It felt like autumn when I stepped out of the Science building at San Francisco State University. There weren’t many people in the campus that afternoon, not that it made a difference. They felt invisible, and didn’t add companionship to what was the loneliest walk home in my life.
Just an hour ago I had visited Dr. Bruce Paton to get feedback on my recent work on business opportunities in the rural poor. It was a rough framework combining very elementary models into a toolkit for entrepreneurs to map co-creation of value.
His squinted eyes were fixed on my laptop screen. He was very still, right before he leapt forward. He didn’t literally do that, but it seemed that way as he caught me by surprise. He muttered, “Khailee, I think you’re on to something here.”
He probed deeper into my suggestions, and I explained it the best I could. We lunged into passionate discussion regarding the few value chain analysis, business process re-engineering and service delivery models I combined, and about possible directions I could take. We exchanged many questions, perspectives, and were left with many better, more incisive questions. I also had a few of his books to take home.
So there I was, initially smiling. I was more excited than I have ever been in a long time. I grew up with ‘enjoying studying is NOT cool’… which amplified how I have never been able to speak to ANYONE about the one thing I recently grew to love: business literature. I had found a friend.
As I walked further away from his office, the ringing vehemence of our discussion grew more and more faint, with a dull silence taking its place… a silence I will have to endure till the next time we meet.
You see, I wanted to talk more about entrepreneurial management. I wanted to explore the role of marketing and human resources in today’s enterprise. Is anyone listening? I looked at the faces of strangers passing by… they didn’t seem any more interested than friends who knew me well whenever I brought these topics up in casual conversation.
I knew I would walk back to my darling housemates Michiko, Shimal and Mark, who would laugh and chatter away in concert with the television in the background. I would talk to them too, but the noise will not help break the dull silence, as I was somewhere else, disconnected.
Worse, what if this trend continued? What if I worked on a phD based on what we spoke of? Bruce told me I should. No doubt I will find people sharing that specialised interest, I can imagine further separation from my loved ones who do not.
Of course I could have countless other interests and means to connect to other people, but I guess being interested in something nobody else really is can get pretty lonely.
Many nights later, when it gets quiet, I would be on the internet (just like tonight) searching for something to read, commenting in forums and blogs, hoping to connect.
I have since decided, inevitably walking very far down one road doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty beyond me, and a balanced mix of very good friends would make whatever road I take widely accessible. Then, I would never be alone in my walk.
This may be why Analects of Confucius’s first two lines are:
“Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application?
“Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters?