“May you live in interesting times.” It is said to be an ancient Chinese curse.
As I listen to the news today of Osama Bin Laden’s death, I can’t help but think that these are, in fact, interesting times. People gather in droves to celebrate a death. People hear news that they’ve been yearning for for almost a decade and immediately begin to question its veracity because they haven’t seen photographic evidence. And through it all, the knowledge that the events of the last 24 hours still won’t change the fact that we can’t bring more than 3 ounces of shampoo onto an airplane.
In the midst of a newsroom conversation about the burial rites afforded to bin Laden (a conversation that was filled with bizarre non-sequiturs) one of the reporters piped up, “What’s next? Whitey Bulger is found?” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, Whitey Bulger is wanted for racketeering, murder, extortion, money laundering, drug peddling, conspiracy to commit all of the above, and much more. He has been a topic of fascination in the greater Boston area for many years.
He was also a part of my own family mythology. When my father died 10 years ago, he had been working as a private investigator on the Whitey Bulger and Winter Hill Gang cases for a lot of years. When I was a kid, he would take me out to write down license plate numbers at what he thought might be one of their hideouts. It was our special father-daughter bonding time. I didn’t realize until many years later that this was actually quite odd. Thankfully he never told me what he did with the information we gathered.
During my father’s memorial service, several people came up to me and said, “Your father’s not really dead. He went under deep cover on the Bulger case.” I will never be able to hear the name Whitey Bulger without thinking of my dad, his memorial service, and the evenings we spent together tracking license plates. It may not be usual, but it sure was interesting.
This past weekend I attended a Toastmasters District Conference. I was reminded of the most important thing that I’ve learned as a Toastmaster. It has nothing to do with how to use more impactful gestures or better achieve vocal variety. It doesn’t even have anything to do with connecting with the audience.
What I learned at Toastmasters is that I’m an interesting person and I have interesting things to talk about. That was huge for me. I had spent so long hiding in the corner, certain that no one would want to hear what I had to say. I joined Toastmasters and suddenly people were asking me when I would be speaking next so they could mark their calendars to attend.
We do live in interesting times. The unfortunate converse of it is that, against that backdrop, so many of us think that we lead uninteresting lives. It’s not true. I can say this with absolute surety. At the beginning of every workshop that I facilitate people come in and say, “My life is boring, I won’t have anything to write about.” And then they share absolutely fascinating and moving pieces of writing about their lives.
I understand why ancient people might have thought that living in “interesting times” would have been a curse to be dreaded. But I’m not sure I would know another way to live…or that I’d even want to. I like the fact that there are interesting things going on in my life…and in my world.