Unexpected Escapes

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Unexpected Escapes

There was a fire in my dorm just before Christmas of my freshman year at college. Far from my own room, but serious enough to cause a middle-of-the-night evacuation with most of us in our pjs and bare feet. After that incident my mom bought me a fire safety ladder to keep in my room, should I ever need to escape from another fire. That safety ladder traveled with us as we moved from the dorm room and into an apartment off campus. And it turned out to be actually very useful as an escape mechanism, once.

Only the kind of escape it was providing was not from a fire but rather from a simple dare that one couldn’t use the ladder to get down from the second floor balcony of our apartment. (For the record, one can.)


When my husband and I lived in New York we also had a fire escape ladder should we need a fast exit from one of our many tiny apartments. That escape ladder traveled with us as we moved to Indiana and has spent the last three years shoved in a closet, completely unappreciated.

Until this past weekend, when my husband and children discovered the ladder with great delight, and immediately put it to use in climbing into—and then escaping from—an oak tree in our backyard.

So we buy an escape ladder with the intention of protecting ourselves from a hypothetical fire, not realizing that the value of the ladder extends far beyond that. I mean, seriously you’ve got to get yourselves one of these, people!

So, what other proverbial “escape ladders” do I have shoved away in a closet for some hypothetical future event? I think it’s time to take them out, dust them off, and see what kind of benefit they might have for me right now. I can think of literal things, like the china that stays in the cabinet for special events that never seem to materialize. And I can also think of figurative things, like the conversation I’ve been “saving up” to have with my co-worker when the timing is just exactly right. It's he pearls I don’t wear with just jeans and a t-shirt.  Or the journal that’s too nice to actually write in, because what I have to say is clearly not “worthy.”  It’s nice to occasionally remember that the hypothetical future event might actually be holding you back from some very real now.

What “unexpected escapes” might you have right in front of you? 


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.