Well, it’s been quite a whirlwind, but I’m back home in Massachusetts after getting home around 1am EST this morning (thanks for picking me up, Ben). I was supposed to leave Sunday night, but I ended up truncating the trip because of my infection and the fact that Southwest ticket changes don’t incur fees (thanks, Southwest).
Even though I ended up leaving early, I consider this trip far from a failure. In hindsight, I scheduled too many days there, infection or not, in an effort to save money rather than fully think through the practicality and compromises to my needs of doing so. Due to my food allergies, it’s difficult to get safe uncontaminated food, and I have all of the sensory and autism-related issues, not to mention PTSD and general anxiety. Instead of allowing these to become barriers, they were nearly hurdles that I was able to clear. This success has actually made me feel more confident and capable about future travel and daunting events, despite the fact that I “failed” in staying the duration and feeling well the whole time. Even though a raging infection is never positive development, addressing it myself in a foreign place and advocating for my needs and getting the necessary care did lend a degree of increased feelings of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. If I get sick by myself again, I have this experience to look back on to demonstrate my capability in handling it.
The rest of the time at the conference was fantastic, and I say that without any inflation from rose-tinted “it’s over so now I think it was better than it was” glasses, which sometimes results after returning from some arduous or trying experience.
The most impactful event was the keynote speech delivered by my new boss and world-class fitness and motivational guru, Todd Durkin. It’s impossible to captivate the energy, emotion, and passion Todd exudes in everything he does, and as public speaking is one of the primary things that moves his soul, any Todd Durkin presentation is undeniably life-changing (for the record, he doesn’t know I have a blog and I don’t share my writing with him, so this is by no means pandering to him; these sentiments are absolutely genuine).
I plan to dedicate an entire blog post to my impressions and takeaways from his presentation, so to avoid repeating myself, I’ll leave it at this: his message ignited something big inside me.
Because I work for Todd remotely, I had not yet met him in person prior to this event, though I have seen him present at another fitness conference four years ago in another inspiring event. Given my social anxiety and autistic quirks as well as my “fan girl” disposition regarding his work and character, I was quite nervous to meet him, but his warm smile and personality puts even the most shy and self-conscious girl at ease. I think when I hugged him I emphatically gushed the words “my hero!”, which is certainly embarrassing and I would have preferred to prevent, but thankfully, he let that slide. I also was afforded the opportunity to meet several people on his all-star team, my coworkers essentially (though I don’t ascribe that superlative to myself). I’ve really enjoyed working with everyone so far and found that in person, these loving, smart, exuberant, and upright individuals were even more wonderful. I felt instantly accepted and included as part of the team, despite the fact that I work some 3,000 miles away from the group (and I’m weird!). During the keynote, I sat next to Todd’s beautiful family: his wife and three bright and sweet children. I felt even more humbled and honored to have a role, however minor, in Todd’s life and career. There’s very little as gratifying and fulfilling that doing work that means something to you for people who matter to you and whose mission speaks to you and fires you up. It instills such a feeling of purpose, happiness, and fortune.
The wonderful feelings and empowering speech more than made up for the struggles I faced on the trip, the brutal infection, and the food poisoning I seem to be facing this morning. I imagine it’ll take a good two or three days to re-establish my equilibrium and routine, catch up on lost sleep, heal my wounds, and find meaningful ways to incorporate the gifts, wisdom, and learnings from this whole experience. Although as I write this, I’m battling what I call “abdominal squeezebox”—my body’s full throttle effort to rid itself of whatever is inside—I’m beaming with pride, unusually raised self-esteem, and near boundless gratitude. I’m not only so thankful for the opportunities and experiences from the adventure itself, but also for the mundane elements of my everyday life. As invigorating as it is to partake in work that makes your soul sing, so too is it life-affirming and lucky to find your regular life blessed and special. I missed Ben and Comet and the home we’ve created tremendously. His smile looked sweeter, his hugs even more satiating, and his company this morning even more enjoyable. There’s nothing quite as comfortable and lovely as returning to your own bed, daily routine, and home. I’ll weather any sort of tribulations and pain to achieve the growth and gratitude already apparent to me from this trip, and much like the endless echoes reverberating throughout a canyon, I can tell that the payoff and benefits from this entire experience will continue to demonstrate impact in my life and on my character for quite some time.