Last week, while browsing in Barnes and Noble with Jack, I got a phone call from my dentist. I assumed it was the office confirming my cleaning appointment for this Wednesday. But no, it was my dentist, inviting me to lunch. Actually, she invited me to Lunch. A lunch cooked by chefs from Tabla, the Danny Meyer restaurant her son works at. He'd be the sommelier for the event. She was inviting 9 women she found inspirational, creative, interesting. I was honored to be part of her list and said of course I would come.
She emailed me the next day with specifics, asking for a short bio.
I was sorry I said yes. I'm not feeling very inspirational lately. I haven't been creative in months, not the way I usually am. I couldn't imagine what I'd have to contribute to a gathering about mentoring and staying connected and vital as we get older.
I wavered. I didn't want to go but, in the end, I threw on slightly dressier clothes than I usually wear and headed to her apartment downtown.
Turns out it wasn't a Lunch. It was a LUNCH. 5 courses, each inspired by a famous woman from history. Eve, Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Bette Davis. Each course was paired with at least 2 wines, sometimes 3. Three chefs spent days preparing. There were flambees, reductions, chutneys and sauces, foods and flavors I'd never experienced before. I'm not a foodie. I'm not a wine expert. I often felt like I was on Iron Chef America, throwing out words like "sublime" and "delectable" and my favorite of the day "extraordinary."
We spent 6 hours at different tables, talking and toasting, drinking and thinking.
By the end, I was thrilled to have gone. But it took me a long time to feel like I should have been there.
Until the end of the second course I was trying to figure out how to leave. Each of these other women had a career. Degrees. Fields of expertise. Worked in the corporate world. As they touched on literature, politics, film, education, mentoring, each had a wealth of experience and knowledge. They talked about how important it was to have women who inspired them and women they nurtured.
I've never had that.
I've been doing this, by myself, for as long as I can remember. And I feel funny even using the word career to describe myself—my path has been circuitous, murky, changeable. There's been no roadmap, no guideposts, no road to follow. I don't have any benchmarks, any awards I can win, any achievements that would acknowledge what I've done.
I felt like an imposter, wondering how long it would be until they all realized my invitation was a mistake.
Man, internally I was an insecure mess. But, as we settled in it turns out I had plenty to contribute. Just because my experiences aren't conventional, it doesn't make them less valid. And perhaps, important even. People sought me out to talk to, marveling at how I've accomplished all I have.
I have trouble acknowledging all I've done. Feeling like it's been important. That what I do and put out into the world means anything.
The purpose of this get together was exploring ways to make a difference, to inspire, to be relevant.
They did just that for me.