I’m not a spontaneous person. In fact, I have anxiety issues, which means I try to plan as much of my life as possible. I walk with an umbrella in case it rains. I have a mini pharmacy in my purse to deal with any health emergency. When I travel, I use Hop Stop to plan my trip. I also live off-peak as much as possible—I avoid rush hour on weekdays and avoid the trains altogether on weekends because that’s when track work takes place. Well, yesterday I was uncharacteristically late (thirty minutes late!) for a wonderful Homecoming event up in Harlem. Hop Stop said to take the C train, but that runs local and I wasn’t going to take a local train from one end of the city to the other. So I went to the station only to learn that the Q wasn’t running. So I waited on the packed platform for the shuttle train to arrive; did some mental calculations and decided to take the 4 since it runs express. Except when I got to the next station, the 4 train was running local. So I took the 2, which runs local in Brooklyn but goes express in Manhattan. Except this 2 got to Manhattan and ran local. So I switched to the A at 42nd and finally got to 145th—late. On the way home, I took the A express again, then switched to the local C train in Brooklyn–and it ran express. Sigh. If I hadn’t just spent three hours with some remarkable young women, I might have gone off on somebody. Or I have might have gone for a big slice of cake. But the positive energy of the homecoming event (and closing cupcakes) kept me calm and instead I came home to reflect on all I’d learned. Cidra M. Sebastien, Associate Director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, wrote a great summary on Facebook last night:
So what happens when a world-traveling private chef, author-professor, DJ-filmmaker, actress-playwright, physician-activist, young mothers’ advocate, and a professor-author-music connoisseur are in the same room sharing their life stories?
The practical and the fantastical.
Here are selected gems the circle of women shared…
* The distance between where you are and where you want to go is shorter than the distance between where you started and where you are.
* Birds remind me to look up…Keep your feet on the ground and look up.
* You might try and fail but success is about endurance.
* Fear will paralyze you. Don’t make decisions based on fear.
* Never fail to stand up for what you believe in.
* Usually the most difficult thing you choose to do is the right thing to do. And will bring rewards.
I’m sure you can guess which piece of advice came from me. When I learned that invited guests would be asked to give a 2-3 minute speech on the theme “Building Your Wings,” I naturally sat down at my computer and wrote a speech about birds. But as I sat in the circle and listened to the other guests sharing their advice, I realized that I wasn’t meant to deliver a formal speech. So I had to improvise. I *suck* at improvising. I tried to remember part of what I’d written and then I realized I was rambling so I just stopped talking and resolved to be better prepared next time. But maybe what I really need is to let go of the need to be prepared all the time. I want to be better at thinking on my feet, which is hard because I’m accustomed to sitting at this laptop with the ability to cut and paste. I spent the afternoon sharing my college experiences and listening to the young women in Sister Sol—they were so honest and earnest. And bright! They reminded me of my students and I wondered how many young women have a support group to help them get through life? We all need mentors, we all need a space to ask questions and search for answers. I learned a lot from the other guests as well—that first point is especially important, I think. It’s easy to get caught up in all the things you *want* to achieve, but don’t forget to draw strength from the distance you’ve already traveled. Take time to acknowledge the progress you’ve made in life. My anxiety issues are better than they once were, and I can practice spontaneity while still being moderately prepared. The advice I needed to hear as a teen? You don’t have to be perfect. And forgive yourself when you fail.