Preparing for the Best Future We Can Imagine

Last year we published a blog on my birthday . . .  I love my birthday! As I wrote last year  . . . When you grow up in a family of 10 kids, like I did, your birthday is a very special day. I celebrated my birthday last week and spent time with my dear friend, Viki, and took the opportunity to celebrate my life yet lived. 

At this point in my life, I find myself consumed with the awareness of how precious life is and how short it feels. The pandemic aggravated a sense that people are vulnerable, life is fragile, and there’s not much time. This sensation made me feel rather depressed. I’m not quite sure why as it’s been a busy and productive year. 

Over the past year, NLM accomplished so much by helping the NIH build the data infrastructure for genomic discovery to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future ones; conducting research on the microbiome; and determining whether we could detect the presence of certain viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, through the analysis of wastewater. We funded new research to make it easier to understand health data and supported more than 300 trainees and fellows through our Extramural Programs Division. We learned how to telework and meet virtually. We kept our highly valued products and services open and operational 24 hours, 7 days a week. We onboarded new staff, said goodbye to coworkers who retired or moved on, and mourned the deaths of several colleagues.

Slowly, as we’ve all been emerging from the pandemic shutdown to discover new ways of being, I find my spirits lifting and my eyes looking towards the future with optimism and joy.

Part of this feeling comes from a deep and respectful pride for NLM’s accomplishments over the year, and the role I’ve played in it. Some of it comes from welcoming new children and spouses into my very large family. A lot of it comes from the sense of purposeful living that helped me transform a sense of isolation to an engagement with others to co-create a new future. What I’ve realized is that we never actually know our future, so preparing for the best future we can imagine is probably the smartest strategy.

This year, as I add another digit to the long lists of digits that I’ve already accumulated, I’m preparing for the best future that I can imagine. I’m exercising more, practicing the piano with greater diligence, and spending meaningful time with friends and family. I’m engaging with NLM leadership and staff to envision the future of work and to enhance the inclusivity and diversity of our work environment.

I’ve somehow managed to shake off the sense of gloom and doom and see a future that appears limitless to me—awaiting what I can be bold enough to envision, create, and accomplish. Please join me in celebrating my birthday and stepping into the future.

Author: Patti Brennan

Director, US National Library of Medicine

11 thoughts on “Preparing for the Best Future We Can Imagine”

  1. Patti, belated birthday greetings and congratulations on so many achievements. Your messages are much appreciated.

    1. Angela – Thank you for your kind words! Throughout my career I have valued your colleagueship and your friendship! I hope you (and our other nurse colleagues!) continue to read our weekly NLM blog posts!

  2. Patti, I’m happy with you!
    Your messages always reach me.
    I am a nurse in Brazil, working with health information for Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Your shared vision of the present and the future inspires me to imagine, create and achieve.
    I celebrate your birthday and wish you health, joy and a long life.
    A big hug

    1. Juliana—it is always nice to hear from another nurse, and I’m glad you find my blog inspiring! We at NLM celebrate you and the hard work you are doing in Brazil! –Patti

  3. Happy Birthday Patti. My birthday is in August and I celebrate all month! Loved your blog and the power of imagining the best. Thank you for leadership and love your focus on being the best you.

    1. Michelle—How nice to hear from you! Thank you for your kind thoughts and compliments on my blog. I appreciate that you take the time to read my blog and enjoy my messages! –Patti

    1. Christina—thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me and for your kind words! –Patti

  4. What a lovely way to celebrate one’s birthday. Mine is in 2ish weeks. I’ll remember your note. Thanks

    1. Ross—thank you for your support, and I wish you a happy birthday a few days early! I know this is a new experience, and hope that your memories carry you through!

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