Amy Paige Condon
Observer, eavesdropper, storyteller, adverb slasher
Well ... how did I get here?
"Once in a Lifetime," Talking Heads
So there I stood, in the middle of the Delta terminal at Miami International Airport, waiting to board a flight to Atlanta for an important business meeting. It was early, early in the morning, still black as ink outside, but the concourse was already packed with travelers in dark business suits, making deals on cell phones, texting messages out into the ether, and devouring the day’s news.
A wall of screens glowed green before me, announcing the arrivals and departures – so much coming and going. Staring at this scroll of American cities, I ran the numbers in my head while scanning the names of places I had been – Manchester, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Houston, San Francisco, Tallahassee, Birmingham…
So far that year I had flown for almost 20 weeks straight. I barely had time to think through one meeting before beginning the next. I held more conversations with my husband by phone than face-to-face. The welcome desk at Hampton Inn was becoming more familiar to me than the sight of my own front door.
My head started to pound, and I felt clammy and shaky. I wanted nothing more than to get out of there, to go home. The gate attendant called all passengers to board the flight I was supposed to be on, but all I could do was ask myself, “My god, how did I get here?”
Eat, Pray, Act
It was, as Oprah says, an “aha” moment.
Soon thereafter, I took two weeks off. I didn’t travel anywhere except from one room to another of our condo. I did not set up lunch dates with friends. I sent my husband off to his office while I sat cross-legged on a folded blanket in the living room and tried to meditate. Most of the time I wrestled with my wandering and anxious mind in an effort to concentrate on not concentrating on anything at all.
And yet, one thought kept surfacing again and again. It was a nagging little voice, reminding me that what I had always loved best were stories – stories that teach, that engage, that entertain, that inform, that reveal something about our humanity. So within six weeks of my brief, self-imposed sabbatical, I had applied to graduate school. Within six months, my husband and I had both quit our stable, well-paying jobs and moved to Savannah so that I could go back to school and he could start his own business. Despite the temporary shift in material circumstance, we realized immediately the return on investment in our lives was priceless.
Philosopher and civil rights leader Dr. Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs are more people who have come alive.” What greater gift could we give this ailing world than labor and love combined?
Help and Thanks
Years ago, I read that Buddhist monks believe that frustration is a gift from the universe to keep us distracted so that spirit can work behind the scenes to create something beautiful and perfect. That thought carried me through my difficult scene in the airport, when I didn’t know who I was anymore or how to get what I wanted from my life.
I found that those crossroads moments really are precious tools for renewal. They are the tempests that stir before a creative breakthrough. They are the bricks the universe throws when we are not paying attention. They implore us to jump first and fear later…and almost always, they walk hand-in-hand with discovery. Their greatest gift, though, is that they lead us back to our essential selves…the ones we were always meant to be.
Today, I am the associate and digital editor for Savannah magazine. I've had the good fortune (and good taste) to co-author two cookbooks, the New York Times-bestselling The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook (Artisan 2012) and the Wiley's Championship BBQ Cookbook (Gibbs Smith 2014). I teach creative writing courses at the Coastal Georgia Center, where I hope the next bestseller is being born.
I share this life with my husband, Brian--an enthusiast for old, rusty things like Model As, industrial salvage and me. We are parents to three pups: Harper and Barkley, sister and brother mutts we adopted five years ago, and Moses, who showed up on our porch last Thanksgiving, undernourished, covered with fleas, and swaddled in a yellow blanket.