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  • A Future Retrograde Look at the Milestones of 2014

    2014 will go down as a series of major milestones in the three decade history of me. And it’s not just for the typical life-changing touchstones that you might expect, although those are pretty epic in their own right. Join me on a brief reflection on what will surely become a year of promise.

    I. The Boy

    My wife, Elisa, and I are expecting our firstborn—a son—within moments and sunrises from now. Overall the pregnancy has been filled with joyful moments of discovery through the miracle of a life to come; fears and questions of pending parenthood assuaged by the comforting words of friends and family; and blissful quiet symphonies of his tiny foot kicking or a healthy case of prenatal hiccups that give the lungs a kickstart. Nine months and a re-evisioned home later, an incredible peace of waiting in anticipation and expectation has swept over me.

    There is beauty in that tension, to borrow a phrase from Caleb Clardy. As a dear neighbor and experienced dad recently observed, there is perhaps little that I will recall from these precious weeks ahead of the birth because of the momentous change that’s about to happen in our lives, but that the gift of fatherhood will far outshine the brightest stars of now and are sweeter than the nectar of the finest flowers of spring.

    II. The Home

    Nestled in the quieter corner of Park Slope, Brooklyn is our two bedroom apartment and humble backyard garden. Elisa and I have long dreamed of what it would look like to create a home that serves our neighbors and friends with excellence and warmly invites life and light to grow and prosper within its walls. So after our marriage in 2011, we set out to find these pillars upstanding in each corner: hospitality, celebration, peace, and renewal.

    We hosted dinners, decked out for parties, lit up the night with backyard movies, filled with block with song, and watched our garden burst forth in each passing season. Now with a baby on the way and his room prepared, we have seen two years that are filled with stories of these values, and hope for many more to flourish in the time ahead.

    III. The Job

    I recently started a new job at the American Museum of Natural History as director of design, a role that only found its origins one year ago. I brought this vision of unified and enlivened design across the institution’s myriad of initiatives, programs, channels, platforms, and hallowed halls to the senior leadership. The idea was immediately embraced and moved quickly to fruition, opening the door for me to collaborate and dream with some of the brightest minds across the campus that I’ve had the privilege to call home for twelve years.

    I count myself fortunate to be answering the question my dear friend Charlie Park posed to me over a decade ago: “What is your passion and why aren’t you doing it?” In the weeks since my start, I’ve been struck by just how much fun I get to have each day, leading creative and media efforts that are as varied and inspiring as the museum itself.

    IV. The Union

    In the summer haze of Charlottesville, Virginia, my brother will take the hand of his true love, literally the girl next door. Currently serving our country abroad with the Army’s aviation division, David arrives back stateside to prepare for an even bigger mission.

    He and his bride-to-be, Caroline, grew up together and followed each other from elementary school all the way to university, only to kindle a new friendship and love in places like New Orleans and Hawaii years later. All the while, her family have been close friends and the best kind of borrow-the-cup-of-sugar-from-the-backdoor neighbors. I’m honored to serve as best man in their big day and rally together his groomsmen to celebrate my amazing brother and this beautiful gal. Theirs is a story worth telling and a love that is steadfast and true.

    V. The Reunion

    The College of William and Mary in Virginia is far more than an institution of higher learning. It’s a family tradition that is three generations and four centuries in the making. My paternal ancestors attended this colonial university and even served in the Revolutionary War under the auspices of the College’s leadership. It’s truly a special place for me to return again and again, listening to the echoes across the ages that reverberate from the ancient brick.

    Each fall as the Virginia leaves turn from their lush green to a lustrous gold, alumni stream into campus from across the country for Homecoming Weekend. On my mom’s side of the family, we are three generations who have attended the College, so this annual tradition runs deep. However, this year’s reunion will be somewhat bittersweet, as my family will gather to remember my grandfather, Thornton Wampler, Class of 1948, who recently passed. His name will be read out in a ceremony, and I will once again hear the echoes across the ancient brick. This time they will reverberate with the memories of a man I respected, honored, and loved deeply.

    VI. The Rhythm

    The ebb and flow of my breathing perhaps doesn’t seem like the type of milestone to celebrate, but there’s more to this story. When Hurricane Sandy slammed mercilessly into the East Coast in 2012, I had the very unfortunate domino effect of an ill-timed flu shot, a subsequent nasty case of influenza, and incapacitating double pneumonia. While the city struggled to regain its strength and power, my lungs were learning how to do the very same, with each wheezing breath and gasp for air.

    Ever since that awful month of renewal and repair, I’ve been more acutely aware of the enormous blessing of the mechanical involuntary miracle that takes place in our chest every moment of every day. It’s given me pause to quietly thank the Good Lord for precious gifts like a daily constitutional around the city block, a hearty laugh amongst friends that brings tears to your eyes, and voices swelling together in four-part harmony on a bitterly cold street corner to usher in the Christmas holidays with 18th-century carols. The rhythms of my life have changed, for the better I believe, to recognize these simple gifts in the grander scheme of my story, like the cogs and gears in a finely tuned pocketwatch that together more precisely and humbly showcase the time as it passes and the chapters that are yet to come.
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