After our 3,868 miles road trip, I got back to New York on Monday. For all the fun I had on the 25-day road trip, it was good to be home, to be able to hug and kiss our Bellucci and MacGregor, have clean clothes to wear, and connect to what now seems like a super fast internet connection at all times.
At the end of Part III of this series, we had just driven to Banff after I picked up my husband at Great Falls airport. We were ready for a break from the road and planned to do some serious hiking on one or more of the majestic mountains, but the weather gods were not on our side. For the first few days, it was cold, wet and dark, moody like the winter London weather. It was just as well since my husband had to hole himself up with work each morning. So much for vacation for him.
My time in Banff over the four nights and five days we were there fell into three categories: touristy sightseeing; mindless non-productive timewasters; and more productive uses of time.
In the touristy category, we visited the impressive taxidermy collection of Banff Park Museum, rode the gondola to the top of the Sulphur Mountain, and ATV’ed, for the first time, to the awe inspiring Wapta waterfall.
As for time wasters, I read The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (the Twilight Eclipse novella) and played Treasure Isle, a Facebook game in which you harvest fruits for energy in order to dig for treasures on various themed islands. For a goal-oriented person like me, this game is highly addictive. Despite the relatively slow internet connection at the hotel, I reached level 40.
Part of me felt guilty for wasting hours on this game, timing visits to Facebook to harvest virtual fruits before they wither, but it brought me girlish pleasure when my avatar leapt up for joy when it/I dug up virtual treasures, especially those that scored 50 points. Yes, I admit that the level of happiness I derive from this game makes me a loser, but believe it or not, one can extrapolate some life lessons from playing Treasure Isle. Perhaps that will be a topic of a future blog post.
Among the productive uses of my time were antique shopping where we got a set of 6 silver goblets (yes, we have a thing for glasses) and a few memorable conversations I had with fellow hotel guests while soaking in the outdoor hot tub. One was with a highly opinionated FOX News-watching Coloradan about the applicability of the Second Amendment, and another was with his more philosophical cousin from Italy about what happens to the human soul after death.
The takeaway from the first conversation was that despite obvious biases people have on emotional issues, as long as people respect the emotion and are open minded to look at the facts, they may discover their perspectives are not as far apart as they think. Whenever I made a point that he hadn’t heard before, he would think for a few dramatic seconds, then excitedly point his finger at me and shout: “That’s FACTS!”
The second conversation reminded me to live in the present, not the past and not the future. It’s a cliché, but so hard to actually live rather than merely acknowledge.
I also used the time to continue writing and streamlining the thoughts that were swirling in my mind during my one-week solo-drive in Montana. I posted the second installment of the Breaking Up is Hard to Do series on why I decided not to stay in law — which turned out to be a mini-controversy.
Here I was, minding my own business writing a blog post about my own perspectives, and suddenly I found myself stung by a barrage of comments (at least compared to the number of comments on previous posts) from general counsel and other in-house lawyers criticizing my views in rather pointed language.
As described in my response to the comments (see the bottom of that post), I felt that some people misunderstood or missed my point. Above all, I was befuddled by why some of the general counsels reacted so vehemently. And why did some of them feel the need to tell me that GCs like them get paid more than law firm partners and show off how they get buttered up by law firms seeking their business?
I was just a fat kid trying to lose some weight and giving my opinion on why I chose to take spinning class rather than yoga. I never expected to get into a debate with the yogis on the mind/body health benefits of chanting mantras.
Then through one of the comments I found out that my post had been written about by Corporate Counsel magazine’s daily alert. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised that my blog was generating some attention; on the other hand I was irritated at the magazine’s caricature of me as a “disgruntled” lawyer who doesn’t want to work hard. Read in conjunction with Part I of the series as well as my other posts, it should be clear that not wanting to work hard is hardly a top reason why I quit law. Given my post discussed why I rejected an in-house career in a way that might not sit well with the magazine’s audience of corporate lawyers, maybe the editor felt the need to spin a bit?
I had some time to think and to mull over the comments as they came in one by one during our long drive back to Seattle through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. It was my first small taste of being in the public eye — I did realize that writing a blog is putting myself out there but didn’t really expect this kind of attention — so I was not emotionally ready to deal with all the criticism.
Thinking it through, I think the most important lesson I learned is that I need to be more aware of how I come across to others. Despite the disclaimers that I knew I had limited knowledge, I can see how readers could interpret my tone as authoritative. Also, after rereading the post, I can see that there was room for misunderstanding, especially if the post was read on its own.
I was still occupied with these thoughts when we drove on to the car ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle (we took the long way back via the Puget Sound). In the ferry’s rather full passenger deck, I spotted a couple of empty seats across from an elderly couple. They looked so in love, the man’s bony arm holding his wife whose head rested on his shoulder.
We started chatting about where we were from and where we were headed. It turned out the couple — the husband, 78, is a retired third-generation roofer and his wife, 79, recently retired as a nurse — were about to go on a cruise to Alaska. They booked the trip after finding out that the husband has a congestive heart condition and needed open heart surgery, which was scheduled for two days after they return from their 14-day cruise.
The husband was talkative and in good humor, trying to be brave and optimistic, but I sensed the potential of a failed operation and the effect it would have on his wife weighed on him. But for the present, they were determined to have a great time on the cruise, feasting on steak and lobster, enjoying the shows and lounging around pretending not a care in the world.
The husband happily reminisced about the fun he had impersonating Elvis during a karaoke contest while on a similar cruise years before. We are all children sometimes, I said. His eyes lit up and confessed it was one of the few times he could let out his little kid.
The inevitable horn blew signaling that it was time for passengers to get back to their cars, and it was time for us to say goodbye to the elderly couple. As we walked away, I found myself getting choked up thinking about the gravity of what the cruise meant for them. I pray that his surgery goes smoothly and that they are having the time of their life now, with their inner little kids.
I realize my initial reactions towards the negative comments on my blog were probably my little kid licking her wounds, feeling misunderstood. I am sure some of the comments came from people whose little kids felt attacked or belittled by what I had written. At the end of the day, whatever I think about them or what they think about me doesn’t matter, what is important is to let the little kid out and live in the moment.