Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Coming Full Circle

When I was in 5th grade, I decided I wanted to be a writer.  I was obsessed with Judy Blume and became equally obsessed in writing my own young adult novel.  I began writing first drafts of first chapters of various books, never progressing beyond that.  After a couple of years, I gave up and moved onto poetry, mainly focusing on my junior high crush at the time who wanted nothing to do with me.

By 9th grade, it was clear none of my books were ever going to be completed, and my poetry wasn't all that great (and by then, my crush was over).  I moved onto politics, became obsessed with the 1992 presidential elections, and ultimately convinced myself that I should go into the legal field.

Yada yada yada, now I'm in my late 30's, a retired lawyer at home with three kids, contemplating what I eventually want to do with my life.  Continue staying home full time? Focus on volunteering? Go back to a full time job?  Do something completely different?  What I do know, that I didn't back in the 90's, is that I don't want to go back to the legal field.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When the World Becomes Scary

I was living in London on April 20, 1999 when the Columbine shooting happened.  It was all over the London tabloids.  And I remember it not primarily for the horror of it all, though that's of course its legacy.  I remember it because it's the first time that a world event scared me.

Perhaps I was more naive than most, but at age 20, I was impervious to the news.  It flowed off of me.  Back then, I was young and indestructible and everything in the news happened to "other" people.  I had come from a protected midwest city and gone to a protected college town and finally to London, a place, notwithstanding its peppered history, that was a safe haven among the plethora of other places to study abroad as a college student.

And maybe it's because I had been living for a few months in a place where guns were actually illegal, but Columbine scared me.  I actually had nightmares about returning to the United States and being gunned down.  It wasn't the first of my irrational fears, and it certainly wouldn't be the last, but it left a mark on me.  These innocent suburban American high school students weren't immune to harm, and neither was I.

Two years later I was living in London again on 9/11.  I was at the LSE library, searching for jobs, when I came across a curious news story on the internet.  The World Trade Centers were on fire.  I turned to the person sitting at the computer next to me, a stranger, and told him that planes were crashing into buildings in New York.  He thought I was crazy and changed seats.  That night, scared as to what was going on in the world and at my mother's recommendation, I avoided the tube and took the bus home, adding 45 minutes to my journey.

That night I was harassed by friends and family urging me to come home.  Come home to what?  I thought.  How do you know home is safe?  How do you know London is not safe?  Where is safe? The whole world seemed like a scary place that day.

I made the decision that night that I was going to stay in London.  And in doing so, I would have to set my fear aside and just come what may.  It was a release of control uncharacteristic of me at the time, but one of emotional survival.  I needed to live my life, and so I did.  I rode the tube, I frequented tourist destinations, and when I went to Egypt that spring, against the urging of loved ones, I did so with the same attitude.  It's not that I was oblivious to risk, it's just that I weighed it and then moved on.  That old adage of the most dangerous part of your travels is your drive to the airport?  It became my mantra.  I felt fear, but did it anyway, and it paid out in spades.  My years in London were some of the best of my life, and my trip to Egypt was fantastic.  I went home to live in Manhattan, work in Times Square, and ultimately move to Washington, DC.  Not exactly a path of the terrorist risk-averse, but it's where life has taken me.  When I hear of a terrorist attack, I take a minute to feel the fear go through me, to reason with myself, to mourn, and to move on.  Life is scary, the world is scary, and we can either live our life constantly aware of that fact, or we can just live.  I try my hardest to do the latter.

But my resolve was put to the test on March 22 - the day of the Brussels bombings.

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