An Afternoon Marred by Expectation
Why Burlington? I hadn’t an inkling as to why I chose this place. Maybe passing references to the Burlington Coat Factory in my youth had long ago etched a subconscious interest in this obscure Vermont town. A place so far North that they have coat factories does seem radically different than the year-round Gulf Coast sauna that I grew up in.
Never mind this post-rationalizing drivel, I got in my car to fall back in love with adventure. To fall back in love with writing. For the last 6 weeks, I’ve immersed myself in the highs and lows of teaching. Writing and traveling have fallen by the wayside. An experimental jaunt 4 hours North seemed a fitting cure.
I envisioned being blown away by the tranquil water of Lake Champlain and enthralled by the flurry of activity in the hippie mecca that spawned the likes of Phish and Ben & Jerry’s. The problem with it all is that I came with the idea that this experience would somehow eclipse my prior travel experiences. I was staring straight through the muddled lens of prior knowledge.
There’s a scene in Wall Street 2, where a financial professional asks a senior colleague what amount of salary would prompt him to finally exit the rat race. The executive replied, “It’s simple, more.” Even on a spontaneous road trip, this spirit of wanting more for the sake of more predominated my thoughts.
Oblivious to the dazzling yellow and orange leaves of a New England fall, I stared at Lake Champlain. The fiery sun glistened off the cool, easy waves and I couldn’t help but compare it to Auckland, New Zealand’s peaceful harbor. I stared down the vibrant Church Street marketplace and immediately noticed the absence of the cobble-stone pavement of Portland, Maine that I had enjoyed a month earlier.
Ri-Ra an Irish Pub
Our vow is recorded,
our banner unfurled,
in the name of Vermont,
we defy all the world.
Without a damn clue what the practical meaning of the green scarf above the bar meant, I settled into a tight spot next to a 30-something man wearing a greasy backwards Michigan hat. My first impression was that this was a washed-up frat boy clinging to a past life through desperate support of his alma mater. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a few Traveler’s (a pumpkin ale that I would highly recommend), conversation turned to careers and life choices. Mike was visiting friends while on furlough, a temporary government shut-down casualty. It just so happened that Mike was a highly motivated trade advisor to the Obama administration.
This relative level of prestige briefly impressed me but what left a deeper impression was how he got there. Mike, like myself, spent years in his twenties having bits and pieces of his soul sucked up by the professional services world, albeit in the more glamorous mergers and acquisitions area. One day, Mike sent his resume to a friend working in Washington, D.C. The next day Mike’s friend went for a brisk jog along the Potomac River with a close friend who worked for the Democratic Party. By the following day, Mike’s resume was on the top of a stack of close to 1,000 resumes. Mike got the job. Mike loves his job. When opportunity comes knocking, open the door.