Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Spending Chinese New Year with General Lee (or…..A few days behind “enemy” lines)

Sometime around the end of 2005, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who works for CONCACAF; (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) with whom I went to Mexico City for a few days in late March of 2005 (over Easter weekend) to see the US – Mexico World Cup Qualifier at the Azteca Stadium, which has hosted two World Cup Finals.

In our conversation, I had been telling Steve how, as much as I had enjoyed my job, after having been working in the same capacity for such a while (7 years), but not working in either of my degrees (Bachelor’s – Communication Studies; Master’s – Sport Management) I was getting incredibly burned out. I just needed a change; SOMETHING different, even if it wasn’t necessarily IN my field.

One thing that Steve asked me in our conversation was, “Where did you go on vacation this year?” Where did I go on vacation this year? Hmmmm; that’s a good question, I thought. I asked him, “Aside from when we went to Mexico City?” And he said yeah; if you call the Mexico City trip a “vacation.” In my terms it was to a degree, however in Steve’s, he was an invited guest of the Mexican Soccer Federation (which means I was too!); but you can’t escape the responsibilities that come with the position of CONCACAF Press Officer when you are going to the federations “marquee” World Cup Qualifier.

I mentioned to Steve that I had been to El Salvador earlier in the year; as well as Ocean City, Maryland with the teenagers from church. However, those are not truly vacations; especially not El Salvador. I don’t know about you, but anytime that you travel outside of the country, you have to be VERY careful, in particular a third-world country. No matter, how things have gone in the past (fortunately very safely), in the sue crazy world in which we live, anything can happen. It essentially is not a “successful” or “good” trip, until we return and everyone leaves the parking lot of the church safely.

So what it really came down to was, “No, I didn’t have a vacation this year.” When I think about it and I forget who said it – but one of my friends did – a vacation is a time where if you could stay in all day and sleep and you wouldn’t have to worry about anything happening to anyone. So in all realities, El Salvador and Ocean City were not vacations. And that’s when the bright light bulb above me came to light.

No wonder I was so burned out. I never really have had much of a chance to do “my thing.” In reality, most of the last 10 years I really haven’t had as much of a chance to do “my thing.” It’s more about making sure everyone is comfortable, that they are all behaving, that no one is having a bad time, etc etc. These are all blessings that I’m glad to have, however at the same time – when you can almost be on call for a lot of a day – whether it’s during the day when some parents or kids may be at home; later in the evening when activities are taking place, or online later at night when the kids are online and want to talk – I really don’t have much, if any time for myself.

Most parents would say, “welcome to my world.” And yeah, that’s true. And when I do take on the responsibility of wanting to be a parent, I will know what to expect, however at this point in time, I think the “burned out” feeling I have is because I don’t have much time for myself.

That brings me, as the secondary title mentions, “behind enemy lines.” Following a nice conversation with my friend Cindy regarding the above conversation with Steve (and how I was feeling), she suggested that I take a little trip for myself – shut off the phone; don’t call people; in fact, she even said for me to keep the laptop at home. However, the thing is, it’s so much easier to type out my thoughts, rather then write them out and then have to retype them. As a result, the laptop is here.

Where is here, you ask? Behind enemy lines. Afghanistan? Iraq? Not exactly – God bless the soldiers who are serving our nation in those countries, but until the internal strife is over, there is no way in heck you’ll find me anywhere close (unless you consider China or Japan; maybe South Korea, as close).

The enemy lines were those that were painted some 150 years ago where the land that I type from as we speak, was the headquarters for Confederate leader, General Robert E. Lee. Yes, you have to love corporate America! “The Quality Inn at General Lee’s Headquarters” – located right on the battlefield of Gettysburg is where I decided to stay.

It’s almost surreal if you ask me. The drive here was nice, calm, reasurring. It’s almost weird, because some of my friends tell me that I don’t know how to relax. That I’m always doing something. And I wonder if that anxiety is partly because of the depression or if it’s partly because I’ve always been happily doing things with others and for others; but never really had a chance recently to do as much for myself. This trip is part of that.

The trip down included 80s music as if Madonna was going out of style! Kareoke style! Of course I took the trip myself. Some people may see that as odd; that it’s “no fun.” However, since I’m so used to accommodating others, as selfish as this sounds – I didn’t want to do what someone else wanted to do………..at all. I only wanted to do what I wanted to do. This is a trip that I’ve wanted to take for some time, and to have that opportunity to be selfish; if I was going to do it, I was going to be selfish 100%.

Gettysburg, as I’ve found, is a quaint town (population about 7500), that no one would really care about, had the most important battle in the history of our country, not had taken place here. However, the three day battle that turned the Confederate tide, gave advantage to the Union, and eventually led to the downfall of South – took place right here in this town.

Driving around after checking in, I found markers of different kinds to demonstrate the location of certain armies. Canons, other wartime items, and much more. I will be posting pictures somewhere, so that you can get more of a visual. It’s so obvious that something huge happened here – and it’s such a blessing that the historical society has done everything to make sure that anyone who passes through this town remembers just that.

I am wondering what the next few days will hold. I am going to actually do something that I rarely do tomorrow – wake up early – and get the free continental breakfast, and then head off to the visitor’s center so that I can find out more about this wonderful town and the history of the civil war battle that took place here.

It’s such a blessing to have Gettysburg in my backyard. Obviously not technically, but when you think of how large the US is, and this most important battlefield is just under three hours from me? How amazing is that? Then again, it’s probably just as amazing as the fact that this is the first time in the 31 years that I’ve been alive, that I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to make the trek to visit this site.

To close this particular “chapter,” I’d just like to say, when you do have a lot going on in your life, take some time for yourself. Go to the movies with friends (where you can be yourself). Better yet, go for a run – bring your mp3 player if you wish; or go without and just “be one” with nature. It’s such a great feeling. One of those, “not a care in the world” feelings – and at the same time, the “rush” you feel from the runner’s high that you’ll eventually feel – it’s a priceless feeling that can’t be described in mere words.

If you have some disposable income, then take a few days to yourself and go away. I think I personally have found my place of “respite” here in Gettysburg. It’s such a nice place – very calm and just away from it all. A place where – how great is this – the battlefield is so close to where I’m staying, that I’m thinking of taking a little running tour through the battleground either tomorrow or early Monday. Not far; just a few miles. But a few miles should be good enough………….for now.

Regardless, the important thing is to not let everything that the world throws your way – your job, your family, etc etc – overwhelm you. Take some time for yourself and do “your thing.” Have a chance to develop yourself – your wants, your likes, your hobbies, etc. No one else can do that for you. And as much as you try to think that you’ll be happy if everyone else in your life is – trust me, you’re not. I’ve tried that for years and after a while of “sacrificing” my personal wants and needs, it almost made me miserable.

So just like I have my “Gettysburg,” go venturing and find what works for you. Find what activity or location helps you to “recharge the batteries” and enjoy your days much more.

(and for all our Chinese readers, HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!! Have a “Chinatown Chinese Year!)


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