A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Boston for a conference on higher education. I was getting to present on student development for adult education, a topic heavy on my heart as I see missed opportunities and great needs among my students each day. I only had a few weeks to prepare so it was a bit of a manic push at the end as I was grading papers, responding to student needs, and trolling the internet trying to find a non-traditional program that offered services outside of curriculum, financial aid, and tutoring. I only came across a few offerings during that time but I have a whole doctoral program to research and hopefully find more.
The conference was quick, just a day and a half, but a great experience with some encouraging take aways and a laughter-filled dinner with a few coworkers. The three hours stuck at an airport in Chicago and a stressful night with unconfirmed hotel reservations were absolutely worth it. And my presentation even went well. I was the last speaker of the conference so I lost a few folks who had to catch flights but those who were there were engaged and listening, and I’m pretty sure I remembered to breathe the whole time (which was a tricky thing for me when I first started teaching). The focus of the presentation ended up more on dreaming a bit together rather than sharing best practices, since practices don’t exist quite yet. But maybe next time I’ll get to share more examples and less “what ifs.”
After the conference ended and my friends scattered to airports or other destinations, I realized I was across the country from friends and family, in a very large city without a car, and having a nice little panic attack as I questioned my sanity about sticking around this city for two extra days. What had seemed like a simple idea a few months before was suddenly very real and very not simple. I didn’t know where to go or what to do…so I just grabbed my running gear and hit the road.
Over the next few hours I became intimate friends with the Back Bay area of Boston, especially with the Boston Common (a park where the Freedom Trail begins). I wandered up and down streets, choosing my directions based on “oh that looks pretty” and then coming back again, knowing I had a phone, a map, and a debit card in my pocket. I felt like a local, jogging around shoppers, tourists, and commuters alike. I even had someone ask me for directions! When I wandered back in the area the next day in more tourist garb, it was no longer a stranger but a road I had run down just 18 hours before.
On my second day I hiked the Freedom Trail and visited Harvard, and on the last morning I joined a running group for the trail a last time, but it was that first run, those 7 miles of wandering, that broke the ice. I had to get through the first awkward blind date with Boston to enjoy a bit of a “summer” romance with the city. And yes, I do hope to see him again for the Boston Marathon, but probably not for a few years. After all, I have a pretty serious relationship with the streets of Portland. We’ve been running together for almost 3 years and I’d hate to miss out on where we might wander next.