My friends have been asking how I got to the New York celebration of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk. Well, here’s what happened….
Early last week, I saw an announcement on the Red Table Talk Facebook page about a celebration in NY to kick off the show’s next season. I LOVE RTT, so this was intriguing. The announcement indicated that guests would have an opportunity to meet Jada and her lovely Mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, affectionately known as “Gam”. If you haven’t seen the show, I strongly urge you to take a look (I even take notes.). Anyway, all I had to do was post ‘RSVP’ in the comments and I might have a chance. I decided to give it a shot with ‘RSVP. Would love to attend.’ and went on with my day.
Come Wednesday morning, I received a Facebook message thanking me for my interest and requesting that I RSVP with an email address for myself and any guest(s) I wanted to bring. Hmmm…I quickly called a dear friend and sorority sister whom I thought might be game IF this thing worked out. She said, “Sure!”. I continued that day with a speaking engagement. And later began excitedly preparing for an upcoming road trip to attend my college homecoming celebration. It would be my third trip in as many weeks, but there was no way I was going to miss it. Next thing I knew, I received an email indicating that I was now on the waitlist for the RTT event (Seriously, Red Table Talk team, stop teasing me!). I should mention that all of their correspondence included the caveat that there was no guarantee I would get in as admission would be “strictly first-come, first- served”. Not very promising, right?? Well, I headed out to my alma mater on Friday afternoon. I didn’t think too much more about the event because, really, how likely was it that I’d get in? Anyway, IF I were selected to attend the celebration, I’d have to hit the road AGAIN the very next day after returning from this trip….aaaarrrgh! Fast-forward through a fun-filled reunion with friends on Friday night and all day Saturday and I came back to my hotel room and discovered an email from my willing partner in this boondoggle saying, “We’re going!!!” I responded with, “Going where??” She wrote “We’re going to Red Table Talk. Didn’t you get the email?” I checked and, sure enough, it was there. We briefly discussed potential itineraries and I got off the phone and headed to another event. Even on Sunday, as I described the situation to my college friends, I wasn’t so sure about this as I kept remembering “first come-first served”. What if we took the train up to New York only to be shut out because folks had been camping out on the sidewalk for three days?? Ultimately, I reasoned it would be worth the trip because I would be with my sister-friend whom I hardly ever get to hang with…#winning! I got home Sunday evening and, yep, headed out to New York on an early train Monday morning. The event wasn’t until 5 PM, but we decided to go scope out the venue, so we could easily find our way back there later. We got some strange looks, showing up so early and all, but ‘Anthony’ one of the staffers assured us that if we showed up at 4:30, we would certainly get in. We were skeptical, but walked away in search of lunch. Along the way, we came upon Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) – an interesting moment for me. I was accepted there for college more than 30 years ago, but had never even seen the place because I got cold feet at the last minute. After lunch and a little exploring, we made our way back to the venue and there was a line, but Anthony was right — we were most definitely getting in. Once inside, we snapped a few pics and noshed on some tasty fare as we waited for the event to start. There was an aura of optimism and sisterhood among the women. The waiting area was abuzz with conversation – twenty-somethings debating whether women truly can “have it all”, an entrepreneur touting the benefits of her natural skin care line, others discussing the pros and cons of living up North vs. down South, and so on. We made our way in to the main event and, shortly after that, Jada and Ms. Adrienne appeared. They were literally aglow – light surely emanated from their attire, along with the air of warmth and authenticity they brought into the room. We were invited to sit at red table stations and hold our own talks on selected topics. Those who awaited their turn at the table were encouraged to go up and meet Jada and Ms. Adrienne. They made time to connect with every women there offering hugs and gratitude for our support. I asked Ms. Adrienne if I could call her ‘Gam’ and she said I certainly could. Finally, my sister-friend and I got our turn at the table. I tried to resist sitting down at the ‘Motherhood and Parenting’ table, but that’s where I ended up. I sat back and listened for a bit and the ladies shared inspiring testimonies. Our moderator was Vanessa Ray, a delightful actor on the show, “Blue Bloods”. She talked about trying to figure out the right time to start her family. Most of us had older children, while there was one young woman who had a 2 year old. We offered a lot of Mommy wisdom and she eagerly soaked it up though, honestly, we learned a bit from her, too. Soon, it was time to leave, but we wouldn’t leave, much to the staff’s chagrin. Everyone was busily chatting and taking pictures around the space, not wanting the evening to end. Finally, we headed out into the night toward the train station. A divine, full moon shone bright as we made our way through clusters of folks on the sidewalk trying to capture its magnificence on their smartphones. On this journey, I learned:
- If you want to see something new, you’ve got to do something new. Even a year ago, there would have been so many reasons why I wouldn’t have made this trip even after being selected: short notice, too many things to do at home, fatigue, etc. I’m glad I did something new, this time.
- When you make choices, trust yourself and wring what you can out of the situation. Even today, I know the girl I was 30 years ago was not ready to be on her own, attending college while navigating New York City. Seeing FIT up close, though, made me ponder how dramatically the trajectory of my life was likely changed with that decision. I was also struck by how much I have changed since that time. The truth is I’ve made a lot of wild bets since then and they’ve mostly paid off, including making a different college choice. I soaked up knowledge imparted by a nurturing community of faculty who expected greatness and I connected with students who are like brothers and sisters to me today. Ultimately, the experience provided a springboard from which I could pursue a graduate degree at one of the top business schools in the country. No looking back.
- You gotta play to win. The odds were slim that I would get to attend this celebration, but slim was good enough. Sometimes, you have to go for it and you just might come out on the other side with something magnificent.
(More pics in the Photo Gallery – On the Go with The Parenting 411.)