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When Twenty Meets Fifty

Another entry from the “Way Back Machine,” first published in January, 2003

“Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year.”

Japan. Dance. Year. I must not have heard her right. It almost sounded little my daughter had just told me that she had been invited to go to Japan to dance for a year. That she was, by extension, actually thinking about doing this. That she was thinking about dropping out of University, after having attended for just one quarter, so she could go to some far off land and dance. For a year.

“Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year.”  My brain struggled to catch up with the second and third order implications of what my one and only daughter had just told me as she and I were driving from San Francisco to the University of California, Irvine where she was due to start her second quarter the very next day.

It was like she had said, “Dad, I’ve been invited by NASA to be the first woman to go to Mars, and I won’t be back for a really long time.”

“Really, that’s very exciting,” I heard my mouth saying. “How long have you known about this?”

“I got an e-mail from Dax two days ago.”

Dax is a former dance partner who had gone to Japan the previous year to dance at Universal Studios. At that time, he had asked my daughter if she wanted to skip out on her final year of high school to go dance in Japan . . . something we were tentatively willing to support, but something Emily had finally declined to do. We know Dax, and actually think he’s a swell guy . . . even if was trying to spirit our daughter away to Mars.

“They really need me.”

“Well, where’s the surprise there? You’re a fabulous performer, a Swing Dance champion. You’re beautiful. You’ve got it all going on. Of course they need you.”

“So what’s the deal? When would they want you to go?”

“February”. The word reverberated in my brain. Febbbbbbbbbbbbb-ruuuuuuuuuu-aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr-yyyyyyyyy.

“Really, when in February?”

I was hoping against hope here. The school quarter is ten weeks. End of February was eight weeks. Wiggle and waggle a bit, and she could at least finish the quarter. That would be two out of three quarters. Almost a whole school year. That would be good. She’d practically be a second year!

Best of all, I wouldn’t have to think of my baby girl—the one I held in my arms not more than, well, nineteen years ago but it seems like about 20 minutes ago—heading off to the next nearest M-class planet twelve billion light years from here for nearly three months!

“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s the first week of February.”

“Really?” That was four weeks. That meant no second quarter. So much for that.

Hearing the Call

It’s not like I didn’t understand the draw. It’s not like I hadn’t heard the call of adventure myself. Indeed, for the past year I have thought of little else other than finding and being true to a life calling, my own private heroic journey, my own true purpose. But I hadn’t expected my daughter to be so eager to get her own journey started. What about school? What about academic angst? What about a leisurely stroll through an exploration of philosophy, psychology, economics, history, science, and all the rest? What about it?

Even in my semi-shocked state, I couldn’t miss the ironic juxtaposition of my own middle-aged, life-purpose musings, and my daughter’s coming-of-age yearning. It was like two voices of one being arguing for a soul’s destiny.

“Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year.” Beneath her words, I could hear Joseph Campbell intoning . . .

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

         Campbell, Hero With 1000 Faces

The fact that my daughter was keening to “venture forth” and see what the world of dance might hold for her was not only understandable, but entirely predictable. We’re all wired for this sort of thing. Whether we admit it or not, we want to see the panoply of our lives stretched upon a canvas of heroic proportions. While the mind loves outcomes and nice orderly, packaged results, the soul craves experience and discovery. The soul demands that we head out of town where everything is familiar and well ordered, and go down to the dark scary lake and dive in. At the end of the day, we want to tell ourselves that we did something of consequence. That we found our purpose and followed it. That we found a passion and fed it.

Listen to the words from the epic poem Beowulf, the tap root for modern day heroic tales like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The hero, having vanquished the evil monster Grendel, finds he must meet yet a greater challenge, the mother of the monster that lies in wait at the bottom of a lake.

A few miles from here

A frost-stiffened wood waits and keeps watch

Above a mere; the overhanging bank

Is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.

At night there, something uncanny happens:

The water burns. And the mere bottom

Has never been sounded by the sons of men.

On its bank, the heather-stepper halts:

The hart in flight from pursuing hounds

Will turn to face them with firm-set horns

And die in the wood rather than dive

Beneath its surface.

The mere—the lake of the soul—the bottom of which no man has ever seen. A wellspring that burns. What lies beneath the surface of this water that is so foreboding, that a stag in flight will turn and face death at the hand of the pursuing hunter rather than dive in and swim to safety? Passion? Adventure? Desire? Desperation? Most of us would rather live in the deadening world of the intellect than dive into the depths of our soul and find our real purpose.

These are wonderful words when spoken in the abstract; when read in a book from the safety of a comfy chair. But how much different they sound when they take the form of, “Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year.” From where I sat, driving down Interstate 5, my daughter was headed for that lake outside of town, and I was afraid. Afraid that she might not come back. Afraid that she might not finish school. Afraid that she might like dancing so much that she would follow that passion and never get a “real job.” Afraid that she would doom herself to a life of artistic poverty and ugly toenails.

But it was worse than that. At a deeper level, her restlessness felt like a direct challenge reaching across time from my own past. Although this adventure was clearly about her, the reverberations stirred the surface of my own personal mere. The voice of her youth, filled with the promise of a life just beginning to find its timber, welled up to challenge my own life-journey reverie, to sound my own depths. “Am I following my bliss?” In Joseph Campbell’s words:

“The heroic life is living the individual adventure. There is no security in following the call to adventure. Nothing is exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be. To refuse the call means stagnation. What you don’t experience positively you will experience negatively.

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential.”

Am I following my bliss? There’s the question that was really haunting me.

Following my own Path

Time has a way of softening the edges of memory, but I don’t think I’m stretching things to say that I have never wanted to do things the “normal way.” I put those words in quotes in full recognition that there is no such thing. My journey hasn’t necessarily been blissful, and I can’t say that it has always felt purposeful, but it has been mine. So the fact that my daughter was proposing to go her own way comes as no surprise. All I have to do is think back to hear my own youthful sensibilities echoing in her words.

During my sophomore year in high school, I realized that I would have enough credits to graduate after three years, not four. Most of my peers intended to take advanced placement courses their fourth year, or perhaps work. I decided to skip the whole thing and go to college at the age of 16.

To my long-suffering father’s amazement, I applied to only one school, was accepted, and went. The amazement wasn’t that I did all that, but that I declined to test myself in one of the top schools. I had the standing (top ten in my class), grades, and test scores to have gone almost anywhere. Instead, I picked a tiny school on a bluff in Southern Illinois that about 22 people had ever heard of. It had a lovely campus, had a religious affiliation that worked for me, and afforded a lot of interaction with the professors. That’s what I told myself as I gave the lake outside of town a wide berth. In truth, I think I was afraid of what I would find if I really put myself to the test. I wasn’t ready to dive in.

Two years later, bored out of my mind and looking for a bigger challenge, I transferred from that little school to a much bigger school in Washington D.C., there to be closer to the action in my chosen major . . . Political Science.

Poly Sci was and is a major for people who don’t know what they want to be or do. At the time, it seemed somehow more virtuous than being an English Lit or History major, but didn’t require the commitment of engineering or one of the hard sciences, or the practical thinking implied in taking courses in business or accounting. It also felt like a good holding pattern for my proclaimed interest in following my father’s footsteps into the law. Why law? Big Game Hunter had fallen from favor and I had somewhere lost my grade seven interest in becoming an architect, or my passing fantasy of becoming a famous photographer.

My time in Washington was well spent if academics were the measure. I haven’t checked in awhile . . . and will if I decide to run for public office . . . but I distinctly recall graduating with summa or magna honors, having covered my report cards with “A’s” and a couple of rogue “B’s”. I also spent far too little time carousing and experiencing whatever it is that Washington had to offer. Instead, I spent nearly every waking hour in the library or staring at a succession of unyieldingly blank pieces of paper glaring back at me from round the roll of my Olympia manual typewriter.

My matriculation brought me front and center with a question I might have given more thought to prior to donning the old cap and gown. “What am I going to do with my life?” At that moment, and for many moments afterwards, the thought of going to law school for another two years just seemed more that I could bear. I can remember thinking to myself in a moment of youthful hubris that a person with my talent, drive, and education ought to be able to make it in this world.

So I decided to open an outdoor store, a glorious fantasy given the times and the burbling interest in getting back to nature that had been brought on by the oil shock a few years before. In truth, I didn’t much care for backpacking, having done it about four times one summer as a camp counselor, but there was gear involved, I am a guy, and you know how it is with guys and gear.

My letters to the various manufacturers generated very little direct interest, but led me in a roundabout way to a small chain of outdoor stores headquartered in Williamsport, PA called “Nippenose.” It turns out that the company was to open a store in Rochester, New York. As I had grown up in that very city, and was able to demonstrate some small aptitude for the grosser points of retailing hiking boots, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, and all the related clothing and paraphernalia., I was hired as an assistant manager for the staggering sum of $800 a month, which was about $800 more a month than I’d ever earned up until then. I chucked my plans to open my own store and joined the ranks of the full-time employed.

Once again, my exceedingly patient father was left in complete amazement, but was nice enough to keep his opinion to himself while he watched four years of college go off to work selling down vests and freeze dried Chicken a la King.

But I was having an adventure. I was going my own way, finding my path in a world of my own discovery, far from the madding crowds of academia and most definitely not along the path that my parents, or their parents had chosen (my father was an attorney, my mother a teacher, her mother a teacher and father a university professor, my father’s father an immigrant turned accountant turned self-made millionaire). And I wasn’t afraid. Maybe not challenged either, but not afraid. I had entered the woods at the place of my own choosing. The mere was still waiting.

Adventure Beckons

In the middle of all this happy underemployment, the phone rang. It was one of my chums from college days. After a year working for some worthy cause in Washington D.C., Ron had decided to move to Alaska to work on the crab boats. He had bought a Ford Bronco and intended to drive it first to Seattle, then put it on a boat up to Alaska, and then disembark and drive to Kodiak and catch on with a crew for a life of adventure and high wages. It was like a three decade precursor to “Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year,” with the word “Alaska” substituted for “Japan,” and “crabbing” for “dancing.”

This was practically a dream come true. My relative antipathy to backpacking notwithstanding, I had read more than my share of outdoor adventure stories as a kid, had loved Jack London’s Call of the Wild, and had spent more than a few spare moments at Nippenose reading about one epic outdoor adventure after another in the various books and periodicals we carried.

Alaska had its own topical allure, as construction of the North Slope to Valdez pipeline was going full bore, and every young man from far and wide had heard tales of the fantastic paychecks to be had. The crab boats offered similarly grand promises of personal wealth if you could get past the part about long hours, dreadful working conditions, and getting tossed about by thirty foot waves while vomiting your guts out for days at a time.

I thought, I dreamed, I schemed, and in the end, I clutched. It wasn’t the high seas that did it. In fact, I’m not really sure what it was that kept me from jumping in. Maybe I was scared. Maybe it just wasn’t my path, as exciting as it sounded. The upshot was that while I declined to go all the way, I did sign up to drive across the country in that wretchedly uncomfortable Bronco as far as Seattle, there to see my friend Ron off for his year of adventure.

On the plane home, and for many weeks thereafter, I vowed by all that was holy to me, that the next time an adventure came along, regardless of what it was, I was going. While kicking myself for having chickened out, assuming that’s what I had done, I steeled myself for what I dearly hoped would be a second shot at the brass ring.

A Different Road

As hard as I listened and watched, the cosmic call I was waiting for didn’t seem to be in any hurry making its way to center stage. I finally tired of Nippenose and decided to explore the exciting career possibilities of carpentry. Some internal circuit breaker broke and I became convinced that “every young man should have a trade,” words I can distinctly recall intoning first to my father and mother, and then to the other incredulous “adults” (I did not yet count myself amongst their number) I knew.

Why I felt qualified to do this work, yet alone pay the bills doing so, was and is a mystery. As a wee lad I had gained some familial notoriety for figuring out how to put the little plastic covers back over the plugs and switches after my parents had wallpapered my bedroom. My mother’s mother could recall that her Swedish ancestors had been trades people. But that was about it in terms of genetic predisposition to working with my hands. As I’ve already mentioned, my immediate progenitors had a distinct fondness for education and professional pursuits, so my latest career direction left them even more baffled as to what could possibly have gone wrong.

So while I might otherwise have been finishing up law school and preparing to clerk for a Supreme Court Justice, fighting on the side of the disenfranchised poor, or fattening up at the corporate trough, I was instead buying books on woodworking and dreaming of the day when I could scrape enough money together to buy a table saw. As the months wound by, I got a series of small jobs hanging doors and building furniture, and finally caught on with a fellow named Harry, a larger than life, up-from-Brooklyn Irish brick layer, turned answering machine entrepreneur, turned inner city real estate mogul.

In those days, the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was prepared to lend money at very attractive rates to people who were willing to buy and renovate buildings in “emerging” neighborhoods. Harry had figured out that he could pay people like me $10 dollars to do the renovation work, and bank the difference between that and what HUD was giving him so he could turn around and buy the next building, and the next, and the next.

Harry was my father’s worst nightmare: A loud, abusive, unethical throwback whose life direction and vociferously proclaimed disdain for the legal profession was completely orthogonal to everything my father stood for, and to the path I had so diligently trod right up to my graduation day panic.

To me, Harry looked like $1600 a month which was twice what I had been making hawking sock liners and thermal underwear. Besides, I was learning carpentry, plumbing, electrical, heating, dry-walling, and cabinetry. That seemed like progress. Better still, with money my grandfather had given me some years before, I was able to buy a couple of boarded-up houses on the inappropriately named “Comfort Street.” These I began to renovate nights and weekends. It was like I was becoming a junior Harry. Progress indeed!

I was also living in my old bedroom at my parents, my stuff fully occupying the formerly two-car garage, eating my mother’s cooking, and dating a divorced mother of two who was ten years older than me.

“Dad, I’ve been invited to hang around town, and waste my life for a year.”

If my father ever thought that, he was nice enough to keep it to himself. Actually, I know from later conversations exactly what he thought, and truthfully, I think I shared some of those same sentiments, but it wasn’t like I had a better idea what to do with my life. Pounding nails wasn’t a calling, and at the time, it didn’t feel like a really big adventure, but I was mostly having fun, and it was something to do. And when you’re 23 years old with what seems like an eternity stretched out ahead of you, having fun and having something to do seemed like enough.

Adventure Beckons Again

And then it happened a second time. The phone rang. I was standing in the partially gutted, partially renovated house on Comfort Street. It was February of 1980 and I was indescribably cold. It was yet another pal from that little school nobody had ever heard of calling not from Alaska . . . but from Honolulu, Hawaii. Jim wanted to know if I wanted to move to the Aloha state at his expense and help start a coffee company.

Hello? Hello? Are you still there?

The next sound was me bolting for the door and heading to the airport as fast as my Ford Van with the bed in back would take me. Are you kidding? Move to Hawaii? I had promised myself, God, the patron saint of foolish young men, and anyone else who would listen that I was going to grab the next adventure that came my way. For awhile there, I was concerned that I may have made a terrible miscalculation on the Alaska affair. Then, I started to worry that the carpentry escapade might have been the next adventure and I had somehow missed the glittering lights and trumpet music that surely must accomplish the sudden knowing that goes with being called . . . THIS IS IT!

But Hawaii, who could miss that one! Talk about a heroic journey! I didn’t even have to gird my loins for this battle. No reluctant hero I! Mine would be a story that generations to come would tell and retell.

“He went his own way. He refused to follow convention. He turned his back on law school. He resisted the siren call of Alaska. He patiently learned a trade. And then, the heavens opened, the phone rang, and he went to Hawaii, learned to surf, started a coffee company, got a tan, became fabulously wealth, bought a lot of great stuff, and in a wonderful bit of juxtaposition, spent his golden years lecturing on entrepreneurism at that little college in Southern Illinois that nobody could believe he went to lo those many years before.”

“Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Hawaii and start a coffee company, and I’m never coming back.” This was going to be great! And in a very unexpected way, it was.

Having visited Hawaii to make plans and dream dreams, I still had to go back to Rochester, sell my houses on Comfort Street, give away my dog, pack and ship my tools—part of the adventure was to gut and renovate a building that would house the coffee roasting plant and a café right in downtown Honolulu, so suddenly I was feeling pretty smart about the year I spent learning a trade—say goodbye to my suddenly extraneous girlfriend, and figure out how to get back to Hawaii.

You’d think that last part, the part about getting to Hawaii would be easy. Get on a plane in Rochester, transfer in Chicago, and land in Honolulu. No me. I drove until I ran out of dry land, and only then did I get on a plane.

Actually not just I; we. I had recruited a friend to come along and help with the renovation of the building: a man named Steve who was ten times the individualist that I fancied myself being, a wonderful artist, a skilled carpenter, a well-read and educated conversationalist, and a hard core car guy. This last attribute seemed especially attractive as I had bought an older Mercedes Benz from my grandfather for the purpose of driving as fast as we could from Rochester, New York to Seattle, and henceforth to Los Angeles, where the car would be put on a boat for Hawaii.

It was a great plan. We saw the actual Jolly Green Giant, the headwaters of the Mississippi, the Corn Palace, hundreds of Harley Davidsons and their riders headed for Sturgis, the huge skies of Montana and South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, the strange rock thing that figured so prominently in the movie Close Encounters of a Third Kind, and most of western Washington State covered in a thick coat of ash from the recent top blowing put on by Mt. St. Helens.

Still, looking back, I really wish we had rethought the “driving as fast as we could” part. I can’t deny that the idea of winging across the wide open spaces at triple digit speeds had a huge appeal at the time. Twenty three years later, I wish that we’d taken a month, not a week, and that we’d gotten lost no less than twice daily.

Starting a coffee company wasn’t anything like I expected, though in truth, I’m not sure what would have been reasonable to assume about four guys in their mid twenties with a 100 year old defunct brand . . . Lion Coffee . . . a nearly as old building on Merchant Street in Honolulu, an IBM electric typewriter, my crate of tools, the Mercedes, a Volkswagen, a used Dodge pickup truck, and not nearly enough money to pull the whole thing off. But you don’t worry about details like plans and money when you’re deep into a first class heroic journey. We were going national and there was nothing going to get in our way!

It turns out that a lot of things got in our way and I wound up leaving less than a year after moving there. The journey had gotten hard and I wasn’t nearly mature or wise enough to know that challenges are part and parcel of the experience. It’s working through the hard parts that makes the trip a journey, and that makes the traveler a hero. (Lion Coffee went on to be a great success without me, another story for another time.)

But it all turned out better than okay because it turns out there was a hidden purpose to the journey. While still in the hubris laced, nothing-can-stop-us phase of things, I persuaded my coffee colleagues that we needed to hire an advertising and promotions agency to develop our visual identify, work on the coffee bag, and otherwise get us prettied up for our blinding entrance to the wide world of commerce. They agreed, so off I went to interview an agency I had heard about. Who knew?

One minute I was walking through the door to visit a prospective vendor, the next minute I was starring slack jawed at what I judged to be the most beautiful woman I had ever been that close to. Hellloooooooo. Has anyone seen my heart?

That was November 14, 1980. I had dinner with her two nights later. I took her out the night after that. She made me go home. I came back the next night and never left. I proposed on November 22. We were married on December 26, 1980. We’ve been married ever since.

“Mom, I’ve met the girl of my dreams in Hawaii.”

West of Bakersfield, North of The Grapevine on I-5

After the coffee company, my new wife and I moved to San Francisco. I went to work for a small consulting company and made no money for six months while trying to sell work for a man who has since gone on to gain fame and notoriety for his theories and books on entrepreneursim. (I find this part terribly amusing give the fact that he didn’t seem to have a clue how to run his own business.)

Later, my wife and I started a marketing communications company. Then I wrote a workshop called High Performance Marketing. Then I creating a partnership to do consulting and training with a man named Dean. Then I went to work as a controller of a general engineering construction company. Then I went into a performance management consulting partnership with a man named Tom. Then I went out on my own again. Then I tried to start a magazine with some colleagues. Then I bought into a training franchise. Then I didn’t. At that point I had $35,000 in charges on my many credit cards and was about as dead broke as I could be. I begged my father for $5,000 and promised him that I would never ask him for money again. And I never did. And that only brings me up to about 1992. The ten years after that were just as momentous.

Was I following my path, my way? No question. Was I following my bliss? I don’t know about that. I was deep in the forest but not yet to the lake, the mere of the soul. At any given point in time, I was some version of uncertain and wondering why I always had to do things the hard way. Looking back, I was often afraid. At the time, I think I was afraid I might fail. In retrospect, I think my real fear was that I might succeed, and then what? As Gregg Levoy says in his book, Callings, “Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate . . . Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

And then one day, somewhere past my fortieth birthday, I woke up with a sneaking sense that the pieces that seemed to be so scattered about had fit themselves into a broad arc that was my life. I was financially and professionally successful. More importantly, I had a story. I had context. I had experiences.

I went from being the guy who never went to graduate school, who never worked for a “real company”, and whose first job was selling outdoor-grade pants and shirts, and whose second job involved wearing them, to the guy who had started companies, traveled the world, and become interesting to people who were willing to pay money for my opinions as a consultant, and for my ability to capture people’s imagination and excite new behaviors with my training programs.

Somewhere along the arc that led from that time to this, I had become self-referencing in the sense that my credentials mattered less and less as my experience and insights mattered more and more . . . to me and to my clients. And I couldn’t tell you on a bet when and how that transition happened, but it did.

A decision to go to a small school that nobody had ever heard of—there to meet both Ron and Jim—and a decision to not go to law school or Alaska, combined to put me at a time and place where I was ready when the call came to go to Hawaii and meet my future wife. Fate? Chance? Destiny? Who knows?

Regrets? Only one. I wish I had been more present along the way. I was in far too great a hurry to move forward. I missed experiencing all the richness of any given moment on what was in retrospect, a great twenty five years.

Still, driving down I-5, having just heard, “Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year,” I couldn’t help but feel a sense of envy. At age nineteen, the best I could do was come up with a list of things I didn’t want to do, starting with going to Vietnam. At age nineteen, my daughter has a passion. About that, Gregg Levoy says . . .

Passion is power . . . Passion is accompanied by the sound of primal yahoos, castanets in the heart, the beating of wings. It is the natural exudation of love, any kind of love, and spills from us like heat form a fire. Passion is the smelling salts of the soul. Passion’s message is the same one that love brings: follow.

Passion is what we are most deeply curious about, most hungry for, will most hate to lose in life. It is the most desperate wish we need to yell down the well of our lives. It is whatever we pursue merely for its own sake, what we study when there are not test to take, what we create though no one may ever see it.

Passion is a strange beast. We often wish we had more of it, admire people who do have it, yet fear it when we face it head on. It’s the monster at the bottom of the lake. It’s intuition run amok. It’s the inexplicable feminine banging up against the overly rationalized male sensibility that holds western civilization so firmly in its cold embrace.

And because we don’t tend to associate passion with working, we become especially suspicious about the unpredictability and non-outcome orientation that goes along with following it. Dancing? But how will you make a living? What happens if you sprain your ankle? You could be a great dancer and be broke, and an average sales person and be making a really good living!

Whoa. Doesn’t that one bring you up short? “You could be a great dancer and be broke, and an average sales person and be making a really good living.” I had actually thought that. I had even said that to my daughter at one point some months before, I who had done all the seemingly random and pointless things when I was her age and much older.

I had said those things instead of what I should have said, which was, “You could also be a deeply fulfilled dancer who inspires hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people. You could also be a deeply frustrated whatever with a big fatty bank account and a bleeding gash in her soul that won’t stop whispering, ‘I should have given it a shot. I should have followed my heart and just danced’”. Or any of the combinations in between. One path isn’t better or worse than another. They’re just roads we choose as part of our own journeys. It’s what we find inside ourselves along the way that counts.

“Dad, I’ve been invited to go to Japan and dance for a year.” I could here the echoes of another voice just beneath the sound of hers. “Kevin, you’ve been invited to follow your bliss.”

“So what’s the deal? When would they want you to go?”


“Really, when in February?”

“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s the first week.”

“Really? Well, tell me more about it. Is it something you want to do?”

“I don’t know. It’s kind of scary.”

Interstate 5 is as good a place as any to start a new phase of the journey. We talked as the miles rolled by. We examined the logic of the various alternatives. We brainstormed other possible adventures. We worried together about what it would feel like going back to school as a 20 year old freshman. We looked out the window. We reminisced. We drank smoothies. In the end, my daughter’s heart spoke.

On February 3, 2003 she got on a plane to go to Osaka, Japan to dance at Universal Studios for a year and maybe longer. She made the only decision she should have made, to follow her bliss, to enter the forest where there is no path, to follow her passion. She went down to the lake and dove in.