionally consciously thinking about these abstract ideas.  It’s about creating those moments with purpose.

Much of the tangible product on my journey through the Me.Now.Movement has yet to be defined.  I am only in the brainstorming phase of my journey.  I am still framing the walls, revising the window openings, checking to see which doors need to go where, and which ceilings I can blow out to obtain higher goals.  This revelation is joyful to me, as I can only speculate how passionate I will feel about the movement when I begin to churn out a product that can be witnessed by my family and loved ones.  I would invite anyone who similarly wishes to bring about their best self through happiness and conscientiousness of the value of the present to explore with Andrew, and the community he has built, the potential they have to affect the Me.Now.Movement and the communities to which you belong.  I am confident that, through diligence and commitment, the Me.Now.Movement will help you to reach your old goals, refine the rusty ones into new and improved ideas, and re-frame the interior of your life into bigger, and more purposeful spaces.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

Me.Now.Member since December 2016

The Edison Project: Stepping Onto the Road

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Happiness as a Journey: The Comings and Goings to Home

I’ve been scanning the far reaches of my brain, and the internet today in preparation for my preliminary launch of The Edison Project.  Determined to start my journey today, I looked at a “On This Date in History” page and was delighted to see that, (Fictionally) on this date, in 1342, Bilbo Baggins returned to Bag-End after his epic journey through middle earth to rid the world of the terror of Smaug.  The Hobbit was one of my favorite books as a child.  It provided me with adventure, intrigue, just the right amount of fear, and happiness in the end that Bilbo and the rest of his company was successful in their mission.  Bilbo is a lesson to all the hidden blessings that can be found in being disadvantaged.  Dismissed at first for his stature, Bilbo was a critical component of this story.  He was utilized on missions where others would not have been capable and succeeded not in spite of his size; often it was because of it.

So too, are we the disadvantaged.  Be it in one way or another; we are counted out of contention in pursuit of our goals for one attribute or another that disqualifies us from being the ideal candidate.  Our resume, our schedule demands, our intelligence against the perceived minimum required IQ to accomplish such lofty goals.  No matter what they are, none of us are alone in the feeling that we are battling not just our challenges, but the odds others have stacked against us.  But it is in the pursuit of these goals that we find we are able to analyze our challenges and surmount them in various ways.  Diligence, persistence, resourcefulness – these are among only a few of the many talents we can hone just through effort that can propel us beyond the limits we initially set for ourselves.  There is no doubt that Bilbo saw many of these attributes sharpened along the way.  It is in his return to the Shire that he can finally come apart and recuperate from his taxing journey – but we also see something else after the culmination of his trek.  We find Bilbo, years later, to be spiteful of the lack of further adventure in his life.  He jokes about wanting to be left alone; but it is to brood about, not to rest and relax.  Happiness, for many of us, is directly tied to the continuation of experiencing life on the edge.  For each of us, that edge is different.  Some create an edge that is very literally untraveled by those before them.  Others prefer slightly less rare, but equally new adventures, that require growth, perseverance, spiritual interconnectedness and reliance upon community, or family.  These are accomplished in various ways, with mixed results, often requiring we start back again from the beginning, or to resume the journey after its been too long since last we honestly put forth the effort.

Happiness, for me, is an intersection of numerous variables.  My project is about the multitude of ways I’ve been able to find happiness, in hopes its conjures new ways, and provides sustenance to my soul at a depth I’ve never before encountered.  In the experiments to come, I hope to write about my family, my faith, my country, my friends, my work, my hobbies and my dreams.  I hope to come across new topics to determine more fully from where I derive my happiness, in hopes that I can manufacture those opportunities with greater frequency.  I hope to sponsor a space where others can spend some time to think and challenge themselves, and in turn, me.  I hope to foster discussion in a positive direction and I hope to sustain this project with new and innovative measures towards the end of creating and maintaining the happiest life I could possible experience.  I hope to have you join me on this quest.  May we return home together – but only for as long as we need to recover before beginning our next adventure.

Yours in Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor