This week I traveled to Waltham, Massachusetts for meetings at the company I currently contract for. It was a great week, and I really enjoyed meeting the associates I work with every day, but had never met face to face. There’s definitely something to be said about making that personal connection, it just enhances communication so much. I’m very lucky to be working with a great group of people, and their kindness and courtesy to me during my visit was so appreciated.
I didn’t rent a car during this trip, so I spent time each day in the back of a cab or shuttle, a rare opportunity for an L.A. driver. For some reason, almost every driver I had took to sharing his story with me. There was the recent immigrant from Haiti, who told me of his aspiration to return to his country and become mayor of his small village. He explained the extremely impoverished conditions his people lived in, telling me that there were no paved streets, plumbing or electricity. “There’s no infrastructure” I remarked, and he repeated the word, slowly rolling every syllable in his beautiful accent. “In-fra-struc-ture” he said, “in-fra-struc-ture.” “That is it, I shall bring infrastructure to my people!”
Then there was the gentleman, a Waltham native, who shared with me that he was a recovering alcoholic. He told me that during his drinking days, he would drive to New Hampshire on Sundays, because at the time the law forbade liquor sales in Massachusetts on that day. I asked him why he didn’t simply stock up on Saturday and he told me he tried, every week, but by the end of the night, inevitably had run through his supplies. He had been in recovery for eight years now, and was very proud of that fact, showing me his hard earned chips.
John drove me from my hotel in Waltham to Boston’s Logan airport, in the early morning, during a powerful rainstorm. He was from a small island in Greece, 30 years in America, 29 of them spent driving the bus for B.U.’s hockey team. Great stories there, including some really epic tales of the rivalry between “his” team and the team from U. Mass. They would never refer to each other by name, he said, but called each other “the team up the street” and “the team down the road.”
Shane was the brash young driver of the shuttle from LAX to home. I had been dropped off at the airport by a very generous friend (she had to pick me up at 6:15, bless her kind soul), so I bought a Groupon for a one way ride home. Shane spent the 90 minutes stuck in peak afternoon traffic telling me of his lofty plans to write, star, direct and produce his own blockbuster films. After he confessed he didn’t have health insurance, I spent my 5 minutes of conversation (he had to pause for a breath at some point!) lecturing him on the importance of insurance, and the benefits available to him through the Affordable Care Act. I think I may have convinced him!
My favorite encounter with strangers didn’t involve a driver, but rather my seat mates on the plane ride home. A young couple, if they were in their twenties, it was just barely. They were from a very small town in New Hampshire, and had won a radio contest, bringing them to L.A. for a breast cancer awareness concert at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams, JLo, and a whole slew of other entertainers. These young chickadees were fresh off the farm! They had never been to California before; the young man had never been on a plane before. Although the contest provided airfare and hotel accommodations, it did not include food or ground transportation.
I asked them how they planned to get to their hotel, The Loews Hotel on Highland in Hollywood. They said they planned to take a bus. They strategized for over 30 minutes about the food options on the plane, debating which $8 item they could share for their lunch. After the miniscule wrap was delivered, there was another conversation, and they sighed and ordered another. I heard the girl say to the boy, we better pick up some groceries on our way to the hotel. I gave them my protein bars and wondered if they would be insulted if I offered them money.
At one point, the boy looked at the onscreen map tracking our flight, pointed to California and asked me if that was where the airport was. They did not know the Bowl was an outdoor venue, when I told them, they were concerned that they had not brought their winter coats. While they were here, they wanted to see the ocean. They assumed it was also in Hollywood.
I heard on the news that night that Highland had been shut down for hours that day, because Ms. Swift was appearing on Jimmy Kimmel. I’ll always wonder what happened to them, if they made it to their hotel, if they found the Bowl, if they loved the concert, if they were freaked out by Hollywood. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to take these little chickadees under my wing, and make their trip as magical as they dreamed it would be. I knew that I couldn’t. Like my own travels, their trip was not just about the destination, but about the journey, and the people and experiences they encountered along the way.
The end, for now
Have you ever heard the phrase, Fortune favors the brave? Or for those of you who might be more classically educated, Audentes fortuna iuvat or Audentes fortuna adiuvat? Which means the same thing. In Latin. This phrase or saying has been around for a lonnnnnggggg time. The earliest known recorded use is by a 2nd century BC playwright. And, allegedly, Julius Caesar paraphrased it, muttering alea iacta est (the die is cast) as he crossed the Rubicon river.
Now, before you start worrying that I’ve gone all educumated and snobbourifious on you, confession time. I first heard the term from my beloved Buffy. You know, the vampire slayer! She utters the powerful phrase during a dream sequence, in my second all-time favorite episode, Hush, which if you have never seen, add it to your Netflix. It was brilliant and funny and scary and done almost entirely without dialogue.
Anyways…back to fortune’s favors. I’m not the only one impressed by this saying. It’s also the motto of the USS Florida, the 25th Flight Army Air Corps in the British Army, the 2nd Battalion 3rd U.S. Marines, and a whole other slew of regiments, families, and clans. So, like, it resonates.
And why is it resonating with me? Well, I’ve been questioning my own courage a lot lately, as I stand on the precipice of making some life changing decisions. For the past three months, I have been circling the psychic globe on some pretty huge opportunities, and yesterday, after being stalled in a holding pattern for weeks, it all came crashing down, with a mighty THUMP. Ow. During this whole, excruciating time, I’ve also been sort of holding at bay another, completely different huge opportunity, but one that is going to take me out of some very well worn and comfortable zones. It’s something I’ve been dipping my toes in to, and out of, for many months, sometimes with whole hearted excitement, and just as often, with shake in your boots fear.
Honestly, I’m not trying to be murky or obtuse here, but there’s a lot to be settled, and things could still work out in a multitude of ways. Some of it is in my control, and a lot of it is not.
So, why write about it at all, you might so reasonably ask? Because this is my life, and my truth, and all of this has been occupying almost all of my free thinking time for the past many moons, and kept me awake so many nights. And I’m a writer, damn it, so writing is my way to get my thoughts straight, and have a better sense of where I’m going. And, yes, share with anyone kind enough (or bored enough, let’s face it) to be reading my words. And if you have wondered in any way why I haven’t written for a while, well, this is it.
I want to be the kind of person who takes chances, who occasionally leaps before she looks. Instead, I plan, I think, I think some more, I think of reasons that I shouldn’t or couldn’t do things. I don’t think I lack courage, because I know I have faced some very serious and hard things calmly and with some grace. But there’s something in me that is very risk adverse. And I’d like to change that.
The other thing about me, is while it may take me a very long time to make up my mind, once I do, there’s no holding me back. So, at this late age of 52 years and 11/12ths months, I think I’m gearing up to take that chance, make that leap, and see where it all leads. So, fortune, please, I’ll try to be brave. Favor me, and we’ll see what happens next.
The end, for now