One of the biggest takeaways from my last few months of exploration is that inspiration and inspirational people are everywhere. Smart, fascinating, stimulating, amazing people and ideas are all around. Often, they’re in surprising places, where I’ve never thought to look. In places where, if someone told me, “Look for inspiration here!” I’d raise my left eyebrow and give him or her a sideways glance. But that someone’s on to something.
I remember a frustrating conversation I had with a couple friends a while back. They were both enrolled in graduate programs in the humanities; I was done and graduated. I was talking with them about my search for non-academic employment, and they responded very negatively. They cared about me, and knew I wanted to work among fellow thinkers; they were convinced such people did not exist outside universities. They’d witnessed me complaining in the past about the apparent dearth of intelligence in the outside world. My friends provided evidence from their own working lives, and those of their friends, to prove that smart people didn’t live and work beyond the ivory tower. I remember feeling attacked, and trying to defend myself. All I could really say was, “I’m not convinced that’s true.”
I’m happy to report that now I know they were wrong. Now I know that when I had similar thoughts, I was wrong, too. What’s more, it’s extremely liberating seeing the world differently than I did while ensconced in academia. Every field, every endeavour has its visionaries. Some visionaries are academics, but, more often than not, the intellectual movers and shakers are just “regular people.”
I came across a couple inspirational people last week, at an afternoon tea workshop featuring dishes that might have made an appearance at a real life Downton Abbey. I went because I like tea and food and the TV show. Why not? Could be fun. Once I got there, I started to realize the event was going to be more interesting that I imagined.
It was held at the Depanneur, “a place where interesting food things happen.” Len Senater owns and operates the space; his background isn’t in cooking or event planning: he used to run a design firm! Our host was Carol Mark, a tea sommelier and event curator who came (back) to tea after recovering from breast cancer. Although the focus of the evening was preparing and then eating desserts, what will stay with me won’t be the specifics of how to make lemon curd. Instead it will be Carol and Len’s commitment to community building, to creating time and space for bringing people together, and to rejigging our relationships with each other, the food we eat, and our own health. What was billed as a tea workshop turned out to be a fascinating window into the worlds of two people trying to make the world a better place. How inspiring!
Although I don’t want to make a career out of a love for food and drink, I do want to make a career out of (among other things) a love for creating and supporting community. A fun little event helped crystallize this thought in my mind. Who knew? Here’s to letting the world surprise and inspire me, especially when I least expect it!