I live and work ten blocks from New York City’s famed Union Square Green Market but somehow only visit a few times a year.
I could blame looming deadlines, unanswered email and the myriad of volunteer duties at my sons’ school (every year I vow not to sign up for any more committees and then break my pledge by the second week). But none of these excuses hold up when I consider the amount of time I spend each day on social media, news sites and blogs. Certainly I can find an hour a week to do something that is both personally enjoyable and supports the local farming community?
Last Wednesday provided me with the opportunity. I had a break between client meetings and instead of doing what I would normally do—check Facebook and Twitter and CNN and the NY Times or simply do the dishes from breakfast—I went to market.
The vegetables greeted me in all their fantastic shapes and irregular sizes, showing off like an array of supermodels; Gisele Bündchens and Kate Mossess and Miranda Kerrs in sweet potato and radish and pepper form.
A woman from a lavender stand was handing out bits of dried lavender and it filled the air with the scent of what I imagine Provence smells like. Right here in NYC a little piece of Southern France. I took a deep, deep breath.
Then I met the cutest little girl with black braids and big eyes who told me: “I just love vegetables. Aren’t those carrots beeeeeyouteeefull?” I told her I loved vegetables too.
“He doesn’t like vegetables,” she said pointing at her three-year old brother. Her mother, tall and regal, eyed me suspiciously as she paid for her lettuce and carrots and potatoes with food stamps and shuttled the children along.
In my vegetable reverie, I bought some apples, baby carrots, sweet potatoes, an carton full of brightly colored peppers for pickling, squash, kale and the most amazing green cauliflower. Then lettuce and ground turkey.
This trip reminded me of something essential—like most Americans I want to work to live, not live to work. What I love most about NYC is not to be found sitting in my office, or on social media or some news source, but in the crowds, the streets and the outdoor markets. I am fed creatively by going out and experiencing life—and this inspires the work I do for clients and leadership that I bring to my students.
As someone who has created and studied digital culture for almost twenty years, it goes without saying that I am a fan of social media and the interactive world. But when the balance is off, when I spend all day at the computer and not enough time outside, somehow I feel unconnected from what is essential.