I went to five high schools in four years, the daughter of an American father whose job took us abroad for his business most of my childhood. It’s no secret that I’m comfortable in an international setting, foreign languages and mystery foods are second nature to me. And while it often seems exotic to some, others understand the gypsy in me and how my childhood continues to be reflected in my adulthood with each step that I take.
Every day as I interact with others, I am reminded that I know no strangers, generally a blessing, sometimes a curse. Being disconnected so many times as a teenager has made me yearn for a strong consistent network of friends and co-workers and, over the years I have built many organizations creating community. Today, my focus is on bringing the sectors together with the clear understanding that together, we can collectively create positive change.
Every now and then, not often thank goodness, I am transported back to high school. In a nanosecond, I am suddenly that gangly, awkward and shy teenage girl in the hallway who has yet to be introduced to contacts but wants so badly to look attractive, that she would rather be blind than wear glasses that take up half of her face. It’s the first day of school…again…and I know no one but they know everyone. “It’s OK, just walk over and say hello” I tell myself, desperately wishing I didn’t feel weird and awkward. Not all that long ago, I had a ”first day in school” moment.
In order to get a life and not spend every waking second at the office, I decided to take tango classes. I did not know that the class was Milonga style or street dancing, not the less risky and more elegant ballroom style. During the second class, we were instructed to put our chests flat up against a dance partner’s (and complete stranger’s) chest and stick to it like fly paper, hands behind our backs while we made our way around the dance floor. Although we tried it with balloons in between us for a while, I was 12 again and he was 12 again, maybe even 11.
Finally, the class ended but everyone was going down the street to a club to practice their new moves. My lame excuses were ignored and caught up in the huge desire to really know what to do without embarrassment and feel part of a group, I went with them. I could have been at a junior high dance again, I was simply mortified at my two left feet and then with the kindest of partners who didn’t care that I was new, I began to feel better about my dance abilities. Each partner, many my age, reminded me that they too started as a “newbie” and it was OK, to enjoy the adventure.
It’s never too late to try something new, either professionally or personally, and to expand your horizons. So many of you are reaching out to me these days asking me how to begin the journey, to walk through the door to a new opportunity because you have a hunger to give back and make a difference. Some of you are individuals, some of you know that your companies must change to meet market demands. It can be scary and out of your comfort zone or for those you work with. You may even feel like you are standing at the door of a new school where you don’t know the rules. But, the rewards can be much bigger than those moments of tentativeness or awkwardness. Embrace the change, the rewards can be huge!
I hope you will answer the call and take the first step onto that dance floor. By the second step, I’m confident that you will be twirling and feel grateful that you had the opportunity to spread your wings and shine a little brighter than you did the day before.
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All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore