STARS IN MY EYES

When was the last time you were truly amazed?  What brought on this sense of wonder and how did it feel?

We are often so busy adulting with our day-to-day responsibilities that we can easily miss out on the stuff that truly makes the world light up.

As for me, I tend to lean towards the logical.  I like to understand how and why things work; suspending that logic and having faith in the unknown can be a real challenge for me.  Perhaps it’s a control issue, the pull of safety and security.  Maybe the resistance is really driven by the fear that I should know how something works and what will happen next, even when I don’t.

Meeting new people and experiencing new things can be fun, but also stressful, and for some, anxiety-inducing.  While there were many things to be excited about, moving to Atlanta after spending almost twenty years in Richmond was one of those times.

I was eager to begin my new role – an opportunity to learn, build on my strengths and continue to grow my career.  At the same time, we were leaving a community of family and friends.  My entire career (aside from part-time jobs in high school and college) was based out of the same office building, and my colleagues and I had been through so much together.  With the move, I’d be joining a staff with whom I’d had virtually no prior experience.  We were going to a bigger city, and had chosen to live in a high-rise condominium building, something we’d never done.  We were moving away from the only home we’d ever owned for fourteen of those years in Richmond.

Richmond is central and close to family, with my older sister and her family in closest proximity.  Our home was familiar, and at the time it was the only place our niece, Piper (then not quite eight years old), had ever spent the night away from her parents.  We’d hosted holiday gatherings, birthday celebrations, cookouts, and other impromptu gatherings, often including a game or two of pétanque in our backyard.  Making the move would be ending an era for more people than just Matt and me.

 
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When we got to Atlanta, we wanted to continue to welcome our friends and family, but we knew it would be a bit more challenging as we were no longer centrally located.  We needed to downsize considerably, with much less storage space available.  There were lots of decisions to be made about what to keep and what to part with, and we couldn’t even make all of them until we arrived.  We’d be sharing common areas and seeing neighbors in the hallway and in the elevator, rather than parking on the street and having our own yard.  In the midst of so much change, there were a lot of balls in the air, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to catch them all.

I remember talking to Piper not long before our move.  I was a little worried about how she would respond, as I knew this was a big change for her too.  We talked about the new place and what we would do when she came to visit.  I described the condo – an elevator, a balcony, access to a pool and a gym, as well as Atlanta – museums, restaurants, parks and other activities. She listened intently, paused momentarily and said:

I have stars in my eyes, and not the Looney Tunes kind!

Her response was priceless.  She didn’t dwell on what would no longer be; she instead shifted her thoughts to possibility and had nothing but pure excitement for us and this wonderful opportunity.  This in itself was pretty awe-inspiring.

As leaders, we can never underestimate the power of our words and actions on others.  We must take advantage of these opportunities to inspire and engage with our team members.  Find a point of connection and see where it takes you.

At the same time, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the value of allowing ourselves to be amazed by what others bring to the table.  Be open; give yourself the space to focus forward on the potential of what can be gained rather than getting stuck on what might be left behind.

Next week will mark five years since our move to Atlanta.  I could have never imagined all that would come, and I'm grateful to have been open to what could be.  I’ve learned and experienced so much, both personally and professionally.  We love to host friends and family, explore our city, build community, travel to near and far lands, and meet wonderful people along the way.  The adventures continue, including the formation and evolution of Esprit de Merci.

While we don’t see each other quite as often, we make our time count with those we hold close, and our relationships have grown even stronger.  We had the opportunity this month to celebrate Piper’s thirteenth birthday in New York City, highlighted by her performance with the Virginia Children’s Chorus at Carnegie Hall. 

 
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She continues to teach me as she grows into a smart, responsible and talented young lady and leader who hasn’t ceased to seek wonder in the world. 

This time, it was me who had stars in my eyes.*

 
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*and maybe a tear or two as well.