Farmgirl Goes to the Big City

He kicked off the lecture, asking who had travelled the furthest.

In a theatre of 200-or-so eager professionals, a few shouts from the crowd revealed my challenging trip from SW Ontario paled by comparison; Vancouver, Newfoundland, California, Amsterdam, Brazil, Columbia! The Academy-award winning screenwriter truly drew a global crowd for his “Story In Business” seminar.

“NO student of mine uses the word ‘journey’ to describe life,” he continued. “A journey is when you get on the bus in Akron, Ohio & travel to Indianapolis. Life is not a journey. It’s full of challenges.”

Well, okay then. With that, I shut my iPad and pulled out my notebook. This was going to be a good day.

The thing with journeys though, is they can also be challenging, even for a seasoned traveler like me. Nevermind the cancelled flight and last minute changes, a trip to the ‘big city’ always unnerves me a little; at least until my psyche can re-calibrate to the hustle and bustle. With every step I imagine every eye on me, wondering if they know how uncomfortable I am at that very moment.

It also always seems the insignificant decisions I fretted so much over, I inevitably chose wrong.  This particular morning, as I dragged my roller-bag up Lexington Avenue from the subway station, I was cursing my decision to wear heels and wondering if my sweater was also going to be a burden on the warm, fall day. I broke my heel before I had even left the airport, so at my first opportunity I changed back into my cowboy boots. “Of course, flats were the obvious choice.” I thought to myself gazing at every pair of feet around me. Of course, no one was paying any attention to me. I was just another bee in the hive going about my day like 8 million other people in New York.

By noon, the desire to have “NY for Dummies” on immediate standby had faded away, and I was excited to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, admiring the people and life of the Upper East Side. I grabbed a sandwich at a small deli, and couldn’t help but think of Red’s grocery in Orange is the New Black. I was quite certain this deli was a family business, and the full tables of suits, construction workers and students told me I’d be happy with my selection.

Unwrapping the sandwich, I thought about whether I’d ever walked into a similar place in Toronto. Or anywhere in Canada for that matter. There wasn’t a familiar restaurant sign to be seen in the 10 blocks I’d walked from Hunter College, so void of other options I’d chosen this deli. It’s not incredibly profound, but I realized that’s what being out of your comfort zone is all about. Trying new things because there is no other option. As the afternoon concluded, I’d force myself to step outside that ‘safe zone’ at least once more, not knowing the result could be the start of an incredible opportunity. Proof that nothing worth pursuing comes without some risk, even if the peril is only feeling like a farmgirl in the city.

Robert McKee on-stage, ready to begin his Story in Business lecture.
Farm fashion meets high fashion on Madison Avenue, NYC.

 

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