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Humble Wake-Up Calls

February 25, 2015

I boarded the flight on Thursday night and let out a sigh of relief that I made it on time.  I was cutting things short, I knew, when I booked this flight itinerary.  I relaxed, though, when I got into my seat, happy that I made it.

I made small talk with the man next to me, who was from the Dominican Republic.  I talked to him about his country’s neighbor, Haiti.  I talk to everybody about Haiti these days.

After our small talk stopped, I looked out the window and started to close my eyes.  The airplane’s engine was rumbling and I was looking forward to napping my way from Miami to D.C.

As the wheels began spinning, I gasped.  I looked at my new friend in the middle seat and said, “OH NO.”

“What?” he replied confusedly.

“I left my bag!” I exclaimed.

“Up front?” he asked.

“No.  I literally left my bag.  I left it in the passenger boarding area.”

So, there I was.  On a flight to D.C. that was going to land at 11:30 p.m. with a speech to give at UVA that was set to begin at 9 a.m.  I’d be speaking alongside vice presidents of Sony and Fox and a Harvard Law professor.  Without the clothes or makeup that were in my bag that TSA was probably exploding in a field.

I landed in D.C. with my purse and laptop and made my way to the rental car counter.  They gave me a Ford Fiesta that I’m pretty sure shouldn’t have been on the road.  I gunned in southbound two hours to Charlottesville, VA, where I parked and stayed for the night around 3 a.m.  I slept until 6, then woke, showered with the hotel’s provided toiletries and blow dried my hair with the provided blowdryer.  I drove to the nearest Walmart where I stocked up on makeup and beauty supplies then drove to the nearby Target where I waited outside until it opened then proceeded to buy a decent looking outfit.

In all of this, I could only laugh.  I didn’t sweat it.  I didn’t get angry.  If anything, I was grateful.

I was grateful, that even though I didn’t protect my belongings, I was able to replace them.  It was humbling and a gentle reminder to take better care of what I have.

The weekend was awesome, albeit filled with follies.

I was never able to get a hold of TSA to figure out if my bag was in their possession.  I basically wrote it off as being a lost cause.

I spoke at UVA and was blown away by the smarts and credentials of the people I sat alongside.  My favorite person there, though, was my former law professor, Matt Parlow.  Professor Parlow taught my 1L property class, and I’m forever indebted to him for teaching me about future interests, which subsequently allowed me to pass the California bar examination on the first try.

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My 2L year, Professor Parlow taught my sports law class.  In that class, we had to write 30 page papers.  I wrote mine on the athletic exploitation of NCAA athletes.  In red pen on my paper’s last page, Professor Parlow wrote something to the extent of, “Great job!  This is of publishable quality.”  Those two sentences in a sense lit a fire in my heart that sports law was something I should pursue–something I could succeed and excel at.  It was fun, five years later, to be participating as a panelist at the same symposium as him.

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On Saturday morning, I packed my new belongings into plastic Walmart and Target bags.  When I checked out of the hotel, the attendant said, “Where are you headed?”  I said, “D.C.”  She said, “By yourself?”  I said, “Um, yes.”  She said, “Well, be careful.  The roads are awful.”

I looked out the window and saw snow lightly falling.  Without her seeing I rolled my eyes slightly and thought, “Oh, come on, this is nothing!”  I am from Colorado, after all.

What Colorado has that Virginia doesn’t, though, is a good plow and de-icing system.  The roads were awful.  What was worse, though, was my Ford Fiesta.  Homeboy wouldn’t even go up hills.  As I maneuvered the clown car throughout Charlottesville, Virginia trying to avoid hills in an attempt to get to D.C., my mother’s face flashed through my head constantly. Among the various things my mother has taught me throughout my life is how to drive in the snow and not get stuck.  Gun it. Turn your wheels.  Don’t stop.  I never got stuck that day when many other cars did.  Christine Jessop would’ve been proud.

I realized, though, that the ol’ Fiesta and I were going to have a gnarly ride together if I took it all the way to D.C.  So I opted to drop it off at the Charlottesville Airport and pick up an SUV.  The entire process of leaving my hotel, getting to the airport and swapping out my car took two hours.  And cost an extra $100.  It wasn’t a cheap trip, but at least me and my new belongings were safe.

I headed up to D.C. and at this point, I was out of underwear.  Like my mother, my Nana has taught me some important lessons in life.  One of which is never go out without clean underwear on.  I was meeting an old law school friend, Allison, for the Georgetown game that night and then up with my friend Michael later, so I needed to heed my Nana’s advice.  The problem was that because of the storm, all of Georgetown, where I was staying, had shut down.  Save for Anthropologie.

Anthropologie is one of my favorite stores.  It is not, however, known for its selection of intimates.  When I arrived, there was one pair for me to choose from.  The pair cost $68.  Like I said, it was a really expensive trip.

I got on the plane Sunday night after having breakfast in VA with Michael and meeting up with former students at Georgetown Cupcake.  I thought to myself, “What a good weekend.”  For all of the chaos and confusion, there was only one thing that mattered:  The entire time, I was surrounded by good people.

I needed this lesson.  I always say that people are more important than things and memories are more important than places.  I say that, but sometimes I don’t think I really live it.  This weekend stripped me of my labels.  It stripped me of the outfits I planned to wear.  It forced me to go into a conference filled with powerhouse leaders with just myself and my ideas.  It required people to look at, judge and like me for who I am and not what is on my body.

It was humbling.  And it was oh, so needed.

Sometimes, I believe that the universe, or in my case, God, sends you a big wake-up call.  This wake-up call was about getting my priorities straight.  It was a wake-up call about the need to sometimes, start over from nothing.  It was a wake-up call to let my heart, knowledge and care for others drive my relationships and what people think of me.  It was a wake-up call that the clothes truly don’t make the woman.

I’ve known this for awhile.  Before this, I was most recently reminded of this fact when I was in Haiti.  There, people had no idea what degrees I hold, where I come from or what I do for a living.  All they knew was me and how I treated them and made them feel.  And with those few things alone, they accepted me.  They didn’t just accept me, but they showed love to me.  In the same regard, I accepted and loved them.  It was humbling.  It was real.

These days, I am working hard to get back to reality.  When people think about or see me, I want them to think about who I am and not what I am.  I’m tired of labels.  I’m tired of labels because they only mask what’s under them.  I want to be seen for who I am in terms of loving people, giving to people and being humble with myself.

Sometimes, a lost suitcase is a good thing.  Because sometimes, it lets you start over from scratch.

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