Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Keep on Pushin'

I would never call myself a quitter. However, I am someone who doesn't often push beyond the word "no." I suspect this is why I was never a Girl Scout. The first time someone turned down my sales pitch for must-have Trefoils, I would simply move on. No cute smile; no batting of the eyelashes. Just how I've always been wired. I also realize how, as an adult, this lack of persistence in some situations could be the very wedge standing in between "dreams" and "realities." And it took a simple trip to the airport to teach me that lesson.

I'm a Virgo. If you know us, we're all about planning and organization. So, mark my record unblemished when it comes to never forgetting to pack an item or missing a flight. That almost changed today and, in the process, it's changing me. Having left my home in sufficient time, I was mortified when I jumped on the main highway out of my city and all four lanes were at a standstill. Foregoing my natural reaction to panic and become frustrated, I focused on the victims involved in the accident instead (having counted five emergency vehicles heading in their direction), and reminded myself that their ordeal was far more serious than mine. I kept the faith that traffic would soon move, but I was ready to accept defeat. In fact, after :30 minutes of not much progress, I was already searching for the number to US Airways to inquire about other available flights heading to Sarasota, Florida. But something in me stopped myself and I said, "Erica, don't give up. Just keep going. You can make it." And so traffic opened up and I was on my way. I picked up speed, regained some hope, but it would not be long before I was back in stand-still traffic on another major highway and, again, the doubt crept in and I felt defeat hovering. This back-and-forth conflict on the highway and in my mind would continue for several more miles, down another major highway, and inside the airport parking garage but, ultimately, I had made it! Or so I thought.

Reaching check-in, I was informed that I was FIVE minutes too late to make my flight. Not literally, but according to the system that requires you to check in :30 minutes before flight time. Asking what could they do for me, the kiosk agent simply replied "nothing" and that I'd need to book another flight at the main ticketing counter. Having fought against defeat for an hour before, I truly felt it was time to give up hope. But again there was some, unrecognizable tiny fire in me that kept whispering "keep trying"; there was something in me that wouldn't allow me to accept "no." I took that tiny hope to the main ticketing counter and assured the agent there was something she could do. She said there was not and instead began looking at other flights for me--even flights out of other nearby airports. But I couldn't accept her consolation either. I wanted--needed--to be on my flight. It was as simple as that.

Seeing that I wasn't ready to acquiesce, the agent gave me a boarding pass for a later flight but suggested I use it to get through security in an attempt to make my original flight. At this point, it was 8:37 a.m.; my flight was departing at 8:45. And, yet, I kept pushing: past the boarding agent and through security (although three TSA agents told me I would not make it, and further complicated matters by re-scanning one of my carry-on items). One agent even informed me that he was sure the airplane door was already closed by then so trying to make it was pointless. Starting to finally accept I had done the best I could, even I had slowed my pace when putting back on my shoes and coat, my mind already beginning to settle on the fact that I would have to return home and try to depart later. But that tiny spark of hope was STILL flickering ever so faintly and, so, I picked up my pace and headed to Gate 29 anyway. As I rounded the corner, the boarding area was completely empty--but flight 3346 was still sitting on the tarmac! I asked the boarding area agent about the flight and told her I was supposed to be on it but was told it was simply too late to board it. 

"That flight behind me?" she asked, looking over her shoulder and out of the window. 
"Yes!" I replied. 
"It's still fueling," she stated matter of factly.
"Does that mean there's a possibility I can get on it?" I asked in desperation.
"Hold on," she nonchalantly replied while dialing the ramp agent. 
I felt my hope growing. 
"Hey. I have Ms. Kennedy up here. She's supposed to be on that flight. Uh huh. Yeah. Okay. I'm sending her down." 
And with that, the agent told me to follow her, popped the gate door, and down the ramp I went! My bag was gate checked and I was told to take any available seat. Ten minutes later, I was in the air.

After I caught my breath and gathered myself on what turned out to be a super smooth flight, I could not overlook the fact that at any one of those numerous "roadblocks" from the traffic jams to the security gate hold up, I could have simply given up. That at any time someone's "no" could have become my "okay." That if I simply would have stopped pushing, my outcome--and even destination (as one alternative was to fly me into Tampa)--would have been completely different. Which begged a deeper question about our destinations in life when it comes to going for what we want. Are we settling too quick? Allowing others to direct our course? Accepting "no's" too easily? Giving up mid stream? Whatever it may be, I was reminded today that what separates the "haves" and "have nots" often times is simply resilience and not accepting defeat. 

Have you applied for that dream job but got no response? Apply again! Competed in an event and lost? Compete again! Denied a loan for that business you've always wanted to start? Ask a different lender! Started school but dropped out? Re-enroll! Whatever your dream is; whatever it is you want, go for it and don't quit! In the words of author Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn." I learned that today in the simplest of ways and was grateful for the reminder! So to you, I say be bold. Be brazen. Be steadfast and unmovable. And remember to go for what you want as if your life depended on it because, ultimately, it does! For our destiny lies in the palm of our hands and in the power of our persistence!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How An Old Pair of Jeans Set the Course for My New Year

It started as routinely as it usually does. That is, my annual end-of-year closet purge that, although it takes me a while to get started, I actually look forward to for two reasons: 1) because I finally get to rid myself of clothing I've pushed around and past all year that I've either outgrown in size or in style and 2) to help increase my tax refund. And so, without much thought, I began the process of picking, tossing, folding, piling, and stuffing into bags all of those once "hot to death" outfits that at some point are simply deemed the "what was I thinking" outfits. (I'll happily note, I'm having less and less of those revelations as I get older (smile)).

There were a few laughs as I tried to squeeze into ensembles that were more revered for the events they were purchased for than for the ensemble itself. And then there were the pieces that I didn't even waste time going down memory lane for as I was never too fond of them when they were first purchased. You know how we do, ladies? "Hey, I may need this mermaid wool skirt if I ever find the right olive green boots to match!" Right. Never gonna happen. And so this process continued throughout four closets and over two days only interrupted by favorite TV shows and impromptu "refueling" naps. And then, much to my surprise, it happened: I got stuck.

Among shoes, blouses, dresses, coats, and hats, lied a pair of jeans. Now, let me say, I love jeans but of all of the parts of clothing I buy, finding the right pair is often the most challenging and often times I simply give up and give in to those that come the closest to bringing me the "denim nirvana" I'm in continuous search of. And this inconspicuous pair was no exception. Other pairs that had made their way into overflowing bags were easier to toss for unless I brought in a team of friends and a vat of Crisco, they weren't going to make it past my thighs. But these were different. They didn't quite fit well but they didn't fit too bad either. They weren't too short and not too long, and I still found its bold stitching unique, which I recall was what drew me to them when I first purchased them some years back.

There was really no major reason to discard them, and so I put them back in the closet and continued to dig for those items that didn't require any major contemplation in ditching. But every so often I'd look over at those jeans and the contemplation would begin all over again. I'd take them off the hanger; try them on; walk back and forth in the mirror; pull them up; stretch them back down; then decide they weren't worth keeping and throw them in the pile...only to circle back and place them back in the closet. This alone was beginning to zap my energy--and slow my progress--thus calling forth one of those impromptu naps. So down I went. But before drifting off to sleep I was hit with a revelation that woke me up--literally and figuratively. My attitude towards what to do with those jeans was a living metaphor of how I--along with so many of us--approach situations in life, be it relationships, jobs, careers, or maybe even friendships. That is, we know when we've outgrown them; when they're no longer working for us, and yet we make excuses to continue in situations that simply no longer serve us. We hang on to the old instead of reaching forth for the new. Much like those jeans, perhaps it's because we fear not ever finding that "perfect fit" or because we try to convince ourselves that in time, perhaps, we'll simply learn to be comfortable in them. But, as often is the case, we're simply just left feeling stuck and uncomfortable, until we make the hard decision to shed the old and step boldly into the new.

And that's when I knew what I had to do. Not just with those jeans but in my approach to any of life's offerings heading my way. In other words--and to remix the great late Johnnie Cochran's famous quote-- "If it don't fit, it's time to split." That's when I sprung up from the bed, yanked the jeans from across its hanger, and tossed them atop some Hefty bags. Was there a tiny bit of apprehension still lingering in doing so? Of course, as there will be with anything we leave behind in making the decision to press forward toward something new. But the joy I felt in knowing my actions were actually a part of a bigger picture and a greater awareness, let me know it was worth it! And more importantly, as I embark on a new year that I pray presents me with more opportunities for growth and discovery, it was the perfect reminder to shake of the dust of complacency and begin to make room for genuine gratification, which can only be found when we dare to step out of what feels "just okay" and search for our "perfect fit." Happy New Year, everyone!