Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The road is calling and finally I can answer

I've had roadtrips on the mind recently. I re-read The Motorcycle Diaries a few months ago and followed it up with Travels with Charley. Guess I must have been influencing my friends subconsciously. Earlier this month during a Stone Street excursion my friend D announced that he had finished restoring his car and wanted to go on a Memorial Day Weekend road trip to celebrate. Even better? He wants me to come.

I was excited for too many reasons to enumerate. Here's a few though. First, I have not owned a car since I moved to NYC and man do I miss driving. I know this sounds like the oil barron's lament but I love driving on twisty, windy roads alone with my thoughts. Or alternately with my music blaring and me singing along. And nothing beats cross-country drives.

In college the thought of three months without my car over summer break was devastating to me. So every summer my little red 1992 Saturn SC coupe (with pop-up headlights!) and I drove 1940 miles from Fort Collins, Colo. to Bethel, Conn. Lots of people complain about I-80 being corn, corn, and more corn but dammit if I didn't love every mile of it. I will never forget cresting a hill in Iowa to a gorgeous rainbow in August of 2002 heading back out West. (I will also never forget stupidly outrunning a tornado in Kansas on I-70 in May of 2001 with my sister. That was the day my sister and I learned what it was like to drive 145 mph. Don't try that at home, kids!) My senior year I had bought a SUV and was moving back home so I actually did the trip thrice in two weeks. I miss those trips now. It wouldn't be as much careless fun now paying $3.05/gallon for gas I guess, or whatever gas is these days.

Another reason I love road trips? Bonding. I tend to be in my head a lot of the time but I love how car trips can be an excuse for stifling technology in favor of, oh I don't know, actually talking to each other. I suppose today's minivans with their in-headrest screens could kill the need for conversation. Luckily D owns a 1968 Chevelle SS. So that's not going to be an issue.

One more thing to love -- seeing the country. Living in NYC is like...well it's like being an asylum quite honestly. We're barely holding our sanity together. (Some of us just gave up.) And the standards of life here are insane and unrealistic. So it will be nice to escape and be reminded of how the other 99% of people live. My parents still chuckle that I was such a farm kid growing up but I ended up somehow living in the biggest city in the US. Don't get me wrong. I love living in NYC and wouldn't trade the last 5 years of my life for anything. I just need to get out a little more.

D also invited our friend J. And now the three of us are making plans. We've decided to avoid highways whenever possible. I have never done a true back-road trip so I'm thrilled to be giving it a shot. D is in charge of planning the route. Problem is we can't decide whether we want to go South (my personal preference), West, or North. Any of them would be fun. I just like the idea of South because I've never really driven South.

J is in charge of finding places to stay. I have a feeling we're going to be camping it which is fine by me. My sole concern is that I hope they take bathroom breaks into consideration since I am a chick. And I will not be using a bottle on the side of the road, thanks.

And me? I'm in charge of the music of course. The car used to just have an AM radio but D has upgraded it to a nice digital player. So I'm assembling a playlist. I proposed a 70s classic rock theme and the boys heartily agreed. I've been having a blast the past couple of weeks researching the best songs to include. I can't say this is a genre I knew very well. Still, I knew many popular tunes from the stations my parents listened to growing up and my friends have been great resources for more. Right now Three Dog Night's "Shambala" gets played at least once daily on my iPhone.

The setup is perfect. Three friends driving in a restored classic car across the countryside, music blaring and camping out under the stars. Hmm. This also sounds like the beginning of a bad horror movie. I'm sure we'll end up with at least one great story out of the trip. Here's a nice list of road trip books. I am downloading a couple to my Kindle to read at night. Guess I can't totally leave technology behind.

I am counting down the days until May 28.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The weight of the wish

I have had the great fortune recently to welcome two mentors into my life. Both of them are invested in making me a better businesswoman not only for my own sake but also for their own success. It's been amazing and I already feel like a winner for it. In my professional life I've been lucky -- I've only had one nasty boss and I have no regrets about being rebellious enough to tell her just how much she sucked. Since then though I've changed jobs (twice), had great bosses each time and now I've settled into a leadership role of my own. A wise man once told me that successful leaders reiterate common sense repackaged as new lessons. And that's more or less what my mentors are doing. It's not so much that I'm learning new skills as I am refining and smoothing the ones I have. I'm learning a ton of new things -- but in a way that I'm building on top of what I have.

Still it's surprising how many ! moments I've been having. I always thought of myself as analytical and scientific in nature at work. Recently I've come to realize that I am also oddly emotional outside of work. One of my mentors has been emphasizing the importance of goals over wishes to me. It boils down this: rarely does one get their wishes but often do they achieve their goals. One part of my brain says: duh! The other part says: huh.

A couple of weeks later I am still profoundly affected by this. Truth is I wish for things all the time...the winning lottery ticket, to be a rockstar, to run into my favorite actor at a bar, to get free rent, to make more money, for untethered investment money for my side project, etc. Meanwhile my goals tend to be more boring but also more realistic. But in the past I wished for things and felt like they came true. Now I'm having a mental wrestling match because I'm better at polishing off goals but more passionate about my wishes. Which is right?

In investigating the answer I've accidentally re-exposed some long buried fears. If you write something down as a goal suddenly there are two options. Success and failure. Achieved and unachievable. Accomplishment and regret. A wish on the other hand suggests a touch of destiny. An outside fate partially controlling the outcome so that you can reassure yourself that a watchful eye is rewarding you or so you don't have just yourself to blame if an idea doesn't pan out. A goal has an awful lot of personal responsibility attached to it. A wish is something you can alternately embrace as a cause and laugh off as a pipe dream.

At work I have no problem with making goals. It's at home where wishes rule my life. Up until now I've been comfortable with that. But I wonder if some of the disappointment I've felt recently is because I'm too scared to write my wishes down to make them into goals. Am I scared that they won't come true? Am I scared that I won't "get" my wishes? Or am I just scared of forcing myself to apply reason to something that is otherwise emotion driven?

I sit here now with a pad in front of me. I am trying to make myself write some of these wishes down to make them into goals. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be.