I love listening to people talk, or at least I love listening to people speak about topics that interest me. So, when I read one of the recent press releases from the Door Community Auditorium, I was happy to discover an English/American Studies professor was coming to speak at their St. Norbert Distinguished Lecture Series.
Dr. Deirdre Egan-Ryan presented “Are We There Yet? Travel and the American Imagination” this past Saturday, Feb. 15. Egan-Ryan used poetry, a novel, a diary and a particularly interesting advertisement to illustrate how “we as Americans are defined by the travel we do.”
She began with the poems “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes to show differing notions of travel. It’s not just thinking about travel in the narrow sense of traveling on vacation, she spoke about forced travel with immigration and the slave trade and how travel could either produce feelings of possibility, hope, opportunity, or it could produce feelings of fear and anxiety.
She wrapped up the lecture with a contemporary poem, “Broadway” by Mark Doty, and concluded, “travel connects us with the self and others…connects us in ways that are often lyrical and profound.”
I left the lecture simultaneously relaxed and stimulated – the perfect frame of mind to think about things, to remember.
And I remembered something that happened on one of my travels:
I remember sitting on the plane, flying over to London from Chicago. It was 2008 and I just graduated from college.
It was a pretty empty flight. I was in a row by myself and I was scared and anxious (I was going to work in England for six months without any idea where to find a job and with little money in my pocket). I looked across the aisle and noticed an Indian girl about my age and she was crying.
Upon seeing her, I started to cry too. I pride myself on not being a crier, but everything I felt came out. As cheesy as it sounds, I realized I was not alone. Granted, we were not crying for the same reason, but I realized – I’m not alone in my emotions. I find comfort in knowing that whatever emotion I feel, someone else has felt the same way. Fear, anxiety, joy, hope – I am not alone in my emotions. Knowing I’m not unique is my comfort.
Bringing it back to Egan-Ryan’s lecture, this is what I thought about after she said, “Travel connects us with the self and others…connects us in ways that are often lyrical and profound.”
The final lecture of the series is scheduled for Feb. 22 – this Saturday – at 9 am. Guest lecturer Dr. Jamie O’Brien will present “Does National Culture Matter in Management?”. For more information visit dcauditorium.org and search for the St. Norbert Distinguished Lecture Series.