Well, I am finally back in the office and chained to my desk again (seemingly) after two weeks biking through Italy. Thank you for the many kind condolences sent our way on the loss of our dear friend Kim Miller. We all attended the visitation and funeral, said our goodbyes, cried our tears, supported each other and both mourned and celebrated a life too briefly lived.
I learned a lot from my trip. First, I cannot say it enough -- if you are "dreaming" of going somewhere or doing something, give your dreams feet and make it happen. I cannot tell you how many people I have talked to about this trip who say things like, "Oh, I wish I could go," or "I would never be able to do something like that." I remember about ten years ago when Kyle and I attended a leadership workshop and I had written down that I wanted to go to Europe, but quietly told him I did not believe I ever would. Well, as long as I believed that -- it was true. I made these plans well over a year ago, paid a modest deposit and added to it every chance I got until the whole trip, including airfare, meals, transfers and tips, was paid in advance. I traveled with a modest amount of cash, and came back with most of it.
Second -- I learned a lot about Italy, which was what I was hoping for. Bicycling through a small area (Puglia) is the BEST way to get to know people, the landscape, and experience the culture. My favorite meals were not the luscious gourmet affairs arranged by the tour company, but those that were on our own. I always chose to eat with the locals, and to eat what they ate. Consequently, the food was cheap and delicious. And the company exquisite. I have never experienced such friendly people anywhere in the States. Ridiculously friendly, really. I spoke no Italian (none that anyone could understand, anyway!), and did not have to. Between body language, French, English, and lots of good humor, we got along fine. Many Italians spoke some amount of English and we all tried hard to get our message across, and laughed uproariously together at the funny mistakes we made. Like when I asked for stationery and got a dictionary instead. Good humor -- we both laughed ourselves silly.
Perhaps most valuable, however, was that I learned how much I love coming home, love what I do, and the people with whom I work. Please indulge me for one little story --
The group I traveled with included some very very wealthy people (you all would have LOVED to get them as clients! talk about a target-rich environment!). One consequence, however, was that I frequently felt a bit "out of place" with these idle rich for whom biking through Italy is no more exciting than a Sunday matinee movie. When they discussed shopping, I seldom had any idea WHAT they were shopping for -- throwing around designer names as if everyone knew what a Whozit was. Only I did not know if it was a car, a coat or a pair of shoes -- and you could not tell from the prices!!!!
So, I found myself exceedingly grateful to learn one evening that my dinner companion was -- A LAWYER!!! Hooray! I thought to myself, I know how to talk to lawyers!!!! Frankly, he was a delightful lawyer, retired after building a practice from solo practitioner (starting out by hanging out a shingle) to a firm with more than 220 attorneys, when he sold and retired. I asked him to tell me a bit about his practice and how he built it. He told me that when he first started, he took anything that came in the door -- criminal appointments, family law, whatever. Then he said he did some adoptions -- and he kind of went down a bit of a rabbit trail telling me about the adoptions and how much fun they were. Then he finished up with a bit about commercial real estate and mergers and acquisitions and .. the end.
Of course, he asked me what I did, and I said (as I always do) -- I do marketing for lawyers and law firms. Nervous laughter. (Lawyers seem always ready to get socked in the nose by people who know anything about them.)
I smiled and said, I really love what I do, and you know what I love most? I love the lawyers.
I said, "Getting to know a lawyer is like peeling an onion. You start from the outside, and you peel away the ego, the arrogance, the confrontation, the defensiveness, the disillusion and the disappointment. Eventually you get to the heart, and it is almost always the heart of an idealist. Someone who believed in the law, in the concept of justice, and was willing to devote their lives working for it."
My friend laughed and said, "That was never me. For me, it was always about the money."
I laughed, too, and asked, "So how much did you make on those adoptions?"
His wife piped up, smiling, "He did not make one dime on those adoptions!"
He said, "No, but I did not make a career of doing adoptions."
"No," I said. "But of all the things you could have told me, from all the years you practiced law, you chose to tell me about those adoptions."
My friend smiled and looked away as tears filled his eyes. "Yes," he said. "The adoptions were fun."
Idealists. You gotta love 'em.
It's great to be home.