Today I started my last day in Milwaukee by having breakfast with my Dad (and his very interesting group of friends). He’s been going to this restaurant every day at 7AM for 16 years. Talk about a comfort ritual!
Afterwards, I realized I needed my latte fix (and needed to answer some e-mail) before I made my flight, and I located the nearest Starbucks a few miles away. I drove there and settled into my seat near the window, my laptop perched on the table and my piping hot grande latte casting that familiar and comforting smell of the espresso bean.
I was very intently working for about 15 minutes and then I decided to take a quick break and look out the window. I saw a County bus picking up passengers and I remembered when I took that bus many years ago when I had a part time job at the local shopping mall (at Helen Gallagher gifts, which was like Spencer Gifts, selling gag gifts, lava lamps, black lights, and other interesting stuff).
Then I realized where I was- the corner I was staring at was the location where I made the most critical decision of my life, some 28 years earlier. The intersection had changed so much, and I was so “locked in” to my work, that it took that long to register with me.
It was so ironic that there was now a Starbucks here, and here I was, now drifting my memory back…………..
It was a very cold night in late January 1978 – very cold. It was probably 25 below zero. I was halfway home that night after working the evening shift at the mall, and I had to change buses. I stood at the bus stop, with every stitch of clothing I owned wrapped around me (or so it seemed), and just shivered. “Gosh, this is horrible” , I thought. “I need to get out of this“.
I also thought about my young life at the time and where I was going. I felt strangely out of place in this town, and very restless. There was something tugging at me to make a change – a big change. I had just heard of a scholarship opportunity at a small university in San Antonio Texas the week before, and it really got me thinking. I had visited that area the summer before at a retreat sponsored by my high school, and it really struck my fancy. But it was 1,200 miles away – away from my family and friends.
But I sensed that if I stayed where I was, I wouldn’t be really happy with myself. I felt like there was something missing. And yes, I was really cold too. I thought of 70 degree days in January in South Texas. Boy that would be nice. But it’s so far away. I would really miss my family and a few close friends.
I was at a fork in the road that night, and little did I know what that decision would mean to me. As the wind howled and my shivering only worsened, my mind suddenly cleared and the path became clear – I had to leave. I was going to San Antonio. Even though I wouldn’t know a soul, I decided to take the risk and do it, and start over.
The bus finally came and as I finally could feel my face again I looked out the window of the bus and dreamed about the new horizons that were in front of me……………
The smell of the latte brought me back to the present, but I did feel that shiver down my spine again. It was very strange but yet enlightening to relive that fork in the road- I realized that all that came afterward hinged on that fateful night in the freezing cold. My career as a leader, my sense of adventure, my half-fullness, my courage to take risks- all sprung from that one decision.
And fate told me I needed to return to this spot, on this day, so I could remember this act of bravery. At a Starbucks now across the street, no less. Ain’t life a funny thing?