A few months ago a colleague and I attended one of our public Connecting with Respect workshops in Washington, DC. Overall, it was a very successful business trip. Before we packed up to head home we got to experience one of my true passions, fishing. Growing up, I was surrounded by the outdoors. Whether it be playing sports or visiting my family’s lake cabin on the weekends, fishing has become a true hobby of mine.
Although this was a reward for me, I could tell my colleague was out of her element. We had discussed the fishing trip before and despite my positive support, I knew this was the last place she would rather be. At the end of the trip, not only did we leave with a cooler full of fish, but I left with a high level of mutual respect for her. She stretched her comfort zones to try and enjoy something that I enjoy. From that moment, I vowed to return the favor sometime in the future.
The opportunity to step up to the plate came late last month as we both attended the Out & Equal Conference in Minneapolis. As we previously agreed, the last day of the conference we were going to visit a place that is very unfamiliar to me, an art museum.
In the days before, I could hear the excitement in my colleague’s voice as she spoke about the Walker Art Center. She carried the exact tone that I had months prior about fishing. In the time leading to our arrival, I found myself toiling with the idea of what I was about to experience. It has been many years since my last visit to an art museum, so I didn’t know what my initial reaction would be.
Walking into the entrance, I immediately could feel the creative energy surrounding me. The building’s architecture was amazing and as I asked my colleague what the circles of grass outside the building meant, she replied, “Whatever you interpret them to be.” This was a comment that I would hold with me through my whole museum experience.
After exploring the first few exhibits, I knew that I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I felt very anxious as we walked around, often not knowing what I was looking at. I repeatedly had to remind myself what my colleague had hinted at earlier. Instead of worrying about what the artist was thinking, it was only my own interpretation that mattered. The thought of taking someone’s idea and creating my own meaning became very empowering.
On our taxi ride back to the hotel, we discussed a few items that I struggled with during our visit. Then it dawned on me. Even though visiting an art museum and fishing are two different activities we both gained mutual respect for one another by putting ourselves in a vulnerable situation. In doing this, a stronger friendship was built.