In or out?

May 5, 2007

pendulum.jpgFor many of us as we get older, the urge to “just stay IN tonight” is great. Cocooning, nesting, quiet time, family time, home projects, watching movies, romance, and catching up on our non-work related projects keeps us happily home. The decision to go OUT is one that we gird our loins for–gather our energy, knowing it will take some. Going OUT takes us outside our comfort zone. We don’t know what will happen, it will be a risk, what happens if…

That inner conversation happens every day with me. Staying IN usually wins. But last night I was invited to a dinner with some UCLA colleagues and a visiting speaker. They asked me to go OUT with them for dinner. (“Hmm, it would be great to just stay IN, put on comfy clothes and watch a movie–maybe order pizza.” “No Roger, get your ass OUT of the house and go hang out with some new people.”) So I did. It was a great time. As I drove home it occurred to me that I was the only white male at the table. One British white woman, one Mexican-American, and the other six were African-American–mostly born and raised in LA. Even though we were all professors, the smartest one at the table was Charles’s 13 year old granddaughter. She humbled us all.

The night before, Daniel’s cousin, James, learned that his sister’s 3 month year old child died of SIDS. James and 2 of his siblings got in their car to drive to San Jose to be with her. At midnight, a drunk driver smashed into them, killed James and seriously injured the other two. James, the father of 3 with the 4th on the way, had decided to go OUT, and be there for his sister.

The day before that, between a lunch meeting and a Scholarship reception on campus, I decided to go home between the events. Just before I was about to leave to go back, Cody, one of our dogs, had a seizure. It lasted about 20 minutes and I ended up missing the reception. I was glad that I was IN to be there for Cody (he’s fine now), although I would have liked to congratulate our scholarship recipients.

Tonight, we’re going to a small party given by one of our performance artist buddies and his partner. We’ll likely only know the hosts. The tug of leaving the comfort zone is there too and even though I know we’ll meet some great people, the thought of staying home washes over me like a warm bath.

In or out? In or out?

I am reminded of a driving class I took once in order to avoid getting a point on my driving record. The instructor, who had lost a brother to a drunk driver, made it quite clear that if you are drinking, take a cab, or even a limo, and the cost will be microscopic compared to the financial and/or emotional cost that a car accident could incur. He begged us: don’t drink and drive.

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