Several months ago, my company had a Town Hall announcement about where our offices will be moving. Rumors had been flying around for months, with much speculation. I wasn’t really that concerned.
However, when our CEO announced that our new office space would preside at the World Trade Center in New York City, my head started uncontrollably shaking “no, no, no, no, no, no”—I was aware it was doing this, yet I couldn’t seem to stop it from moving.
After the announcement, we all headed back upstairs to our desks, and the floor was buzzing with everyone’s chatter around the announcement. I went back to my desk, but didn’t engage in any conversations and didn’t really think much about it.
Later that evening, a flood of emotions, took over me.
You see, I had been living in New York City on September 11, 2001. The memories were still fresh in my mind as if the events had happened yesterday. At the time, I had volunteered for the Red Cross and worked at Ground Zero.
I saw the gaping smoldering hole of twisted metal and debris. I can still smell that odd, recognizable scent of burning metal.
The smoke rose from Ground Zero for at least a month, if not more. The workers came in with their jackets smoldering as well—I’d never seen anything like it. And although I only served lunch to the men working there, they didn’t really want someone to serve them lunch, they needed someone to listen to the horrors they saw out there. One man told me that while he was clearing the metal, debris, and ash, he also found body parts—random arms, legs, fingers, jewelry, and other belongings to those who had perished. I listened with both shock and compassion. He broke down crying.
So how was I supposed to go to work every day remembering I was sitting above this horrifying graveyard that I had seen back then?
I nearly had panic attack thinking about it all. I felt angry; angry at my company for putting several hundred people into a situation where we had to think about these things again.
Conversely, I have also been in the corporate world for a long time. I knew their chosen location was close to Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City and other “up and coming” areas where the young pioneers were moving from other states around the country and from around the world. Most of these pioneers are too young to remember much or anything of 9/11. And New York City was giving companies super fat tax breaks and payouts to move to the WTC area. I wasn’t angry about those things—that’s just business, and perhaps my company was being forward-thinking by desiring a larger, younger talent pool.
Then I started to think, “Well, 9/11 was almost 20 years ago, yet, it doesn’t seem that long ago.” Wow, 18 years have gone by . . . isn’t it time I “got over” it? Our CEO had mentioned the area was being built up tremendously and there were many wonderful new opportunities in the area (restaurants, shopping, etc). She also mentioned resilience.
I began to ponder “resilience”—the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It was a skill I had purposely been harnessing for the past several years because I realized how imperative a skill it is to have in life. To be honest, most of us are not very resilient. We are resistant to change, and we do not recover from loss, difficulties, or trauma very well. Think about how long it takes most people to get over a broken romance. Way too long. It took me 10 years once to get over a broken relationship. In hindsight, I realized how much precious time I wasted, pining over someone who didn’t care about me anymore. Ten years of my life! Imagine what sort of amazing relationships I could have had during those 10 years! And so began my journey to become resilient. I became a master at rolling with change in business; in fact, I feel like I am the cheerleader for rolling with change.
Nature teaches so much about resilience. Have you ever seen a plant growing in between concrete? It will always survive and grow. “Resilience is the capacity of a social-ecological system to absorb or withstand perturbations and other stressors such that the system remains within the same regime, essentially maintaining its structure and functions. It describes the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation” (Holling 1973, Gunderson & Holling 2002, Walker et al. 2004).
Now that might sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo to you, but the key phrase here is “The system is capable of self-organization, learning, and adaptation.” Bingo. Yes, we are all capable of this. Yet we resist. And what we resist persists.
We wallow in suffering, resist change, and stay closed-minded. Why? Because these things actually feel safe to us. What we already know feels familiar and comfortable (even if it doesn’t feel good!) and change is outside of our comfort zones.
But staying safe is staying SMALL. And if we want to truly live life to the fullest, we need to grow outside of our safe little comfort zones.
How can we learn to become more resilient? Here are a few important things to remember:
- The only constant in life is change. If we resist change, we will always be in a state of despair because life is constantly changing. We cannot stop things from changing if we tried to do so. Why fight and resist? Instead, allow change to flow.
- When something negative happens, it is for the good of your own growth. Whether you want it to happen or not, you will become a stronger, more evolved person.
- When something ends, it is because there is something new and better waiting for you.
- Trust that the journey you are on is the right journey for you and the rest will be revealed to you in time.
So I thought about moving to the World Trade Center again. Yes, sadly I would be going to work on that graveyard, but that didn’t mean I had to forget. I can honor the memory of those souls every single day.
I now have the privilege of being able to remember them daily, because our offices overlook the 9/11 Memorial.
And I decided that I do not want to close myself off to new opportunities. Why should I ignore the entire downtown area of Manhattan because I had sad memories from 18 years ago? There is a wonderful quote from Hellen Keller: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Now just a few months away from the big move to One World Trade Center, I am very excited. I am greatly looking forward to what awaits me—new shopping opportunities (yay retail therapy!), new restaurants and bars, the availability to see friends who live in NYC more often, and yes, our beautiful brand new state-of-the-art work space in the World Trade Center of New York City, which overlooks the 9/11 Memorial. I feel happy that I will be able to honor and pray for those who were lost on September 11, 2001, every single day. God Bless.
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