Tracy Johnstone 12 February 2023

That Time in the Airport: Being Human Enough for Business

Blog image

The lady in front of me today seemed dazed, unsure of where she was and what she was supposed to do next.

For a split second I almost text my adult son this:

“If I am ever ambling around unsure of where I am, staring into space, frail, with no hope of direction, please keep me home”

I had those thoughts. Until. Until I realized just a few months ago that was me. Until I then realized some 28+ years ago that was also me.

You do the same thing. We are only human.

Or maybe not human enough.

Twenty eight years ago I rambled through the Ontario, California airport to a flight back home to Panama City, Florida. I had completed my third egg harvest in Pasadena, California. I was weary and worried.

It was the last call for me and my eggs.

I knew my body had done the thing, been through the process, visited the artificial aging of medically induced menopause for the last time, all in an effort to harvest the eggs that would become the embryo that would become the person. The baby that this semi-barren woman would call Thomas.

Mine was the narrative of a woman without a uterus who wanted to have a child, so I walked through the airport in the fog of hormones.

If you had seen me that day, you would have thought I was perfectly fine. I was well dressed, fit, and filled with purpose.

But my gait, posture, and countenance reflected a different state.

I was spent, too thin, frail, worn down, and scared. It was not only written all over my face, it was written on my soul. It was all in my head and it was completely not in my head. It was real.

The outcome of those thin, frail days was Thomas, now 28 years old. He is the baby that will forever be the baby. He is now part of the menfolk in my life – all four of them. I am grateful.

Only a few months ago I walked this path of fragility again – weakness, uncertainty,. This time, it was not for the sake of bringing life into this world. It was for the sake of saving my own life.

Breast cancer treatment bears down on you hard – really hard – and really fast. It was the same walk of disorientation, uncertainty, and confusion that I navigated the Houston airport many times. I needed far more help than I was willing to say.

The anxiety, weakness, and mental shakiness was not of my own doing. It was a byproduct of trying to live.

So today, when I watched the thin, blonde, blue-eyed woman about my age stare aimlessly into space in the Atlanta airport, I thought of those words I almost sent to Thomas. Then it hit me: Sister, you have been in those shoes.

I don’t know her story, much like others did not know mine. But I know this – she has a story and, for the love of our good Lord, I need to give her grace and support so she can take the next step in life.

I’ve hired and managed thousands of people in my entrepreneurial career. One of the hardest, but most meaningful, jobs I had was to pause a moment to understand why someone did (or didn’t do) what they did, said (or didn’t say) what they said. And then react.

All the MBAs in the world can’t, won’t, teach you to empathize first and then react.

I haven’t always succeeded in that, and I regret it. But when I have, I not only gained a better employee or colleague, I felt more human. And so did they.

Business doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, make us less human. When we do it right, we all profit in so much more than dollars.