Other than the day of my brother’s wedding and those two times I delivered babies, I have not missed a work meeting in twenty-five years. I drag myself in no matter what, even if on death’s door, because I AM A PROFESSIONAL and my development, reputation and conduct matter to me. Even as recently as last school year, I wouldn’t have considered it. Well, I’d’ve considered it–come on, who doesn’t daydream happily about blowing off work once in awhile?–but I would not have acted on it. I suffer no illusions that if got hit by a bus or was extradited to Barbados, the school district or the speech-language department would be unable to recover from my absence. If recent history has taught me nothing else, it’s that the American middle class worker doesn’t matter much. This statement is breaking me, but I can’t say it’s untrue, or at least that it feels untrue. It feels very real, but it is perhaps a subject to be fleshed out more fully at some other time. Anyway, if you’d suggested to me five years ago that I’d miss a work meeting for a concert, I’d have scoffed. Me? No way. If you’d suggested that I would be heading to another country for a concert, I’d have laughed loudly, and I do have a loud laugh, especially at preposterous notions such as this. I’m sure. Who does that? I love the music, and I never tire of hearing it, especially live, but to drive farther than a few hours? And absent myself from a professional meeting in so doing? Who does that? Fiscal Year 2016 Me does that. My-son-was-diagnosed-with-a-progressive-disease-this-year-and-since-nothing-is-a-guarantee-I’m-gonna-carpe-the-fuck-out-of-this-diem me. I need these socks, people:Most of my friends and family (except my husband, who’s curiously and astonishingly supportive of my road trip) believe we’ve arrived at that moment: the one marking when I’ve finally, completely lost my mind. The quest for its recovery is taking me to Toronto, they say. Yes, Toronto, Ontario. Canada.
Before it would’ve been just the music, and the music is a lot. A lot. It’s everything really. But it’s no longer just the music–now it’s also my tribe. Runner Aims from 90 minutes north of me is driving to Milwaukee. She and I are cruising together toward the Detroit area where wondermom and supercool (yes, each a brand new, just-for-me compound word) Bek lives for the Thursday night sleepover party with new girl “My Autocorrect is Drunk” Lori, and my BNL BFF, Nikki, coming north from southern Ohio. Friday morning the five of us make our border run and meet up with Janice, Marie, Chantal, Katie and Sarah from New York, Quebec, Ontario, and the UK.
None of this would have been possible had it not been for the electronic written word. The first not-work-related thing I’d ever had published was for a fan site. I never told a soul then that I’d written it, but in part because of it, I’ve come to know people from around the globe. Ten of us, part of a tribe collectively known as the #Ladiesladies–we even have a uniform–will populate the first few rows of seats in Toronto’s Massey Hall Friday night. How did I get here?
How did I evolve from uber-conscientious speech pathologist me into a woman eager to travel through four states and cross an international border to not work? Music and friends: that’s what sparked the evolution. And I don’t even think it’s weird. Not one bit. I realize I’m in the sizable minority in thinking it’s totally normal. I wear a somewhat sheepish expression as I talk about it to colleagues–the men and women I’m leaving high and dry for Friday’s meeting (because at work I’m supposed to look a little embarrassed, a little “hey I know it’s some kind of mid-life crisis escapade, my folly” which, PS–I am TOTALLY NOT), and I know
some of them most of them think I’m nuts, and that my professionalism has taken a nosedive. That’s OK. Because I also know that there are a few of them rooting me on, cheering quietly and perhaps clandestinely, because it’s so unlike what I’ve been and maybe feels a little bit reckless, and maybe just maybe, they want to feel a little reckless too. So really what I am is a role model. YES.
As I’ve written previously, 2015 has been in some respects a nightmare. I stood up in front of a couple hundred people announcing that very thing–that it’s been a nightmare, but I also said that I got to pick how I reacted to 2015. For this week I choose abandon. I choose driving too far and friends and love and Toronto and songs and lyrics that sing my stories and guitars and hugs and dancing and staying up too late. I choose happy (and I sorta don’t choose but got ’em anyway a little bit of nerves, but I’m going to try like hell to choose brave over nerves). I choose happy.
Oh, and Tyler, Jim, Kevin, Ed–as you’re assembling your guest list for the Friday after show? It’s W-e-i-r. You know, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ and ‘W’ for me because I’m such a rule-breaker. Like “weird” but without the ‘d’ at the end, so there’s a helpful mnemonic for you. I choose hope too. And gravy. I want gravy on satisfaction (I still think my misheard lyric works better, just sayin’). See you Friday night after the show! I’m really not crazy--it’s called hope, people–though some believe delusional still fits. But I choose hope. Hope is greater than, aww nevermind, you know how this ends, don’t you?