(Continued from yesterday’s post)
Several hours later, Angelica arrived in New York and, embracing the power of the phone card, called home.
“I’m in New York and you didn’t tell me I was going to have to switch terminals—I had to take a bus!—and the flight to Milan is delayed and I’m at the gate and I’m okay and I’M READY TO COME HOME NOW!”
We calmed her down and reassured her that she really was okay, and that everything would be fine as soon as she got on the plane. The flight was delayed for five hours (we got the hourly update), and we gratefully breathed a sigh of relief when Angelica was finally winging her way to Milan. She landed several hours later, got off the plane and went directly to the nearest phone.
“I’m in Italy now and I’m going to catch the bus and I couldn’t figure out how to use the phone and I think I know where the bus is and I’M READY TO COME HOME NOW!”
Again, we calmed her down. She found the bus, took it to the train station and again—one hour later—she called home:
“I’m at the train station now!”
Her mother and I, standing in our kitchen back in Marin County, California, felt like we were in the war room, like we should be moving a pin on a giant wall-map and shouting “She’s made it to the train station!” into the radio.
“And the schedules are different from what we thought and nobody speaks English and I found the right platform and I’M READY TO COME HOME NOW!”
I’m not exaggerating; I am quoting verbatim. We calmed her once again and seven hours later, from her cousin’s house, guess what? She called.
“Now, look,” she said to her mother. “I made it to New York, I made it to Milan, I made it to the train, and now I’m here. And now…I am ready…to come home.”
So I got on the phone and I said to her, “Listen, honey, I gotta tell you something: You’re having the time of your life. You just don’t know it yet.”
To say that the person who came home six weeks later had had “the time of her life” would be a gross understatement. What she’d done, in fact, was created a new life entirely. The next summer Angelica backpacked around Europe, and the summer after that she and her mother volunteered in a Guatemalan orphanage. She did her junior year of college in Madrid, Spain, and years later, when she was 23, she took a summer internship with the U.S. State Department at the American consulate in—who says life is random—Milan.
She was one of four interns accepted out of 5,000 applicants, and even though the Foreign Service was not, she was to discover, her cup of tea; she is now, at 29, a bona fide woman of the world with a global perspective on life and the human condition.
To this day I feel great about having helped her to discover more of her own capability. The truth of the matter is, though, all I did was give her a nudge: a nudge that she would have fought with her every fiber if she hadn’t wanted it in the first place.