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Archive for September, 2011

I’m obsessed with finding purpose and doing what you love for a living. Lately I’ve been reflecting on the power of place as a calling. In a world where we can live and work virtually anywhere, how do we know where we are meant to be?

I’ve lived in many places around the world. I was drawn to them not so much for the location as the reason for being there – London to study, New York for work, Montevideo for love, and San Francisco for family – but I sometimes wonder, where is my place?

On a recent trip into the Australian Outback our group was led on an Aboriginal tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock). When we arrived at our meeting spot there was an older Aboriginal woman dressed in a t-shirt, loose fitting skirt and black walking shoes. Next to her was a young Japanese woman, her long dark hair twisted back in a ponytail, wearing designer sunglasses, a bright colored striped sweater and jeans. The young woman started off by introducing us to the older woman and then began conversing with her fluently in Pitjantjatjara, the Aboriginal woman’s native language.

There are more than 200 Australian Indigenous languages. Less than 20 remain strong, and even these are endangered: the others have been destroyed, live in the memories of the elderly, or are being revived by their communities. So the fact that this young Japanese girl conversed with this woman as if she spoke Pitjantjatjara from birth astounded me. I had to hear her story. At a pause in the tour I pulled her aside, “What are you doing here?” I asked.

She laughed and told me how she had come 5 years earlier with her Australian boyfriend for a vacation and stayed 3 months. They then moved to the town where he was from, but she could not get the Red Rock out of her system, and, despite challenges with visas, return trips to Japan, and eventually leaving her fiancée, she continued to feel called back to the Red Rock, where she worked as a guide for Japanese tourists and cleaned houses during the low season. Basically, doing whatever she could to stay in this remote land.

“One day I was visiting a friend’s apartment and she” – she pointed to the Aboriginal woman – “was talking with him and I realized that the construct of their language was similar to Japanese, and I could actually understand her!” She began to study both Pitjantjatjara and English intensively in order to be a guide, sharing the Aboriginal knowledge with others. Clearly she had found her calling. She listened to her inner voice and followed the signs that kept drawing her back to this strange and isolated place. One can feel her passion and sense of purpose in sharing the ancient knowledge and wisdom that would have surely died with this woman, along with her language.

Have you felt the call to place? What places call to you? Where do you feel drawn to travel to or visit and what draws you there? I’d love to hear your story!

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Today I planned to blog about my trip to the Australian outback. But life intervened. Or I should say TV did. Despite my proclamations to not revisit 9/11, to put it in the past and visualize a more positive future, I was drawn in to the History channel’s numerous documentaries on this tragic event. With a mile long to-do list for the weekend and my dog staring at me mournfully, I told my husband I felt guilty watching TV. He said, “You’re feeling the weight of this day, just allow it.” So I did. And here’s what I gained:

Where were you?
I was stuck at the Dallas airport, in a hotel, where I’d been invited to speak at a leadership conference along with a client. Our talk was scheduled for 8am on September 11th. Because of the national security risk, my client was whisked out of Dallas, but I was stuck there for days. Stranded along with dozens of conference participants, we spent our time glued to CNN in the hotel bar or staring at the grounded planes on the tarmac outside the hotel. Although I moved to San Francisco in 1991, I’d lived in Manhattan, worked on Wall Street, and passed by and through the Twin Towers for years. They had become a part of my personal landscape. As I watched them fall, something inside me collapsed too.

What got you through?
What got me through ten years ago was the company of other people. Even though we just stared at the TV most of the time, knowing I was not alone helped. Back then all I could see was the hurt and the tragedy unfolding before me. On TV today I heard stories of those who survived, of loved ones found and reunited, of hope. I also saw everyday heroes, those who stepped up to make decisions that put others lives ahead of their own, like the passengers and crew who grounded flight 93. I saw people who didn’t have the expertise, rank, authority, or directive to take action and went ahead and did it anyway, like the man who ran into the Pentagon to save others when he was told not to. Countless lives were saved because ordinary people like you and I acted courageously from their hearts and did what was right.

What’s happened since then?
I met my husband in July of 2002 and a few weeks later, my niece was born. I love both of these people so deeply and cannot imagine my life without them. Ten years ago my niece didn’t exist and my husband was a stranger. A lot can change in ten years! Revisiting this day I would like to think that ten years from now when I look back I will have made choices and decisions that contributed to the world being a better place, that I acted courageously from my heart, and that I put others needs before my own when that was the right thing to do.

What about you? Where were you? What got you through? What’s happened since and what would you like to be reflecting back on in ten year’s time? I’d love to hear your comments.

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