A story about tables

This is a story about Tables. Not database tables or HTML tables - but the kind of table that you sit at on a crisp autumn morning on a Sunday and enjoy the aromas of your freshly brewed coffee.

Years ago, my wife and I bought a dining table we absolutely loved. The style, the unique design and character - we were really excited to find a table that we thought would become our family table.

Then, our young family sat for dinner at the table. Each whack of a metal spoon that our 1-year-old daughter would make against the fine grain of the table caused us to wince. Every spill caused us to quickly jump up to and hurriedly wipe up any mess for fears of stains. Our little girl, who loved to draw and paint, and play with clay - well... she couldn't at that table.

Suddenly, we felt a lot more constrained by this table. The table, beautiful as it was, didn't match the life we were living.

Fortunately, the house we'd moved into at the time had a formal dining and a kitchen eat-in area. So, the table moved to the formal dining room where we never used it again except for 2 meals out of the year. 

And for our eat-in area? We went in a completely different direction. We found a local table-maker that made really large, beautiful farm-style family tables - and we had one made to suit the lives we realized we led.

We call the table our memory table. In the 6 years we've had it, it's had numerous paint spills, it's been dinged up by spoons, scratched up by toys. Everyone - from family to guests - have made their mark on the table. Quite literally: whenever we host guests with kids, I'll tell the kids about our memory table and how it holds the memories of a thousand meals. I'll then invite them to make their own mark on the table. It's an invitation no child is ever willing to pass up it seems.

There are markings of games we've played at the table; you can see the indentations of where we taught our kids to write their names and they pressed too hard. There's a dent in one corner when my daughter brought home a rock, she was convinced was a geode - and so I hit it with a hammer to show her it was just a plain rock...only to find out she had actually found a geode.

The beautiful table was eventually sold off, while our memory table has stayed with us. The memory table may not be as beautiful as that first table, but it comes with no constraints. When it needed to be an art-table, it was an art-table. When it was a make-shift sandbox...it was that. It served as a stepping stool, a cutting board, and so much more. It is, and will always be, whatever we need it to be - and it will offer us reminders of how it's changed over the years.

I talk a lot with people who have changed careers - who have just recently moved into tech. A common question I'll be asked is: "Should I mention my previous career?"

If you're asking this question yourself, consider: Talking about your previous career is like describing the beautiful table. It was beautiful - or...if it wasn't, it was idyllic at least. You bought the table because who you thought you were. However, it never served a real purpose.

Looking at your previous career like it was my beautiful table does you no favors.

A different way of looking at it is that your entire career is the memory table. It's been dinged, it's been scratched, it's been bruised - and it's served whatever purpose it's needed at whatever time. Its purpose has evolved as you've grown - and the impact, the memories have stuck with you. And there's an infinite amount of value in that.

How will your previous experiences shape what you do tomorrow?


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