I’m heading to Nashville for business tomorrow. I don’t travel what anyone would call a “lot,” but for or five times a year, I get to stray from cubicle life and visit a new city for a conference – usually one I’m helping run. I’ve found that people always ask me what I’m going to do when I tell them I’m going on a business trip. Usually, I tell them I’m going on a business trip. You know, hanging out in a hotel room for a few days, languishing in the airport for hours on end. Nothing too exciting.

But the truth is, I enjoy traveling – well, not the trip part so much as the being someplace new. Even if it’s just around the country and not too often. Shopping and eating at new places. It’s refreshing. I try to visit local venues when I can. I love live music, and my midwestern town isn’t exactly a musical mecca. So, it’s always a treat to see a great band at a local venue in a new city. Of course, I can’t wait to hit Nashville.

I also enjoy the opportunity to get to connect with people while I’m traveling. I don’t meet many strangers. I love a good, solid chat with passengers on a plane. I’ve gotten to know people I work with on a much deeper level when we get some time outside the office to connect. This week, I’m meeting up with a professional mentor for dinner one evening.

I’ll read a few books, catch up on some research, wonder why I packed so much. Really, it will be great. I’ll return home exhausted and then head out next week for the same routine.

But just having a change of pace (even though on this trip, it will be a definite speeding up time) is just what I need every once in a while. I have to evaluate the state of everything before I leave so I know where I stand on laundry, projects, time catching up with friends. I can re-focus when I return to work, life, home, friends.

There’s just something about a change of place that changes my perspective as well. Somehow, this helps me find life. Appreciate it a little more. See where I stand. Of course, a nice vacation would do a world of good. But in the meantime, this will do.

Why I Don’t Write About 9/11

September 11, 2007

I’m hesitant to post on a day like today. I don’t know what to write about. Something normal? Something deep, gripping, gritty? Something emotional, intense? Something reflective, honoring, respectful? Nothing at all?

So I check out my Bloglines and see what other people are writing.

Surreally honest as always, Penelope Trunk accounts the moments the World Trade Center fell – almost on top of her – as she stood in the middle of the mayhem. She tells how that experience reframed her perspective about things. Her husband, her to-do list. But it’s not exactly what you expect. It makes me think.

I’m getting ready to fly tomorrow. No big deal. My boss just flew in this morning from NYC. His hotel overlooked ground zero. He showed me a picture from his phone that looks like the one on CNN. For a second, we all stop and remember. Say a few words. Get back to work.

That’s how it is in so many parts of our country. We take a minute. Look. Think. Go on.

For a long time, I’ve thought that was a bad thing. I felt sort of ashamed of my experience with 9/11. I was in a journalism class when it happened. I left class and went to the hub of activity on campus. Hundreds of students were camped out in front of the big screen, watching things happen. I watched. I thought. I felt anxious, but not scared. Angry, but not distraught. Unfamiliar. Lost. Confused. I waited.

At home later that day, I sat riveted to my TV. Horrified at myself. I couldn’t figure out how I felt. Too safe, maybe. Like this was a really scary movie, and that was all. I kept reminding myself that I lived 30 minutes from a large military target, and it could happen there too. It didn’t seem to matter. It wasn’t me this happened to. It was someone else.

I wrote a lot. For a long time. Poetry, journal entries, all kinds of things. I wrote. I tried to feel. It was so numb. It all played out on TV before me. It was someone else’s experience. I was oddly a little jealous of this fact. Not that I wanted the pain, the horror, or even really to be there at all. But that I wanted it all to seem more real to me somehow.

Sure, that day is riveted in my memory. I remember sights, smells, images on the TV. It made me look at the world differently. It made me question so many more things. It spurred incredible conversations and debates. But it wasn’t personal – not really. It didn’t get stuck in my psyche, make me afraid of airplanes. Didn’t make me non-functional. Ever, really. And that, I thought, was probably a horrible, bad, awful thing.

That’s how I’ve felt about 9/11 – sort of like an outsider, trying to figure it all out, trying to make it real. That’s why I didn’t really ever write about it much again. And if I did, never really for others to read. I didn’t know what to say. Until I read Penelope’s post today. And something about reading it made that experience so real to me. It was no longer someone else’s nightmare. Something to intellectualize about. Now, something to acknowledge. To remember. To feel. To write about.

To learn from. So in closing, I’ll just share a quote from her post. I think it’s one of the most important lessons what everyone – whether they were there that day or not – can learn from this “shared” societal event:

“…Here’s what I am giving up. The idea that every second could be my last second. Because then you are not living life. Yes, it’s true, work is not as meaningful as family. And yes, it’s true, I did not think about my to-do list when I faced death. But if you’re not dead, your to-do list matters. Because that’s what life is. Life is getting up and going to work on things that are high on your list. Work in your pajamas, maybe, or in a corn field, or in the car to drive the kids to school. It’s all work. It’s what we’re doing here. And it’s a treat. … This is my life, unfolding. It’s my dream come true. It’s not unfolding like I thought it would, but I’m getting to watch it. Thank god.”

The Path to Personal Invention

September 10, 2007

The path to personal invention begins by answering this question:

If you knew you would not fail, what would you do right now?

The next step comes when you have the courage to do that very thing anyway, with no guarantees, no promises, no idea where that path is going to lead.

So, sit down. Take a minute to reflect. Write your answer out. Share it with someone. Talk about it.

And then, ask yourself if you have the guts to go for it.

If not, what’s in your way?