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Facing Forward


By Chandra Roxanne, Consultant & Return with Purpose Fellow '19

Original image by Wokys 

“So, you don’t wanna go forward?” Anna B., RWP Fellow '19

It is the end of day three for the Return with Purpose Fellowship (RWP) with Inspiring Capital and I am sitting on a Metro-North train headed for New Haven, trying to keep my composure. I am disoriented. My challenge for practicing the growth mindset we discussed earlier is simple: sit facing forward — in the direction the train is traveling. I can’t see what’s ahead, or what’s coming round the corner, and it’s unsettling. 

Twelve hours earlier, I was traveling to NY to start our day-long workshop with another RWP Fellow named Anna. Entering the train, we began discussing our seating preferences: Anna must sit facing in the same direction the train is traveling; I prefer to sit facing in the opposition direction. As I explained to Anna my habit of doing things backward like reading books from the end to the beginning — it allows me to assemble the information like stacking legos — she asks “so, you don’t wanna go forward?” Straightaway, her question pierced through the confusion I had been spinning in for the last 18-plus months regarding my life and career. Anna continues, “that’s a whole analogy for life.”

Indeed. Taking time to reflect comes naturally to me. However, taken too far, my daily reflections have led to a deceptively cozy state of stasis. I have been attempting to move forward with much effort, but I have been doing so by focusing completely on past choices and experiences and trying to correct for those I deemed mistakes. Figuratively speaking, I have been attempting to move forward with my back to the future. Now I see that incessantly focusing on past experiences have provided an illusion of control — the past I can see fully. The future, however, I cannot (see). Sure, I can participate in shaping my future. But, in truth, my strategies are not guaranteed to work which is terrifying. 

Nevertheless, I do "wanna go forward." So, today on this train ride back to New Haven, I am practicing a small, yet significant step in reconstructing a new mindset and thereby a meaningful life. Going forward, I will face forward, on the train and in life.