“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”-George Bernard Shaw
The airline agent hands me the phone as if this is my one and only phone call from prison.
“You can use the phone, but make it quick.”
The bite in her undertone is strong and short-fused. I begrudgingly key in the first few digits of my father’s phone number. I still can’t believe it. By showing up two hours late for my flight out of West Palm Beach – not only am I going to miss this flight but I’m going to miss my connection at JFK as well – and that means everything unravels. I sigh with frustration, anger, disappointment.
Africa will have to wait.
My finger hovers above the last digit, ashamed to call the number – so I stall by asking the agent to triple-check and see if there is any way (please, any way) she can rebook me. Please?
It’s a statement that cuts deep into my wallet. With the probability of having to buy a whole new flight hanging over me (a bitter blow to my tight budget), I nervously start to offer up every possible alternative I can think of.
“Can I fly out of Fort Lauderdale, or Miami, or on another airline?”
I’m 34 years old, but it doesn’t matter, I want to cry.
As I punch in the last number, I glance over my shoulder, hoping like hell that the person behind me is packing a shovel so I can dig a hole to hide in. Instead, I’m confronted by an angry mob of business travelers. They instantly remind me of the old me – sleepwalking through life, a group of people that probably couldn’t pick their true and authentic selves out of a police lineup if they had to. They’re as mad at me as I am with myself, but for a different reason – I’m holding up their line and messing up their day.
I grab the receiver with both hands and whisper into the mouthpiece: someone please answer.
As the first ring trails off, I can’t help but think of all the hard work that has gotten me to this moment. This flight was supposed to be my rebirth. The moment I complete the two-year self-taught transformation I’ve undergone – the moment I simultaneously cross the finish line and enter a new land, figuratively and literally. In the past when I’ve played out this scene, I’ve always envisioned a grand procession leading me to my gate, a coronation of sorts. The sound of heroic trumpets clearing my path and flower petals accompanying each fate-filled step I take. I always believed that’s what a leap of faith of this magnitude warranted, or so I thought. Reality clearly thinks otherwise.
Still no answer.
At the beginning of the second ring I start to think that this is a sign, and that I’m unable to walk my talk. I mean, if I can’t even get out of my own country, how on earth am I going to make it around the world?
Then all at once, my next few thoughts uniformly fall back in line with my old and very familiar way of thinking: I still don’t really know how to work my camera and I probably won’t be able to make any worthwhile films anyway. I won’t have anything exciting to write about and even if something exciting does happen, I bet I won’t know how to put it on paper. As I continue to wring my heart out, my mind goes in for the kill with a snippy sucker punch: even if you could leave today you are just going to be right back here next year looking for the same type of job you just quit.
As if they can sense my wavering confidence, the business travelers behind me push forwards – like they are going to haul me right back up into the 9-5 world that I’ve fought so hard to get away from.
They get so close that by the time the third ring goes unanswered, dread ensues and I lose all presence, following each panic ridden thought down the same rabbit hole that all these unanswered rings seem to be going.
However, somewhere along the rhythm of the fourth ring, my thoughts steady for a second, creating a gap for me to think about who it is I’m actually calling: It’s the father that passed down the determination I’ve been tapping into every time a setback like this has threatened to derail my dream. It’s the mother that gifted me the faith I’ve needed to understand that challenges like this always end up happening for a good reason. It’s the father that started a business with no money and no resources, against every odd, and it’s the mother that stood by him and believed in him even when those odds were stacked against the both of them. It’s the mother and father that took that business to the top of its industry, all the while never missing a family dinner or sporting event in my life. It’s the parents whose love will never be out of arms reach no matter how far away my travels take me, and it’s the parents who wholeheartedly support me leaving today to follow my dream even though it breaks their hearts.
The next ring is cut short by my father’s voice – and his tone is calming, reassuring, like he knew this would happen. I get him up to speed on recent events, in one heartbroken sentence, and like every other time I’ve ever needed either of them, he says, “We will be right there.”
Within minutes, they pull up to the same curb they recently left me at (like it was my first day of school all over again). I tell them to take me home and that life isn’t fair and that it’s impossible for me to find another flight out today, but neither is convinced. They won’t let me quit because they’ve never quit – never on each other and certainly never on me.
They quickly help me find a flight out of Orlando that they think we can make if my father drives fast enough. He pushes the pedal down while my mother guides us onto the fastest route. They both have the same look in their eye. It’s easy for me to spot because I’ve seen it a billion times before: it’s the I’ll do anything I can for you look…
As the miles start to quickly melt away, I’m left amazed by how some things never change.