The Hug

the hugThere was a time last year — just prior to TEDxBoulder, actually — where I was on the road for 22 days straight. I had 72 hours in my own bed and was then off again for 4 days in New York City.

This month isn’t much different.

No matter how much you like George Clooney, the “Up in the Air” lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When you’re always in the air, the living side of life is pretty hard to fit in. I eat like shit, I don’t work out, my sleep is jacked, and all I can do is stare at my suitcase with disdain. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu and your little spinner wheels.

Yesterday evening, I was on a plane back from a great 36 hours in Oklahoma City. I got to see my sister and niece, the man who makes both of them laugh, and met a ton of amazing folks at the event I spoke at for the OKC American Marketing Association. I even found a darling little shop down the way from the venue called Urbane. They carry these fabulous little cards. Rest assured, I will be handing them out as the need arises.

When I was finally wheels on the ground in Denver, all I could think was that I would be back at the airport in less than 12 hours for my next flight. I may or may not be writing this post from one of Southwest’s snazzy laptop stations in Terminal C. But I digress.

I just wanted to go home.

So I fell into the routine.

Grab the roller bag out of the overhead bin.

Deal with the metric asswipe in the row behind me who wants to muscle past me to disembark.

Thank the flight attendants (always).

Inadvertently avoid eye contact with anyone in the terminal, on the moving sidewalk, and on the terminal train back to baggage claim.

Pour out the train doors and queue up to feed up an escalator like grain going into life’s transportation silo.

Home. I was going home.

And then I saw her. And him.

They were locked to one another in the most amazing hug, nearly entangled in the woven partition that keeps guest away from travelers exiting the escalator. And it wasn’t that hug. You know – the cursory one we’ve all given or received where we can’t wait for it to be over.

It was a hug that, had they been asked, I’d bet they’d say they never wanted it to end.

Maybe it was father and daughter. Two friends. They certainly weren’t lovers, but it was inarguably love.

And I forgot about going home. I tried not to stare. I got a bit misty and moved my ass out of their sight before they sensed someone staring at their unabashed, inclusive yet exclusive, seemingly never-ending embrace.

Because who stares at stuff like that? I guess the answer is me.


Every one of you interacts with me digitally. Through keywords big and small, words short and lengthy. But it’s rare I get to stand in front of people and see a life changed, and right before my eyes.

And this — this is why the “up in the air” routine bothers me less than it probably should.

For all of the sleep lost, puppycats missed, neatly-made beds slept in, TSA feel-ups (Every. fucking. time. I’m beginning to feel profiled.), and plane boarding and disembarking shenanigans…

I feel the most when I’m within arm’s distance of people.

That’s when I feel the best.

And wouldn’t life be better if we all picked up our gazes and looked for those we could connect with instead of retreating to these digital caves that seem to power our day-to-day?

Because that’s how we create the stuff in life worth staring at.

Last night, I realized in an even greater way why it is I do what I do.

To help others become a better version of themselves — that’s why I do what I do.

The speaking. One-on-one sessions. Teaching. Writing. They’re all the ways I connect with people outside of my little digital cave. And while you might love something I write and it has an impact on you, that’s not where my life gets better.

I become that next better version of myself when you reach out and hug me. With your words. Your stories. How anything I have to say relates to your life and changed the way your thought, loved, shared, or did business.

I become my best when you wrap your arms around me.

So, yeah — I’m back at the airport, ready to board another plane. And while I’ll never know the story behind two random strangers entangled in the hug of a lifetime, I’m heading up in the air to head to a place where people await to help me become that next better version of myself.

Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have one of them say I helped him do the same thing.

It’a amazing what happens, isn’t it, when you pull your head out of your ass for even a moment? You can realize the journey that drains you is the one that really feeds you.

Happy “Fuck Yeah, Friday”.


23 replies
  1. Shoegal1328
    Shoegal1328 says:

    This is the anniversary of my dad’s death and feeling a bit blue but then I read your blog and it made me feel warm and fuzzy:)
    If I were there when you got off plane I would give you a huge bear hug!!! Miss you xox

  2. StacieWoodside
    StacieWoodside says:

    fuck yeah!  I seriously want to high five you right now (i’m weird with hugs, but I totally get it and i loved this!) have a great weekend

  3. KillianMIck
    KillianMIck says:

    This.  This is why I taught middle school kids. (Yes, I chose that age.)  This is why I became a certified doula.  This is why I make intricate quilts and give them away.  This is why I bake for coworkers’ on their birthdays when their families don’t.
    Thank you.

  4. uemike
    uemike says:

    “It’a amazing what happens, isn’t it, when you pull your head out of your ass for even a moment?”
    This is a great line and I will be stealing it regularly.  The royalty checks are in the mail 🙂

  5. LolaSpeaking
    LolaSpeaking says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for writing this. I was just dropping my car off for detailing this morning and the woman who took my keys said to me “You look really familiar…where do I know you from?” And after a few minutes of trying to figure it out, I said to her…”It’s possible you’ve seen me on tv or in the paper, and I don’t mean to sound obnoxious, but I did a hugging project for a year, and it was all over the news etc.” She then smiled and asked me to tell her about it. “I hugged one new person every single day for 365 days in an effort to connect personally given the digital world we live in.” She smiled so big, I thought her face might actually hurt. I didn’t get a chance to hug her but I think I will when I go and pick up my car. I love all your posts, but I think this one is my absolute favorite. ever. xo

      • LolaSpeaking
        LolaSpeaking says:

        iSalesGirl LolaSpeaking Thank you! Yes. it sure was. And still continues to be as I am forever the hugger girl.

  6. jaredewy
    jaredewy says:

    I get all inside my head–a place you’d think would be friendly since it is, after all, me–and just when I’m about to weep I walk outside and say “hi” to somebody. And they light up because “WTF?” someone just made human contact. And they smile and I smile and we’ve cracked something shell-like short…it’s just weird how effective that is. Nice post.

  7. ExtremelyAvg
    ExtremelyAvg says:

    I think you are being profiled. I have a friend who, when she tried online dating, got 5,000 “winks” or whatever, within the first week. She ain’t bad looking.
    She flies for business and ALWAYS gets felt up, too.
    On one particular flight, she stood in line behind a nice gentleman wearing the Sikh turbin. They talked during their thirty minutes of standing in queue and when it came time to cross paths with the TSA, sure enough, she was pulled aside and groped. He was not.
    Afterwards he bought her some coffee as they waited for their respective flights. He just shook his head and said, “It doesn’t fill me with confidence that they pulled you out of the line and not me.” He went on to say that while he wasn’t a terrorist, he had never been singled out, though he looked the part. He also said he would rather that he get searched than people like her, because well…you get the idea.
    Anyway…Hug. I hope you enjoy your weekend, where ever it might be.

  8. NurseWorkz
    NurseWorkz says:

    Happy “Fuck Yeah” Friday to you too, Erika, and thanks, as always, for helping me get my head on straight (or not)…I appreciate the version of yourself that you ARE. Kelli

  9. writerdiehl
    writerdiehl says:

    A couple of weekends ago, three of my four sons were over, along with my tiny Lovebugs ages 7, 5, 4, and 10months. Little Anna (4) was about to say goodbye to her Uncle Colin. Anna is petite and Colin is 6’1″ — he asked for a hug and kiss goodbye,she stared (way) up at him, and he scooped her up, hugged her and set her back down. “You better get used to hugs,” he said, “because we’re a hugging family!” And we are. We hug hello and hug goodbye. Sometimes we hug two to three times, if the goodbye gets chatty. Sometimes we hug during a get-together, just for no other reason than we love each other and are happy to be in each other’s company. I love that my boys give each other big hugs still.

    This summer, my son who lives in Montana is coming back home east for a wedding and we haven’t seen him in three years (I hate that it’s been that long!). We will be giving each other the kind of hug you saw at the airport, Erica. A huge, long, enveloping hug that is full of love and joy. One of the things I love about airports is watching people arrive and seeing the hugs and greetings. It tells me there’s a lot of love in this world.
    One of the best ending scenes ever is in the movie “Love Actually” — a montage builds of real people greeting their loved ones in an airport. So if you’re ever at the Rochester, NY airport, Erica – let me know and I’ll come and give you a hug, too.

  10. Theresa Ortega
    Theresa Ortega says:

    Great post, Erika!
    “And wouldn’t life be better if we all picked up our gazes and looked for
    those we could connect with instead of retreating to these digital
    caves that seem to power our day-to-day?” IT SURE WOULD! It reminded me of a chat I had with a class of high school seniors on Tuesday, and the teacher remarked about my visit, “Ortega went on to tell students that they need
    to stay connected to the world through words and people, not just through their
    technology.” I hope they listen!
    Thanks for being who you are and making a difference.

  11. B2design
    B2design says:

    You totally rocked OKC yesterday, Erika. Thank you so much for joining us. I had no less than 5 people email today about how you inspired them to find their F-bombs. If that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is. See you in Boston in October…

  12. iSalesGirl
    iSalesGirl says:

    “You realize the journey that drains you is the one that really feeds you.” Somehow, you hit it right on the head for me every time. Thank you! I can never thank you enough!

  13. bdorman264
    bdorman264 says:

    To help others become a better version of themselves — that’s why I do what I do….in a round about way that is my premise as well; that’s what makes every day an adventure. 
    I’m ok to do mine without all that traveling however, but I suppose you have to strike while the irons hot as they say, right?

  14. wemarriage
    wemarriage says:

    I hear the word “authentic” bandied about often. I don’ read anything this real and self exposing anywhere else. I would’ve at one point used that word but it is now meaningless. So here’s to the one clear cutting to new new action.

  15. PattieLo
    PattieLo says:

    I love the way you tap into the everyday moments and monumental ideas of life. I can’t wait to see what you’ve written whenever I see that Redhead in my inbox! I have been silently appreciating and this post moved me to be more human. Thanks for all you put into these inspiring posts!


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