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Sometimes Ya Gotta Jump Off The Train--

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Lincoln airport.jpg

I took this picture of the Lincoln, Nebraska airport yesterday morning. Notice the empty gate. A United airplane should have been there with me in it, ready to depart for Chicago.  I was on my way to the annual MLA (Modern Language Association) Conference in Philadelphia.  This is the annual conference for literary and language scholars.  Thousands of scholars (from across the nation as well as outside the U.S.) take up over 15 major hotels in the hosting city every year.  I've been going for almost fifteen years.  Not this year.

At the time I took this picture, the plane was still in Chicago.  The United clerk gave me the following scenario:  (1) Your plane is still in Chicago (2) Even if it gets here in the next half hour, when you get to Chicago, you will only have 15 minutes to get from Gate C to Gate F (if you know the gates at O'Hare--C to F is much longer than a football field) (3) You'll have to go standby if you can't connect to your Philadelphia flight because all other flights are overbooked. And tomorrow everything is booked too.  

I can't remember at which point (during his description) that I suddenly felt my body relax, my breathing deepen, heard my voice calmly say, "I'm getting off the train."  

He looked at me a little confused.  "It's a metaphor," I said.  "What I mean is--cancel my flight, reimburse me--I'm going home."  

He said, "Well, you'll make a lot of people who are currently on standby very happy."  

I turned around and saw one of my colleagues who had obviously arrived much earlier than I looking distraught and talking on the phone.  I thought about the graduate students who have a much more invested reason (job interviews at the conference) to run around miles of airport concourses to catch that flight because their professional lives depend upon it. 

I gathered up my packed bags, left the airport, but stopped on the way out to take said picture above.  

There are moments, gentle reader, when we have to just step back and say, "What is most important--what really matters?"  For me, it mattered to let go and stay home but not without feeling guilty and worried about the paper I was scheduled to give, the editor I had to see, the meetings to attend.  Lately, though, I've been making choices by thinking whether or not the "action" I decide to do or not do will have important consequences years from now.  I can meet up with the editor later, keep working on this paper, contact colleagues other ways.  I've also been thinking about "worry" in the same manner.  Does it really matter to "worry" about the possibility that you won't get to point B from where you are at point A.  This is nothing new, but lately it's been of much importance to me to breathe deeply, learn to relax more, and just get off the train. 

More soon . . .