Friday, April 7, 2017

Ambition and a visit to the South Carolina State House

Somewhere in my past, ambition became a dirty word. I kept it inside of me like a stain I tried to hide. It is the secret I pretend I do not harbor, despite its persistence and resilience within me. This week, however, I let it show.

My first trip to the South Carolina State House was on Equal Pay Day. A local advocacy group, the Women’s Resource and Empowerment Network (WREN) held their first annual summit and I attended. The conference centered around a study on women in the workforce that WREN had sponsored at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business.

The three categories of findings were the gender pay gap, labor force participation, and the distribution of employment. The study found that a 22% pay gap persists in S.C. despite our women being, on average, more highly educated than our men. How can our ambition be so widely disregarded and our abilities be so undervalued?

Ambition manifests in action and my actions have been rather modest.

The snort of disapproval my doctorate has received, the dismissal of my fiction work as a hobby, the intentional misunderstanding of what it is my company does; I let these offenses slide. Then there are the specific phrases that hang on me like graffiti on a storefront. Phrases that remind me how difficult it is to be a writer, how inevitable it is that I’ll fail, how many businesses never make any money, and how na├»ve it is to still have dreams.

Phrases that are not my own insecurities, but the failures and doubts of others being projected upon me.

I stood in the State House and asked myself, “What right have I to be here? Am I doing good work? Can I do more? When will I?”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Not Exactly Barefoot in the Park

We walked the 12 blocks to Central Park on Thursday morning. It was crazy cold.

On the list, visit 40 new places is one of the most challenging items. While it's easy enough to rack up restaurants, bars, and stores especially when traveling, I'm not really in this for the check list.

So from the NYC trip, I'm adding just Central Park as "new places." Hey, I've got a whole year to get 39 more. I also visited the Richard Rogers theatre and bought some Hamilton swag from the Hamilton store. We ate in three different restaurants and hit four bars. I even had one of those 2 a.m. skin-flap pizza wedges folded in half for eating.

I've been to NYC three times, twice in the last six months. I don't think I'll ever get enough of the city. It has its own pulse.

While I don't think I'd like to live there -- it's way crowded -- I do enjoy feeling at home there. Whether it's the East Village with my friend Carrie or Midtown with my sister, NYC and me are cool. Or I like to think we are.

On Friday, I ventured out to cold call on some potential customers. I took the wrong train from Midtown to Downtown, got turned around in Tribecca, and walked about 50 unnecessary blocks in the pouring rain. Another train, another wrong stop, another train, and walking in the wrong direction, two blocks past where I need to be, one street over. More rain.

All that misdirection and I ended up back at the hotel an hour behind schedule. I left for LaGuardia at 1:15 for a flight meant to board at 2:15. I raced through the TSA Pre-Check line and down the terminal, barely making the flight. Damp, cold, and hungry. By the time I landed in Charlotte, I felt like NYC had kicked my ass.

A good night's sleep later and I forgive the city for showing me who's boss. Respect, New York, respect. See ya again soon.

Think of me fondly

I saw Phantom of the Opera live on Broadway for the first time on my 40th birthday, March 29, 2017. This officially kicked off The 41st Year odyssey.

The show was everything I expected it to be and our seats were on the third row which was just perfectly close enough to believe they were performing just for us.

When Christine sang Think of Me, I was transported to my high school bedroom when I'd worn the CD out bellowing along with her. Masquerade was a bigger spectacle than I ever imagined when listening. And All I Ask of You decimated any wedding that ever had the audacity to use it.

Phantom is one of those New York City institutions, an iconic event that happens eight times a week. Yet every show is for an audience that has probably never seen it. So the actors have to keep it fresh every performance. And they did.

Making the experience even better was seeing it with my sister, Kristen, whom I tortured for years through the wall that separated our bedrooms. Going to the show was her idea, the whole NYC trip was her idea, and she spoiled me.

One of the list items is 40 live events. I'm down to 39 now. Thanks, Kris.