I watched that ‘hunk of burnin’ love’ from across the crowd. It had been a fun day, riding my bike around Mackinac Island in northern Michigan and then happening upon the outside summer concert. I wasn’t content to just watch ‘Elvis,’ I wanted to get up close to him. As soon as he finished his show, I made my way across the plaza to where he exited the stage. Motioning to him, I got his attention and asked, “Could I have a picture?” That’s not like me.
Usually, I would observe at a distance and watch other women do what I was now doing. But since I was by myself, on my solo journey to Michigan, I had none of those well-perfected signals from my husband that reigned in my spontaneous behavior, or from my sons, since they weren’t there to hold me back with their embarrassment or “Oh, Mom!” exasperation.
Elvis gave me a sideways hug as we posed for the camera. In that exciting nostalgic moment, I was in ninth grade, catching a dizzying whiff of English Leather and feeling my heart pound when my teenage crush asked me to dance and the newly released,“Suspicious Minds” played.
Now when I look at the picture, it always makes me feel more lighthearted and glad that I wasn’t held back from what I wanted to do. It reminds me of another time when I’d surprised myself with my uninhibited behavior.
It was back when I was just out of cancer treatment and finally able to travel. I attended a research conference in San Francisco along with my coworker from The Research Company. There were over 300 attendees in the hotel ballroom where the opening session was held. Of all the speakers that could kick off that meeting, they had a breast cancer survivor who’d benefitted from clinical trials. She was there to thank and inspire the crowd before the scientists had their turns. Sitting in the middle of the large room, I felt like I was on that stage when she told about pulling out gobs of hair after she started chemotherapy. Her hair was short and wavy like my new, post-cancer hair. While it was hard to listen, it felt like she was the one person I could identify with.
When she finished, I made my way across the room to the line of people waiting to speak with her. I’d never done that before. I was usually content to be just one in the crowd– but not that day. When it was my turn, I told her how I’d just finished chemo and was getting used to my new hair, too.
“And you’re a research professional? That’s wonderful,” she said, and we chatted for a while.
I noticed a man that was standing very close to us and appeared to be eavesdropping. After we finished and I started to walk away, he stopped me. He apologized for listening in and said he was a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle. He asked if I’d mind telling him more about my experience as a cancer survivor who was also a research professional. When we finished our conversation, he said the article would be in the next day’s paper.
And there it was. The article pictured above had my quote at the end. Me, in San Francisco, having the final word. How did that happen, I thought and laughed to myself.
Now I look at both situations and think that the combination of wanting to connect with the fellow cancer survivor and with Elvis, and not being held back by being afraid I would embarrass myself or someone else, had pushed me to be a bolder person.
Someone Not Like Me.
How about you?
In what situations have you stepped out of yourself and been bolder than you imagined?
What conditions needed to be present for you to do that?