Wednesday, October 25, 2006

First real day in Luxembourg - revisited 1 year later

Some events in our lives are so powerful that their anniversaries take us back to those moments in amazingly vivid detail. Such was my experience in going to Luxembourg one year ago. I just looked back when I started this blog and the October 25, 2005, post was "First real day in Luxembourg." I remember the disorientation, the excitement, the wonder of it all. It was a bright and beautiful day as it is in Oxford today. I went to the Universite du Luxembourg campus with several of the MUDEC faculty and we met with their faculty to see if there wasn't something we could explore together. A year later, it looks as if Universite du Luxembourg and MUDEC will combine efforts in the next couple of years and that MUDEC students will have the opportunity to engage more deeply with students from the Universite. I had nothing to do with the merger of purpose and place but it is kind of cool to know that I was there in some of the early stages of seeing this possibility.

I miss Luxembourg very deeply. It was a very difficult time for me in the early days (particularly the first 7-10 days) because I missed my routine, family, other relationships and I missed the familiarity of culture. As I grew more comfortable over time, I began to relish difference and newness. The result was that I took greater and greater risks over time - and I gained more with every bigger step I took.

Probably the most profound lesson I learned from Luxembourg was that taking risks is hard and sometimes terrifying but, if we face it with curiosity and trust in humanity, amazing things are possible. The metaphor of the Chesapeake Bay bluecrab may be instructive here. Bluecrab are wonderful and they primarily are found in the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore out to the mouth of the Atlantic. One of the delicacies that is possible is the softshell crab, which results when a crab sheds its hardened shell because to retain it would be too restrictive for new growth. The urgency of growth becomes so great that the crab sheds its protective shell and becomes a softshell crab, ready to experience the world in new and grander ways. The only hooker on the proposition is that in this vulnerable state, there could be predators (like humans) who capture the crab during this tender, transitional state. To be caught in between the former hardened and secure hardshell and the growing, developing softshell state can mean ruin. However, if the crab wishes to develop, the risk to grow a new and more adequate shell must be tolerated.

Isn't that what many of our life experiences are about - risking to shed the hardened and inadequate in order to become something better? The vulnerable state in between is terrifying. Note to self - how can I become more comfortable in between and how can I be a protector for others as they embark on something dramatically different so that they feel enough shelter to take the risk?


Darbi said...

Hmmm... taking risks to become somthing better... sounds familiar. I totally agree - it's absolutely terrifying to face something new and unexplored and unfamiliar, but those things in the end make us better. I think the one thing I have going as my "shelter" so to speak is the common routine of college life. Next year, however, it may not be quite the same depending on where I am...

Denny Roberts said...

I kind of thought you might catch this post. I was reflecting on my own experience but also thinking about you, Steve, Devin, Gram... Lots of folks I love are taking steps toward something new right now. I think of how lucky we are to have the privilege of making the choice to change. There are those in our world for whom it is not a choice - it's change or risk not surviving.

I guess this is when the Bluecrab metaphor takes on special meaning. I actually don't know if the Bluecrab has a choice to shed its shell and grow or not. In its case, I wonder if to not take the risk actually means death. But death is a term that is relevant to a variety of things - death of life, spirit, reputation, the various things I mentioned in a previous post.

The thing that is wonderful about your future is that you have choices. You are pursuing a number and you seek opportunity everywhere you look. I hope that you see how positive this really is, even though you will be leaving the "shelter" of Carnegie, a place that has treated you so well and taught you so much!

Hope you have a great day...