Heidi Stevens: Travel delays help expand horizons

By Heidi Stevens - Chicago Tribune

My husband and I were invited to a beautiful wedding of a longtime friend in New York last weekend and, naturally, I dreaded it.

I was delighted to be invited. I was thrilled at the idea of two nights in New York. A 48-hour-long date with my husband sounded pretty heavenly.

But I don’t like to travel without my kids. I really don’t, in fact, travel without my kids. I think I’ve flown somewhere without them three times? Ever?

The lead-up to this trip was no exception. What if something terrible happens, and I’m too far away to get to them? What if my son scores the winning touchdown at the one (one!) flag football game I’m missing this season? What if my teenage daughter decides she wants to spend Friday night baking together like we used to when she was 8 and I’m in Manhattan? The possible nightmares were endless.

Probably I shouldn’t go. Probably I should go, but bring them. Probably I was being ridiculous. I should go, and they should not and that was that.

Departure day arrived. Clouds darkened the sky. (For real. This isn’t a metaphor.) Torrential downpours forced our flight to be repeatedly delayed. We dropped the kids at school and monitored our texts from United, waiting to see when (if?) we should finally head to the airport.

While we waited, my son called me. He didn’t feel well and wanted me to come get him from school. I couldn’t come get him from school! I was flying to New York! I hung up and cried a little.

Shortly after we hung up, the weather appeared to be cooperating, and United beckoned us to the airport. We headed to a train. It was delayed. Massively. Something about a fire. Something about trains not being able to head north. A muffled voice on the speaker said we should head south and then head north.

We tried that. It didn’t work. The next train to the airport wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another half hour, which meant we weren’t likely to make our flight.

Clearly, the universe didn’t want me to take this trip. Clearly I should stay home and go to my son’s flag football game. Clearly I should never, ever, travel without my children.

Eventually, by cab, we got to the airport. Our flight was delayed a few more times. We finally boarded. I sat next to a woman who was nervous to fly. She lived in New York. We chatted about why she’d been in Chicago — a Corporate Counsel Women of Color conference. Finance guru Suze Orman was a keynote speaker. She told the lawyers to stop wasting their money at Starbucks. I found that hilarious.

When we landed, my seatmate asked where we were staying. Our hotel, it turned out, was next to her apartment.

“Share our cab!” I told her.

“My firm sends a car,” she told me. “Share my car!”

So much faster than hailing a cab at LaGuardia on a Friday night. We might actually make the second half of the wedding guest rooftop cocktail party. We accepted.

On the walk to baggage claim and the walk to her car and the drive to our hotel/her apartment, we covered a lot: New York City’s public schools versus Chicago Public Schools. The New York City Film Festival. What needs to change if more women of color are going to make partner in more law firms around the country. How Gen Y lawyers differ from Gen X lawyers differ from Baby Boomer lawyers.

Then we bid farewell.

It was a lovely, brain-feeding, human-connecting beginning of a long, wonderful weekend filled with lovely, brain-feeding, human-connecting moments.

It was also, I decided, a little chiding from the universe.

If you’re going to look for signs from me, you need to look for all of them. Not just the ones that keep you in your silly comfort zone. Not just the ones that tell you to keep your world small. Also the ones that grow your heart and your horizons.

Good point, universe. I’ll try to honor it. And not just when I’m invited to travel without my kids.

(My son’s flag football game was rained out anyway.)


By Heidi Stevens

Chicago Tribune

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Reach her at hstevens@tribune.com or on Twitter @heidistevens13.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Reach her at hstevens@tribune.com or on Twitter @heidistevens13.

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