Be Present. Lessons along the way – Part Seven

“I think that the older you get, the more you become your true, essential self. You find the things that make you happy. You whittle away the parts of yourself that mean less to you.”

— Tom Ford


On a trip to New York City in Spring 2023, I had an epiphany. That epiphany is what inspired this article. Being in the Big Apple on this occasion was different. Apart from the fact that I was with my family on a vacation, and we had a toddler to “manage”, I realized that even though I had been to New York multiple times – either traveling through it or being in the city, I had never really experienced it.


The first time I traveled to the US, I was 24, and an elderly man who sat close to me on the plane, waited for me at baggage claim to ask, “What are you doing here and why are you traveling all alone?”  I laughed and told him I was attending a training programme and no I wasn’t a teenager. He had to hear me speak to believe that I was going to be fine, gave me his “blessing” and went on his way. That experience came back to me on my trip because it was my first time in New York. I was there for a few hours as I dashed across an unknown airport to catch a connecting flight to Atlanta, my final destination. New York was the hub for the airline I worked with and even though I worked with the airline in the commercial unit for nine years, I never fully experienced the city!


So it was such a blessing to experience New York again with a fresh pair of eyes. With a sense of awe that I should have had as a twenty-four-year-old. The awe that, unfortunately, I replaced with a need to be “DONE”. I was always working towards completing tasks, rather than enjoying the process. As a goal-oriented individual, I missed out on a lot of fun!


This trip to New York was reflective but fun! I asked myself a lot of questions. How was it that I was like a stranger in a place I’d been to so many times? It was as if I had been in a trance all those years and not once did, I experience the Big Apple for what it is.


I was never PRESENT. You can rename this article “The Confessions of a Workaholic”.

I was always in a hurry. Focusing on the next move. The next email. The next spreadsheet. The next report. The next target to smash. The next, DONE.


And jet-lagged! And tired. And sleepy. I mean I once went to see a Broadway show and slept through the whole performance! I remember a colleague saying to me, “Goodnight, and don’t forget to hug your laptop before you sleep” because of course in conversation with him I’d mentioned that there was something I needed to get done…and I  was raising two young children and working through mum’s guilt of having to leave them. I traveled extensively for work and that’s what I did, I worked. I was never present in any of these cities. I was there to work, to train or get trained, and then I was out.


Also being present as a parent, a loved one, a friend, a sibling, or a relative. In whatever you are doing, it is important that you are present 100% to be effective at it. That includes not being involved in ten conversations at the same time, online, whilst having a conversation with your family in your home. You can survive without your phone. I have tried it and it works!


Thankfully! The years have come with learning and learning has led to change. I have come to realize that the destination is important, but the journey must be embraced, the moments should be enjoyed and DONE should not only mean execution but experience.


So I am sharing this with you to encourage you to embrace your journey. Pause and look around you. Take in your environment. Build in time to explore the city you are visiting for work. Take a part of it back home with you. Your hotel room is lovely, but there is more to see in the city you are in than the restaurant, the bar, and your bed!


Be present on your journey.

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