The gap year has begun and so much remains the same. Yes – I’m not going into Pew each morning but it remains front and center in my mind. The send-off last week was absolutely amazing with poignant testimonials, live music, hugs and touching side conversations, and, of course, three bars. I remain overwhelmed, so grateful and at a loss for words. There is much to reflect on from almost 13 years at Pew and I’ll return to that I’m sure in the months ahead.
What should you expect from this blog? I keep getting asked – What is this gap year all about? Is it a chance to reflect on politics at the grassroots leading up to the 2018 mid-terms, a personal navel-gazing journey, a means to prepare for my next professional leap, an opportunity for education and enlightenment, or simply a fun tour and travelogue through amazing sites and experiences? The simple fact is that I don’t truly know (although my navel is fascinating). The value is the freedom and privilege of taking a year to let experiences cascade over me, to approach each day as fully aware as possible and leave myself open to serendipity.
So many of you have provided advice on what you’d do in my place, set up meetings with friends you find inspiring, offered a spare bedroom or your vacation homes or shared words of encouragement. Thank you! I’m cataloging this treasure trove and will refer to it frequently.
As I prepare to leave for New Orleans tomorrow, I’m also planning for the first set of adventures. To start, however, I need to establish a new rhythm. Without being too regimented, how do I want to structure my days and the months ahead? What do I want to bring on the road? How do I want to shape my conversations with people that I have the good fortune to meet?
One thought was inspired by a recent visit to an exhibition on race through the lens of science, history and personal experiences in Raleigh, NC. “Race — Are We So Different?” had a fascinating section where it included responses from people across the country describing themselves. Many departed entirely from the question as it was posed. The respondents’ willingness to blow past the expected boundaries of the inquiry led to a fascinating variety of responses. I was inspired to experiment with injecting a few open-ended questions into those fun exchanges you have sitting next to someone at a bar stool or diner counter just to see how they choose to interpret the question and what I learn.
Want to help? If you are up for it, send me a note back to firstname.lastname@example.org with your responses to one or all of the following:
- Who are you?
- Who are your people?
- What defines your community?
OR feel free to disregard this entirely.
Fear not – the next entry will be from New Orleans where we’ll be attending the Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, delving into the Halloween crowds on Frenchmen and Bourbon streets, and myriad other adventures in the Big Easy before hitting the road for a ramble through LA and MS. Sounds like the perfect mix to generate some stories . . .