He showed up in a miniature Toyota. There was enough room to seat four comfortably, but we were seven. Four of us over 6 feet two, 240 plus. We crowded in the tiny car, forty-year olds positioned awkwardly on the laps of twenty-something employees on an hour-long excursion to the outskirts. We argued about the radio. Ducked down when we saw patrol cars. Made it to the beach right before dusk and safely back to the conference hours before dawn.
We’d traveled from Chicago for a professional development conference down in Florida. There were about six of us arriving on different times on different days, but in close succession. There were less than 20 staff in the whole organization. We knew each other’s names and titles, but very little of each other.
The conference was strange. We walked away with goodie bags of questions. My presenter had taken classes with Einstein, and he’d devised a lecture on understanding your purpose. The audience was so impressed with his allegiance that the speaker let himself get off track.
He spent more than an hour talking about Einstein’s family, his failures, and his temperament. He said that Einstein’s mother was embarrassed by him and considered him a burden. Much of his work was done to make his mother proud.
After the conference we connected in the lobby and agreed to meet back at 6pm in the same spot. We planned to take a drive to the beach about 45 minutes south; explore the city and enjoy the weather (all hailing from Chicago).
There’d been tension before then. Frustration at the office. Anger over budgets, distribution of work assignments, and pay. Resentment over promotions, staff assignments, and unrealistic deliverables. A simple car ride and an unfamiliar journey made us colleagues and, if only for a moment, friends.
The move back to Houston was chaotic. I’d lived away for more than twelve years. He’d lived in Chicago for more than three. He was unhappy, frustrated; itching to return home to the east coast. I hadn’t lived home since college and wanted to know what it was like to live and work so close to family.
We didn’t think it would be easy, but the struggle was too real. We spent the first week in a hotel living out of our UHaul. We couldn’t find work. Savings ran dry. We didn’t have jobs, offers, or a home.
I’d had experience with refugees and recent immigrants; had learned of heart-breaking and horrific feats of sheer will and blind ambition. Surely, we could do this.
Measure twice, cut once.
It has become our mantra. A reminder for us that action is necessary and important, but in our haste for progress and for change, we must always remember to be wise.
- His artwork was accepted into the Bert Long Jr. Gallery at the Houston Museum of African American Culture. It will be featured from May until July, with an artist’s talk TBA. If you’re in the Houston area, please come out!
- We went biking over the weekend, and I’m letting myself be persuaded to get one. He’s hoping I’ll do my first Critical Mass this March.
- He’s gotten some new requests for paid commissions for artwork.
- I’m halfway through my first book of 2017 (reading, not writing).
- Patience and leadership
What were your successes? What were your failures?