The title for this post is courtesy of Bryan Franklin who gave a TED talk titled “The most dangerous question on Earth.” He spent the majority of his talk on the qualities of a good entrepreneur and one of them is the ability to hold paradox. For instance, we matter but at the same time we don’t matter. He said, “You can touch a life so deeply and so profoundly that the impact of your loss would never be forgotten … the ripple effect of your impact is unfathomable. And also the magnitude of your insignificance is equally unfathomable … you are barely dust.” Holding the paradox means giving equal weight and importance to both, letting neither diminish the other. Holding the paradox means not taking sides but rather allowing both.
The paradox I’m holding is happiness and sadness. Until yesterday I was in Washington, D.C. for a wedding, which I decided to turn into a long weekend trip. I love Washington, D.C. I went to school there, I became an adult there, my favorite places on Earth are there. Yet I live in San Francisco and I love San Francisco. I love the weather, I love my friends, I love my apartment, my life, my community. I felt (and feel) sad about leaving the district because not only are my favorite places there but also some dear friends. My heart is heavy because I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Washington, D.C. is a special place for me because I don’t have one or two good friends who live there, I have about a dozen. It’s hard to leave such a large and deep pocket of love and kinship. I was sad to leave but happy to come home. A part of me wants to pick a side, to say I’m either sad to leave D.C. or happy to come back to San Francisco. But that’s not true. I honestly feel both.
What I’m learning is my feelings are complex and multifaceted so that means I can feel both. That means I can hold the paradox. I don’t have to pick a side. I don’t have to move back to D.C. because I miss living there. I don’t have to abandon my life in S.F. I don’t have to do anything really except feel what I’m feeling. Allow myself to experience both happiness and sadness, yes, even at the same time.
My life these days is no longer black and white, it’s shades of gray. I am an unlimited being so I don’t have to restrict myself to taking sides in the paradox. I don’t have to say either or anymore. Perhaps that’s what it means to be an adult, recognizing there are numerous possibilities and life isn’t as simple as I thought it was. I can feel both. I can love multiple people, places, and things and nothing has to replace anything else. I can have multiple favorites. I wish everything was cut and dry because life would be so much simpler that way but in truth, it’s not. So that’s what I’m encouraging. Embracing life as it is, which is full of paradox.
I dream of a world where contradicting ideas may coexist. A world where we allow for all possibilities and situations. A world where we allow ourselves to feel disparate emotions. A world where we accept our complexity and our depth. A world where we know one thing does not have to preclude the other.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.