During a recent trip to Atlanta, I had a conversation with a man whose daughter asked his blessing to get a passport so she might visit Paris, France. He shared that he staunchly refused her request citing “too much going on in the world” as his only and final rationale. I am still bothered by this conversation because I cannot imagine what it must be like to be raised in a family that believes in order to protect you they must feed you a fear that will keep you close. Although the concern is always present, when I share with my family that I am traveling somewhere they respond with prayers and demands that I do whatever I can to “be safe over there,” wherever there may be. Unlike that father in Atlanta, my family has always given me the support I need to explore the world around me.
This letter then is an open thank you for all the ways they have been preparing me for my own excursions by simply living their own lives.
To my family,
Each of you has shown me how even a trip to a corner store in NOLA can be an adventure if I bring the right people and the right attitude.
Those long rides from Ft. Lauderdale to Fort Valley were prime training opportunities on how to interact with my fellow passengers on eight-plus hour plane rides. Most important to building positive relationships with people I am trapped in close proximity to (no matter the mode of travel) is: always speak, share my snacks, and don’t complain about the long ride.
You taught me that if I don’t try to do what everyone else is doing I’ll get more than I bargained for. This proved especially true when we passed up a ride in a cushy, air-conditioned tour bus in the Bahamas because the hotel staff said that a pink school-bus turned jitney would be a better way to really see the Bahamas.
When you switched careers after decades of service in one arena, picked up new hobbies with no previous experience, or got on a plane for the first time, you ignored those who said you were too old “for all that.” In going for it anyway, you modeled steadfastness for me. I saw that doing something after a socially determined deadline passed meant nothing more than what I decided it meant. I learned I have control over my life and the direction I take it.
In sharing with me that you gathered your children and pursued the possibility of something, anything more than what your hometowns could offer, you taught me that when a space no longer serves me it is okay to fearfully seek out a new one. In choosing not to pursue something more than what lies before me I do myself and those that look to me as an example a disservice.
In choosing to do all that each of you has done, you inspired me to be the woman you are proud of. Dr. Maya Angelou wrote, “You are the sum total of everything you’ve seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot- it’s all right there.” She was right, and I am proud of Y’all too.
Until our next great adventure,