Sunday, October 26, 2008

Patricia Hackett

Tricia with her boyfriend Pete

I met Tricia when I was a sophomore in college at SUNY Geneseo. Our friendship came on almost immediately and has blossomed since then. I always found her intelligence inspiring, insights on life poignant and her vitality infectious. We recently traveled together with a group of friends to Switzerland before settling into our new post graduation locations. Tricia currently lives on Long Island in Huntington, New York and is pursuing a career in Dentistry.

It is an honor and a pleasure to feature some of the thoughts I’ve been blessed to learn from for many years. Enjoy! ~Joseph

What is your definition of success?

PH: I don’t think of success the way most people do. For me, it’s not about how much money is in your bank account or how many people work under you. Rather than looking at the highs of someone’s life to see if they are successful, I look at the lows. If, at the lowest point in your life, you have people who still want to be near you, you have achieved success. When I fell suddenly ill my junior year of college, everything that ran my life the day before became trivial. It was a wake-up call that life isn’t a to-do list to be checked off or a list of accomplishments to put on a resume. I realized then that the most important thing in life is to have people who will be there for you regardless of your situation. I can only hope that I can be as successful in life as my grandmother, who at 92 years old with advanced dementia still has her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren calling her daily and visiting her often. I hope that the impression I leave on people today makes them think I’m worth visiting 70 years from now.

Tricia with her two sisters

If you could pass any bit of information, or some idea on to the world, what would it be?

PH: Only do something if you can really put your heart into it. If you can’t give something 100%, it’s not that important to you. Downsize your to-do list, and give everything you do your best effort. You’ll be able to appreciate what you put your energy into, rather than just running onto the next event.

Having known you for many years, I know that you have a unique ability to make people feel comfortable around you. What are some of your thoughts and philosophies on friendship?

PH: I’m lucky that I’ve always made friends easily. I guess my outgoing personality outweighs my quirks. Or I talk so much you can’t get a word in edgewise to cancel plans with me. I believe rather than quantity of friends, the most important thing is quality. My high school English teacher would talk about “Fridge Friends”: if you are truly good friends with someone, you can forage through their refrigerator without feeling self conscious or intrusive. True “Fridge Friends” are hard to come by, and it’s important to keep in contact with them – by calling and sending letters from time to time.

Tricia and Joseph reenacting some Shakespeare on the castles in Bellinzona, Switzerland

What do you consider your greatest personal strength? Weakness?

PH: Being one of five kids, I never had my own room until my third year of college. As a result, I learned how to tune things out – be it noise, light, interruptions, or annoying behaviors. The sooner you learn that you can’t change people, the sooner you’ll be happy. Don’t consider working with someone who is different than you as something to “deal with” or “overcome.” I try and see something good in everyone, so I can enjoy their presence. I’d much rather find pleasure in each day of my life than simply get through it.

Without a doubt, my greatest weakness is over thinking just about everything. It’s really just a fancy form of procrastination; I worry about doing something perfectly instead of just jumping in and starting it. I try and curb my weakness into cautiousness, because after all, life is what happens while we’re busy making plans.

Tell me a little bit about your interest and aptitude in biology and what you hope to accomplish with it.

PH: From the time I was young enough to read the paper, I was disappointed the science section was only published once a week. I have to admit I read the health and science news online far more often than the current events – they are just more interesting to me! I don’t know if my success in the sciences is because they come naturally to me, or the fact that I find it enjoyable to study them. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge nerd. I’d only be half kidding if I said my Organic Chemistry text was a favorite book of mine. I did research in Organic Chemistry Synthesis at Geneseo with Dr. Eric Helms. The process of synthesizing and testing compounds is exciting. However, being as social as I am, I found the lab lonely. I knew I wanted to use my biology degree as more than a wall hanging in my house, but it took a while to figure out the right fit. It goes back to my definition of success – I wanted a career in which I felt that I would really get to know people, while doing what I love. I’ve taken a deep look at several different professions, and recently decided to pursue a career in dentistry.

Tricia paragliding in Northern Switzerland

Who are three people from any time period you would like to meet?

PH: My grandfather, Thomas R. Dore. He died in the line of duty for the New York City Fire Department when my mom was four. Still, he’s shaped my life in so many ways – I grew up in the house that he built.

Leonardo da Vinci. I’d like to see how one person can pursue so many passions concurrently, and be so successful in all of them.

James Naismith. We could play a one-on-one game of basketball, or I could just thank him for inventing the sport that makes winter enjoyable.

What are some of your favorite books? Quotes?

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The book is even better than the play, which is the longest running Broadway show in history. One of these days I’ll read it in French.

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene. Greene’s writing is simple yet brilliant. His message coincides with my definition of success, and can be read in one night.

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius

My younger sister, Katherine, signs every email with this. Her seemingly endless energy is the result of doing what she loves to do – help others. She probably volunteers more hours than she sleeps each week.

Final thoughts?

PH: Your mom was right – go play outside, brush your teeth, and eat your veggies. And, recycling never hurt anybody.

Patricia Hackett