Matt Knutson: Get out of your comfort zone once in a while

Published 9:36 am Friday, September 23, 2016

Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.

“When I woke up this morning, I did not anticipate my day would end with wearing a baby to a fashion show,” I told my wife. In what would turn out to be one of those days that just won’t end, I found myself wearing my daughter and surrounded by models ready to walk the runway late last week.

The morning started out an one of those ungodly hours where Gracelyn normally likes to wake us up to be fed in the middle of the night. Our pediatrician has suggested these should be going away now that we are packing her full of food before she goes to sleep, but that hasn’t been the case so far. Instead of returning to bed however, it was time to get to work for one of our biggest events of the year. With a lot of effort and help from others, the early morning event was incredibly successful and the rest of the day was spent focusing on previously neglected work.

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My wife and I both work for nonprofit organizations, and this time of year is awkwardly the busiest season for both of us. For United Way, where I work, it marks the beginning of our fundraising season, where we raise a significant amount of money to improve lives and create lasting change in the community. For my wife, who works as the communications director at the largest ELCA church in southeast Minnesota, it means the return of summer vacationers and youth programming. The church parking lot is once again filled to the brim and the workload has reached its peak.

I share this not to earn your pity, but to note that my very early morning and Sera’s late night at work coincided in an unexpected way that day. Before Gracelyn, this kind of flexibility was a part of our routine and rarely even felt like an inconvenience. Now, it’s a necessary part of life that requires thorough planning and quick thinking as change requires us to adapt on our feet.

Waking up that morning, I knew my day would end at our city’s premier fashion show, as I had previously worked with the organizers to promote a winter outerwear collection that my organization was hosting. I thought it was a brilliant collaboration, pairing a fashion show with a winter outerwear drive, and I’m still rather pleased that the idea came together so well. However, rain moved the fashion show indoors and I quickly realized that my sole task of retrieving the winter coats at the conclusion of the event would prove far trickier.

See, if an event goes as planned, there’s always people hanging around to help out, and I had assumed that would be the case as the fashion show. The rain set forth a series of events that meant I no longer had easy access to my vehicle at the event and the volunteers I had hoped to nab for two minutes to load the collection bin into my car would likely be busy trying to salvage the event from the storm. Gracelyn was tagging along with me because Sera was at work, and I couldn’t use the stroller without Gracelyn getting soaked in the storm. So I wore her — to the fashion show.

You don’t see many dads wearing babies in the first place, and you don’t see many babies at fashion shows, but it was the only way my hands would be free to grab the collection bin and get out as fast as I could. As I quickly maneuvered through the hallways of people to get to where I assumed the show would be, I realized too late that these hallways weren’t filled with disgruntled attendees. These were models in designer clothes waiting to be called forward for their walk on the runway. I had brushed past them and literally walked into the makeshift runway for the show to debut my baby-wearing ensemble as perhaps the most functional style of the season.

Every day we wake up in the morning, sometimes far too early, and have a plan for what we expect that day will bring. Maybe it’s waiting for the bus and spending several hours at school learning the fundamentals of reading. Maybe it’s going to work and sitting through a seemingly endless meeting on how to use a new database. Maybe it’s enjoying coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. There’s some comfort that comes in the routine, the expected parts of life. They may not always be the most exciting, but most of us love that routine. I am one of those people. However, I’ve learned over the years that those days where the routine is flipped, when the incredibly unexpected happens and you’re suddenly just along for the ride — those are the days where the memories are made. It’s good being thrown out of your comfort zone every once in awhile, even if it means wearing a baby to a fashion show.