There are geographies that hold significance for me, for each of us, across the spans of time and space. They act as bookmarks in the chronology of our lives, to which we can turn back and reread a page or revel in a memory. A marker to remind us where we have come from, and how we have evolved from who we once were.
One such geography in my life is the Twin Cities. I went to college there. It was where I fell deeply in love with learning. It was where I developed the habits and practiced the choreographies that have carried me through the stages of my life since I left. It was where I first fell in love. And, also where I began to develop a sense of who I am and what I want to be in the world around me.
As you can imagine, I seize every opportunity to go to the Twin Cities for all the above reasons. But, also just to walk out into the humid embrace of the air there, to see the blinding reflection of late afternoon sun on the lakes – to revel in the fecundity of the greenery, the warmth of summer, the alluringly rich smells. To feel life brimming over in a cascade of loamy soil, mosquitoes, and green leaves.
Being back in the Twin Cites, particularly in summer, is like turning back a page to the me who had just graduated from college, who was training for her first marathon, and who was finally exploring what it was to be an adult. It is an opportunity to reflect on a magical time, where the future was full of possibility: I was happy and in love, and the world held unimaginable promise.
I was in MSP for a meeting of a leadership development program I was nominated to within my company. It is a huge honor and I’m incredibly excited. It was the first meeting of a two-year program which is intended to help us build networks with other emerging leaders, and put our energies towards developing ourselves, as well as developing our skills to bring forth the best from those around us. Being that it was the first meeting with a group who flew in from all over the country, I approached it with a sense of opportunity and promise.
But more interesting to me, as always, is the thematic intersections of my life, reflected in the spaces and places around me. And so, here there was much fodder for analysis. Unbeknownst to me, the meeting I was attending fell on heels of the 10-year college reunion of the class ahead of me at Macalester. I would have been a member of that class had I not taken a year off, and more meaningfully, my boyfriend in college and all his friends were in that year. Recognizing the temporal, and potentially geographic closeness of so many people who held significance in my life at the same time felt like a melding of energies in the universe. Had I put two and two together, perhaps I’d have considered extending my trip. But, alas, in my less than 24-hour stay in the cities I was able to see just three friends and their significant others, which felt pretty good to me.
I stayed with Alex, and her two beautiful babes and her wonderful husband. I visited Fay, whose life path and mine have followed interestingly parallel tracks and who always amazes me with her laser-like ability to pinpoint and verbalize abstract issues, and I saw Molly and Mike and met their gorgeous son. Molly has always been an encouraging presence and someone who I feel I missed connecting fully with in college, and subsequently need to attempt to connect with at every opportunity to make up for lost time. In my whirlwind, I saw various pictures of my future in the lives of my friends. Such a short visit, of course offers only a vignette from which I am probably making overly broad assumptions. But yet, in the snapshot into these various lives I saw such insight into how to forge a path forward in growing a family, building a career, and developing as a human across the space and time my life offers. Meanwhile, amidst this group of emerging leaders at my meeting, we learned the program’s goal was more to develop ourselves and learn how we operated, what we uniquely offer, and how to leverage our strengths both in and out of the workplace.
Across the board, the universe seemed to be presenting me with a chance to evaluate my life’s progress and my future, both personally and professionally. As a new mama, and someone trying to build a career, and someone who wants to grow as a person and pursue dreams and challenges that are independent of my family life or my work, I often feel pulled in many directions. My visit reminded me that I’m not alone in this struggle and presented case studies of people across multiple parts of my life who are engaging with the same challenges, finding strategies to manage the hard things, finding ways to celebrate the sweet things, and reaching each day to be a better version of themselves. My visit offered me a set of peers to whom I can turn for consolation and advice as the challenges mount, and who can share in celebration when things go well. At the juncture of my entry to motherhood, the evolution of my role as a wife, and the occasionally uneasy relationship I have with my leadership opportunities – this visit was a much-needed boost to my psyche. I had not realized that as a new mom, and someone trying to build a career I was feeling a bit alone in Denver. My friends there, for all their wonderful qualities, are for the most part, not there yet. To be in the Cities – in a place I will always associate with my personal evolution into who I am today – and to have been offered the gift of insight into the universality of my struggles? Well, it was meaningful to me.
So, I suppose that was a long way of saying that I had a good trip. I small piece of my heart will always reside on the riverside trails on Minneapolis, or looking out over the night-darkened Mississippi from an abandoned railroad bridge. And in each visit I discover a new iteration of myself reflected back from this place.