Living in Chicago, I’ve met legitimate Cubs fans. My laissez-faire attitude toward a particular team’s performance doesn’t match the dedication I see them embody. As Cubs fever intensifies in our city — and oddly, in my own consciousness these days — I want to thank all those gracious souls for allowing fair-weather fans like myself to join in the celebration, even though I’ve not been around to equally share in all the disappointments and dark days that traditionally accompany allegiance with a team. Especially one that’s seemingly cursed, like the Cubs. They've endured decades of pain to take part in this triumph, and I stumbled upon it by complete accident, yet the ticker tape falls equally upon us all.
In 2005, I was heading to Chicago to visit my then-husband, who had just started his graduate program at the University of Chicago. Having been accepted to the University of Michigan, a dream come true for a girl who had dropped out of college and become a hair stylist, I had recently started school myself. After spending the week in Ann Arbor, I’d taken the train to Chicago to meet up with my partner. I emerged from Union Station and followed the directions to get on the bus to Hyde Park. Traffic was impossible. Chicago traffic can be a shock to anyone from out of town, but the parade celebrating the White Sox World Series victory turned congestion into mayhem.
My backpack, stuffed with a laptop, textbooks, and a weekend’s worth of luggage weighed heavily on my shoulders. Heat began to build underneath my coat, forming beads of sweat on my upper lip, and dampening my hairline. Voicemails began to accumulate, my ex clearly annoyed that that I hadn’t arrived on time. I was always late. (I still struggle to get places on time.) But the people were packed in so tightly that I was at the mercy of the crowd.
I don’t remember much else that happened, but I do remember thinking it was really amazing that I happened to be there, on that day, in the middle of this celebration. Without even trying, I’d ended up on the parade route, and got to see the bus as the players went by. When you find yourself in the middle of a claustrophobia-inducing crowd, cheering on their hometown team, you can stress about the fact that you’re not going to make it to your destination on time, or you can join in the party going on around you and cheer like you’d planned it that way. So that’s what I did. My body continued making its way toward the bus stop, but my spirit joined in on the celebration happening around me.
The tug to join others in their misery, in their frustration that things aren’t going to plan is still very powerful for me. My body and mind are hardwired to take on responsibility for their lack of acceptance, and turn that into guilt inward, thinking that somehow I could have taken different action and prevented their unhappiness. This usually results in shame — the belief that that I am flawed, and that my being a “bad girl” is causing their distress.
Good girls plan ahead so they don’t get caught in parades.
Good girls don’t make mistakes.
(But if they did, they’d express remorse for those mistakes — not begin clapping and cheering along with the crowd as the parade passed by.)
To which I can now proudly say:
Fuck that fucking shit.
I can only see this growth in the rear view mirror, but I can see the changes taking root. This impacts all my relationships, especially those at work. Frankly, that’s the most challenging place for me to flex this muscle. In the five years following my divorce, I’ve been much more selective about the people I surround myself with. By forming relationships with people, especially my female friends, who are committed to accepting life on life’s terms and learning to accept ourselves, in all of our “perfectly imperfect” humanity, it’s much easier for me create new pathways in my brain and know I’ll be okay, even if though I'm not perfect.
Work is still a challenge, though. Even though work cultures vary, and sometimes changing the environment is the best option, as long as the workplace is made up of humans, I will need to learn how to deal with those folks that don’t share my view of the world. My work today is learning how to not get sucked back into that kind of thinking. Right now, that looks like acting like I believe the saying, “I am enough, I have enough, and I do enough.”
Once again, baseball is helping me out with this life lesson. Last year, I caught a foul ball at Cubs game. That was my third baseball game ever, and my second time watching the Cubs. I assumed that it happened frequently enough that anyone who wanted a foul ball likely would catch at least once in their lifetime. I learned later that it’s actually kind of rare. (Again, my apologies to those die-hard Cubs fans!)
On my bookshelf, I have an altar: a place where I keep all the things that have significant spiritual meaning for me, as I keep putting one foot in front of the other, building a life that is true to who I am at my core. This morning I added my baseball, so that it’s now alongside the flower crown my friend gave me at Camp Grounded (birthplace of my Gold Dust namesake) and some surf wax from my last trip to Costa Rica.
After the Cubs won the pennant, I heard Cubs' manager Joe Madden expressing themes in his post-game press conference that resonated with me and how I want to approach my life. His perspective on the importance of being authentic is especially evident in this reference to Javier Báez:
…And when (Báez) goes out there, man, you saw him before the game sitting on the bench, saw him waving into the camera, he's just being himself. I love that.
I love everything about that because when he goes out there he's not afraid of making a mistake, and that's a big thing when you get players that are en masse not concerned about making mistakes, really good stuff can happen.
I'm not a professional athlete, but I do aim to be the best version of myself I can be, in the personal and in the professional sphere. That is how I want to be: Completely unapologetic about being myself, and not being afraid of making a mistake.
In my personal life, I’ve got a bunch of supportive people in my corner, encouraging me to be true to myself, to do my best, and to trust that that’s enough. However, that isn't as common in the workplace. So when I bump into a naysayer, I want to be able to give myself that kind of permission internally. I know I’m at my best when I’m present and allowing things to unfold naturally. In those moments when someone tries to convince me otherwise, Gold Dust is going to take a line from Maddon’s playbook and remind herself that when you get a bunch of people who aren’t concerned with making mistakes, “really good stuff can happen”.
The next time someone tries to convince me that success demands I be someone other than who I am, I plan to channel some of the bullet-proof faith of a Cubs fan. For decades, prevailing wisdom said it couldn't be done. (I remember a professor in graduate school walking us through his financial argument that the Cubs could never make it to the World Series, based on the size of Wrigley Field and its inability to generate enough revenue to pay for the talent necessary to compete at that level.) I understood the logic then, and yet, here we are. We made it to the World Series. I understand the logic of playing it safe, but if this is all just a game anyway, I'd prefer to at least enjoy the ride.