I Wanted to be Two Places This Weekend–Then a Helicopter Crashed

Last Wednesday evening my Collegewise colleagues were traveling from all over the world to South Carolina while I was sitting in parent orientation at my son’s future middle school. I nodded as we were told not to interfere with repercussions for forgotten homework and to make sure cell phones stayed home. Afterward, I resisted the urge to click on our internal company Slack app for evidence of exactly what Collegewise fun was being had without me. Instead, I broke up a group of Lego making kiddos, so that a certain son could get to bed on time.

Collegewise meets annually the last weekend in January. It is fabulous. As in it is actually a retreat—full of surprises, fun, learning, and purposeful connecting in locations like Sedona and Hilton Head. I poured over the agenda lamenting over missing it all. What if I just flew in Friday night to Sunday morning? I started randomly checking flights, even though my gut told me to stop, as my FOMO tried to take over.

Friday morning found my son and me both excited to get to school. Students were shadowing 6th graders, and parents were being welcomed with a tour. The 5th graders took off with their hosts leaving parents scattered in the halls like awkwardly placed hazards. Peering into the classrooms, we saw our children experiencing their future. A quick nod and under the desk wave told me to move on, so I did, grinning with relief that he was so at ease.

He would have been just fine if I had skipped the morning  tour. I drove to my office feeling pathetic for not being at our annual gathering. Then a Slack comment from a colleague appeared.

“Do you want to call into the next meeting? We could Skype.”

“I very much want to be there.”

For the next few hours I virtually attended two meetings with the CEO, the CFO, the Head of this and that and the other affiliates. I heard updates, I shared opinions, I drove to pick up, I watched the 5th graders race off the Middle School bus fresh from their 6th grade experience, and I walked away from the Collegewise meeting for three minutes to meet an elated son.

He greeted me with fun details of the day and I answered, “I can’t wait to hear about it! I have a work meeting on mute. When it is over—and you can listen to it too—I want to hear everything!”

We jumped in the car and joined a finance meeting.   There were a few muted sidebar comments about all that is sixth grade.  Sweet potatoes for lunch!  And for that forty-five minutes I was happily connected to both my work and my life in soul-filling ways.

As we moved into the weekend with only a flag football game on the schedule, I questioned why I was not with Collegewise. Had I become an overly present parent like the ones I deal with who write their children’s applications? No! Right?! But why can’t I balance being a mom and a professional like everyone else? My thoughts continued to randomly berate me as we had fun. We worked out, watched two movies, played Madden, attempted to cook a new chicken recipe and debated broccoli consumption. I took a forty minute call from the conference, got updated and gave some professional advice. I also checked my social media more than usual to feed my FOMO, and then realized I needed to share some news.

“Do you know who Kobe is?”

“Yes, why? Um, everyone knows who he is Mom.”

“Sweetie, there is some bad news…”

The helicopter crash which killed nine including Kobe Bryant, his daughter “she’s got it” and their friends, immediately brought me back to our own center court. Overthinking disappeared into gratitude. Gratitude for inclusive colleagues. Gratitude for time with my son. Gratitude for the reminder that fear is a useless emotion. Gratitude for one more day to follow my gut.

  “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. -Kobe Bryant

Indeed. As college counselors, as parents, as friends, as fellow humans we bloom by inspiring others.  Being open to inspiration is key to finding success. Kobe was inspired to be better and more present for his family: “… I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft [of basketball] but still not compromise family time. That’s when I looked into helicopters, to get down and back in 15 minutes.”

As Jimmy Kimmel said, “There’s no silver lining here. It’s all bad. It’s all sad.” The very transportation that gave Kobe and his family more time together robbed nine people of living out their dreams –including three thirteen year old girls. Nine lost lives serve as an urgent reminder to give ourselves the space today -right now – to be true to our intentions and opportunities.

These reminders are around us all too often. Recently my news feed was filled with the Holy Cross Women’s Rowing Team tragedy. Rowers across the country, including at the University of Michigan, are rowing in support of the Holy Cross community. It should not take the deaths of those in their prime to reset our perspective, yet these are the times we tend to connect through reflection. The key is to maintain such thoughts during the questioning of day to day life.

As a divorced parent, I intentionally chose an independent version of my profession to control my work hours. Through trials, errors and perseverance I am lucky to have been able to figure out a way to work (mostly) during the time that my son is not with me.

Stressed out by the intention to be present with my son while running a college counseling business and striving to be better at it all, I had started to question my choices.

Locking eyes with my future sixth grader as he sat in middle school math. Seeing his grin as he hopped off Friday’s bus. Contributing and learning with the Collegewise hive remotely. Cheering for my kiddo as he pulled a flag on the football field. Being coached by my son about how to do a squat. (As a former coach of middle and high schoolers I especially loved this!) Explaining why I could not say Kobe’s daughter’s name without my voice breaking. Those were just some of the moments that added up to being my truth this past weekend.

Revisiting that truth grounds me in knowing exactly where I am supposed to be. Being grounded cannot protect from tragedy, but it does create the space to be optimistic, rational and productive. Perhaps it is in this state of mindfulness that we can best honor those lost by following through with what Kobe called the “most important thing.” #inspiregreat

©Eva McGregor Dodds

Published by instacollegecounselor


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