Free in NYC – Leadership is a Choice #31

Jessica Soroky continues her series Leadership is a Choice.

NYCGH_P220 Empire State Building

I have fallen in love and found a part of me that had been begging to get out.

I love New York City. New York not only inspires me, but just the thought of it inspires a physical reaction in my body. My lips can’t help but curl into a smile, my brain can’t help but dance, and my stomach can’t help but feel like a cage full of butterflies.

As a child I could only dream of the images I saw on TV and in movies, a vast concrete jungle that never slept seemed so full of hope and endless possibility.

The sounds of this city captivate me, from the horns and sirens to the birds, chirping as they fly between buildings. The people around me are full of culture. They represent so many parts of the world and all within just a few feet of sidewalk. For the first time the phrase, “melting pot” has real meaning to me.

I go below the streets and the sounds begin to lessen; everyone is waiting silently for the train, each in their own world. I hear singing and turn to see a man walking down the stairs, just singing. No one was with him and he had no headphones to sing along to. This man, who may have seemed strange or different to some, inspired me. Here stood a perfect stranger, completely alone, embracing the moment as an opportunity to do exactly what he wanted to do – he was free.

We are such beautifully complex beings, yet our complexity doesn’t stop us from rapidly conforming. We conform in the way we dress and in the way we talk. We conform to unspoken social rules, the expected etiquette. When everyone else on the subway platform is quiet we conform and become quiet as well.

Not this man; he refused to go quiet. When he wanted to sing, he sang.

A few weeks before seeing this wonderfully free soul below the streets of New York I was in Indianapolis contemplating my own conformity. It was early in the morning and the temperature was much lower than I had packed for. My bare legs and I feared the walk to work. I sat staring longingly at the pair of huge lazy-day sweatpants I had brought with me for after work.

Could I just wear these over my dress for the walk and then take them off before anyone sees me?

I spent about 5 minutes weighing which I cared more about: freezing while I walked to work or the fear that one of the company’s executives would see me in sweats and wonder if I had lost my mind

I finally chose I hated being cold more than I feared being judged. I put the sweats over my dress, put my tennis shoes on, and walked out of the hotel. It wasn’t only a warm walk, it was a free walk.

The office lobby was empty, I could’ve stopped in the bathroom and taken off my sweats, but I chose to keep walking. The elevator was empty as well and it quickly climbed the 27 stories. As the doors opened I was faced with my fear – there stood the VP I was working for and a program manager.

I watched them look me up and down before I smiled as big as I could and said, “Good morning, sure is cold out there today.” They smiled back and guess what?? I didn’t lose my job! The world kept spinning.

Being free wasn’t as scary as I thought.

Back in New York, back in my room, (and just a block from the center of lights and people that is Times Square) I was able to unleash the inspiration that free-singing-man had triggered.

So what is it I love about this city? It isn’t the gorgeous architecture, sleepless buzz, melting pot of people, or endless possibilities. I love the number of people just like the free-singing-man that fill the city’s heart, reminding me how easy it is to be free.


Photos: NYC 1st, NYC 2nd


Jessica Soroky, CSM

IMG_3285Jessica is a Certified Scrum Master with over three years of practice in agile delivery and seven years of team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of nonprofit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.



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Posted in Responsibility on 11/23/2015 01:00 am
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