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.


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


Wealth of Water


Yesterday my day concluded with a trip to the swimming pool with my family.  My children, 3 and 2, are huge fans of the water, and so we have had a yearly membership to our neighborhood pool for the past 3 summers.  Both my wife and I have always loved the water.  We spend as much time in or on it as we can.  From fishing on my parents’ pontoon boat on Lake Anna, to casual jaunts around the lake or just swimming off the dock, we try to regularly spend time there.  We also schedule a few trips down to the beach every summer to fill our quota of saltwater exposure.  On the off-chance we get to go on a vacation, either as a nuclear family, or as an extended one; we always seize that opportunity.  But the pool suffices for weekdays and the weekends where we are at home base.  It brings immeasurable happiness to all of us.  Yesterday was no different.


My children aren’t yet independent swimmers, so we outfit them with life preservers and launch ourselves into the shallow end.  As they steadily gain confidence, we go from jumping from the top step, to jumping off the edge of the pool.  Reflecting on the progress they make in a single day is good enough to make it a list worth talking about.   What’s more, is the relaxation is brings to us as a unit.  Aside from my youngest being too headstrong and curious to resist the rule of no running around the pool, the water provides us an opportunity to enjoy the effect buoyancy has on our bodies in unison.  The feeling you get when you immerse yourself in water, its fluidity, the comfortable transition from 88 and muggy to 78 and weightless is truly transformative.  Add to that the combination of warm sun, music and games where “Daddy is a shark” and you have one of the most simplified forms of bliss that exists on the planet. 


At a period in our lives where both my wife and I work, at a minimum, 50 hours a week, we feel the joy all the greater.  The work at home with two toddlers is never done.  There’s not yet help with the dishes or the laundry or the crayon that mysteriously jumped from the paper to the wall.  There’s the dog to keep walked and the lawn to keep trimmed.  There’s our room and the kids room and the home office and the playroom still to be done, even when you’ve wrapped up the dishes for the night.  There’s overflow work that needs to be analyzed and mapped out for the following day.  There’s groceries to buy and bills to pay.  These are regular distractions that nearly every adult, parent or not, has to face on a daily basis.  These tasks don’t just sap happiness; they blindfold us to it.  When it all seems too much, the only natural way to manage the mountain of maintenance is to put on the blinders and wade through it.  The water separates us from these tasks.  We cannot accomplish any of these things while swimming.  We are forced to take a break from the daily, weekly and monthly to-dos and focus solely on our presence in the water.  When you think about it, it’s probably the only place people my age and younger don’t regularly strap their phone to their palm.  Try as companies might to develop technology and cases to shield phones from the water, I’ve yet to meet a person to deliberately immerse their phone in the water.  All of this builds a case for the sanctity of water.  For the spiritual and natural connection we experience while in or beside it.  We are better people in it; less focused on distraction and more present to guide our children in navigating its challenges.  Less likely to feel burdened while we are buoyed by its force on us.


I’ve yet to find another commonly accessible feature that is more regularly a place of rest, relaxation, and recharging.  I wonder if there might be something out there that you find more comforting or inspiring? In my ever-increasing search for locations and experiences that lend themselves regularly to happiness, I’d love to hear insights on what you might do on or near the water that benefits your happiness.  I’d love to hear if there are alternative locations or experiences you commit yourselves to that are readily available.  Certainly, I welcome any suggestions, recommendations, tips or advice that I or anyone else might benefit from.


Yours in the continued Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor