Let It Be
September 12, 2011
As this week starts, I find myself feeling immense relief and gratitude. First, I am grateful that our country got through our 9/11/11 anniversary safely. In August 2001, I had moved back east to join NYU. On 9/11, I had just gotten off the PATH train from New Jersey and was walking through Washington Square Park to my office on Fourth Street when I saw one of the planes hit. Like many others, I have and know many poignant stories about what happened next. I still can’t talk about my own story without tearing up. This weekend, I found that I couldn’t watch any of the commentary on TV, as my mind still holds plenty of its own from that day.
I am also relieved that my children are back in college this week, and I’m grateful that our incoming students at Kellogg have arrived safely. Haley, my daughter who favors foreign travel, kept me on pins and needles much of the summer as she traveled to South Africa and Brazil for research for her senior thesis on land reform movements. My son, Cameron, was in China teaching English in the Hunan province. Spending 2-1/2 months in a very traditional area within mainland China was a transforming experience for him.
I feel proud of them both as they gain fluency in other languages, and for being so curious about and engaged in the world around them. But, I never sleep as soundly when either of them is abroad, particularly in more remote places. I am amazed at how profoundly the tie of motherhood continues to affect me, even as my children become adults. Sometimes I wish I had not raised them to be quite so adventurous, but I know I could not have been a different mother, nor would I want them to be different. The people that they are becoming awe me.
As I process all of these emotions, I am struck by how important it is in the modern world to be able to accept the anxiety and sadness that come with change, loss, and uncertainty; how important it is to experience these emotions, rather than sublimate or wish them away. Learning how to just let it be -- that requires its own form of bravery, I’ve found.
I can’t help wondering if that isn’t, at least in part, where all of the recent talk about authenticity in leadership comes from. Our modern culture is tired of happy-face leaders. We want real leaders who can understand and cope with the complexity of modern life, who can show us how to get through with resilience and hope. This reminds me that developing leaders who can think bravely is about preparing leaders who will have the courage to face both external and internal challenges.
Perhaps that is one of the silver linings of 9/11, it forced many of us to grow. As a nation, we became a bit more authentic and perhaps a little more humble.
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