The Dance, Hernia Surgery, and St. Louis: Where's the Party?
If you, like me, have been a kid before, you have certainly dealt with at least one of these feelings at some point in your life:
“The party is happening without me.”
“I wasn’t invited.”
“Everyone got a Bop-It Extreme for Christmas but all I got was this lousy pogo stick.”
I’ve had this happen my fair share of times, but one memory seems to stand out above the rest as I peer back into the trippy kaleidoscope that was my childhood. The scene: 8th grade, sub-5-foot Matt, whose mother made him drink Whey Protein so he wouldn’t get physically obliterated by the 200-pound defensive end across the line, was lifting weights at a time when he likely should have waited, causing the intestinal bulge we now know as a hernia.
I’ll spare you the details, (note: details here pronounced with emphasis on syllable 2) but what ended up being a double hernia surgery took me out of commission for the much-anticipated FALL DANCE. (Sent with confetti.) In 8th grade, the fall dance was a kid’s one and only chance to get close to a girl while Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” soothed ears and souls. It was the party. And I was to miss it because I was trying to be the Hulk when, in reality, I was Squints from The Sandlot.
I remember the day after the dance, hanging out with my friends Kevin and Chris. We were riding scooters around the neighborhood and I was peppering with them with questions about the dance, holding on to the vicarious experience with everything I had.
“Who did you dance with?”
“Did anything happen?”
“Were any of the girls crying because I wasn’t there?”
As Chris was casually listing off the girls he had danced with, I still remember the feeling of utter jealousy and awe. It was as if I was speaking to someone who had been in the room where the burrito was invented.
Hang on… you were THERE? And you danced with LAUREN? And JENNA? And you’re just telling me this… CASUALLY?!?
Equal parts jealousy and awe.
This past fall, when I applied for a summer internship with The Boeing Company, visions of 787s and the Seattle skyline danced in my head as I applied for and anticipated an offer. That’s why, when the e-mail came through and the words St. Louis appeared, I was taken aback.
St. Louis?! What does Boeing even *do* there?!
The dance was happening in Seattle and I would be missing it by having hernia surgery in St. Louis.
Ok, every metaphor breaks down at some point. Maybe I just really wanted to tell you my hernia surgery story. The point is, I felt like I would be missing out. Turns out, there was a lot of good in store in St. Louis.
My summer was spent working at the Boeing Leadership Center (BLC), a world-class facility on the outskirts on St. Louis nestled on the Missouri river. It’s an absolutely beautiful facility with a friendly staff and unmatched networking opportunities. Throughout my time there, I had the chance to meet the highest level leaders at Boeing (DENNIS, and TED, and LEANNE… notice the casual tone) and teach executives how to be agile leaders through Improv exercises. I had the opportunity to design a board game around the concept of culture that, starting next week, will be utilized by Boeing executives in the midst of a massive, enterprise-wide culture shift.
Every morning, I walked through carpeted hallways and strolled past posters on the walls featuring pictures and associated quotes from Boeing’s top leaders about Living the Leadership Attributes. Every time I passed a series of posters, I took a moment to at least glance at one, taking in an idea. I’d sometimes fix my gaze on the eyes of the person in the picture, wondering what they knew, what it took to get to where they are, what they’ve seen. Look, I know that’s corny, but it was an ounce of daily inspiration.
The summer was great on a personal level as well: Kendahl and I went to the top of the arch, cheered on the Cardinals, dined at amazing restaurants and breweries, and plowed through an entire season of This is Us, generating enough tears to build a child-sized swimming pool.
As the summer progressed, and as I learned all the acronyms (ATA), endless business terms, company strategy and even got to meet some of the people in those hallway photos (again – notice how casually I’m writing about this – it is not a big deal), I realized I had been at the dance the whole time.
(With respect to what I’m sure is a wonderful town, Seattle, you’re just a *different* dance in this analogy. You aren’t hernia surgery.)
This isn’t a Boeing commercial. This is a commercial for taking a risk, making a move, and doing something you aren’t sure about. You just may end up dancing before you know it.
Update: since I finished writing this piece, I have since accepted a full-time position with Boeing that will put us back in St. Louis, starting July 6, 2018. Let’s keep dancing.