When I woke up yesterday my goals were small. Bathe, dress, arrive at work, avoid any major hazards or embarrassments. Granted, I set the bar pretty low, but it was a Friday, and let’s be honest: Fridays are sometimes just something to be tolerated on the path toward the weekend.
Now it’s a little challenging to explain exactly what I do for a living, mostly because no two days are the same, and it involves a whole lot of randomness. But for purposes of this story, the image below paints a fairly accurate picture:
I attend a fair amount of events; some are outstanding–others, not so much. Sometimes, I arrive with A-game oozing out of my gender-appropriate power suit, but other times, I dart in and out like a corporate ninja, having very little interaction.
Yesterday was one of those days where my approach was leaning toward a stealthy entrance and discreet exit following some handshakes and exchanged business cards. After all, it was FRIDAY. However, when I walked in and saw I was one of only 20 attendees, I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t escaping any time soon. I braced myself for an ambiguous chicken dish and jello-like dessert –> why is this always the menu at any resort-hosted luncheon, why can’t we evolve to lasagna?
My seat was at a table where I knew only one person. Naturally, I decided to entertain myself by talking to the adorable older couple on my left. I can’t explain it, but I’ve always loved old people. True story: you’re reading the blog of someone who voluntarily spent her summers in middle school volunteering at a Jewish nursing home.
These folks were sweet and seemed to take a liking to me (can’t blame them) and we spent the next few minutes chatting about our lives.
And then, I’m informed that the man I’m talking to worked at the FBI for 30 years. And he didn’t just work there, he was the number two man.
Hold up. Let me rephrase this lest you failed to compute it:
I was sitting next to Lee Colwell, the former associate director of the FBI. Man of mystery. Bad-guy-getter. Maker of history.
This, of course, blew my mind, and inhibited my ability to pay an ounce of attention to anything but learning more about him and his career. I started whispering questions to him and before long, the event had ended and we were the only two left in the room, as I listened to incredible stories of his path through life.
I was humbled to realize how many people there are, in all sorts of positions around the world, whose lives are dedicated to protecting people like me. It’s inspiring to meet people like Lee who’ve devoted their lives, sacrificing their own security, to serve the greater good.
It’s fascinating enough to have a conversation with someone who’s 80 years old and has lived through some of the most impactful decades in history. But an 80-year-old who worked for the FBI? Unbeatable.
I love when life throws curveball experiences out for the taking. Forcing perspective and learning when you least expect it. There’s nothing better.