Two weeks ago, I bought a fairly expensive ticket to see my favorite author and one of my biggest inspirations, Elizabeth Gilbert, speak about her newest book Big Magic. I assumed I wouldn’t find anyone to go with me, because who else would be so ecstatic to drive 100 miles for a motivational speech on Creativity? I knew it wasn’t rational to spend so much money on such an event that would last a maximum of two hours– especially when I am in an insecure job situation, especially when I am risking the possibility of getting lost in a city 100 miles away and four times the size of my own… basically, I was “risking my life” [for the selfish purpose of creative motivation] as my mother warned.
As the event date drew closer to reality, I hadn’t been thinking too much about it. It wasn’t until a couple days before that I realized it the event occurred on May 5, or Cinco de Mayo, aka 5/5– a possibly dangerous day in numerology due to the superstition that multiple 5’s indicate a huge life changing event. Perhaps I’d already talked myself out of it, which is why I wasn’t too worried. No one would go with me, I didn’t have anywhere to stay the night in an area that would likely be dense with drunk drivers, my little car might not have been completely reliable (even though my car-expert of an uncle told me it was just fine last week), etc, etc. I could have simply canceled or sold my tickets, regaining my money to be that much more wealthy once again.
These fears came just an inch close of directing the course of how I spent my Thursday, May 5th, 2016. These fears almost cornered me in my room that night, almost spending it safely and soundly in the comfort of my own home… as well as in the regretful distress of my mind. They almost had their way with me… but fortunately, I had more voices telling me, “You’ll be fine” with consoling smiles than the voice that told me, “This is the most dangerous thing you could even THINK of doing– why would you do it?! And in rush hour traffic!”
As I read a few more pages of Big Magic the afternoon of the event, my heart grew full of possibility and wonder. Fireworks were sparking. It was like Elizabeth Gilbert herself was smiling at me, saying, “You’ll be fine. Just do it! THIS is your life-changing event! This is BIG MAGIC!”
And so it was: my fear was outweighed by not only curiosity, but MAGIC. I was more driven by the very alive force of magic working amongst the Universe as I read those pages about overcoming fear.
I used my magical powers to divert traffic away from my car on the highway and into Denver city, creating a bubble of protection. There was fear, but I pushed it to the distance. When it came time to park in the parking garage, I had to circle around a few times in desperation before finally entering and finding a spot… and memorizing it. I have been known for getting lost in parking garages. Shaking as I walked downtown, I took some deep breaths of the polluted city air and tried to collect myself. What magic was possible here, Universe?
Well, as I was walking, I remembered it was one of my long-lost best friend’s birthday. I messaged her to wish her well and inquired about her plans. She had none! On this party girl’s 21st birthday, she had no plans! I almost didn’t even attempt to contact this friend since I never knew where she was living or how to contact her anymore, but she responded. She was living in a Denver suburb and gave me her address so I could stop by later to catch up… she only lived 9.3 miles away from downtown, according to my GPS. This was much safer than 97.3 miles… and how magical it would be to spend time with a best friend I hadn’t seen in a whole year!
Still, I had the entire hour to spare in downtown Denver before I needed to arrive at the theater. I meandered the sidewalks packed with a variety of people strolling down them, together. On the other side of the street, a music duo caught my ear. One was playing guitar and the other ukulele. I crossed the street to get a closer listen… they were playing folky Grateful Dead covers. The familiar-looking girl with red dreads took a break and talked to me. We instantly became friends when I told her I was also a singer-songwriter/ guitar player, and she went on further to explain her wanderlust journeys with her travel partner. Their van had broken down somewhere in New Mexico so they were planning on spending the summer in Manitou Springs.
“I was thinking about moving to Manitou Springs this fall because of a job opportunity!” I exclaimed. So we agreed to run into each other there. So now if I move to this foreign town, I will at least be acquainted with other musicians of exactly my style.
I found my way to the theater in plenty of time before Liz began, only to collect myself. I’d been hoping to make a connection with whomever sat next to me so I didn’t quite have to say I was “alone” at this event. 15 minutes later, my seat partner did arrive. I hung up a phone call and attempted to spark a conversation with her, hoping she would be somewhat responsive and not think I was a weirdo for my interest in meeting people. This woman also looked very familiar to me and I wondered if I’d crossed paths with her before. We did have a connection; speaking easily about traffic and parking garages and where we lived… but nothing too colorful. We talked until the speech began.
Throughout the entirety of Liz Gilbert’s speech, I was smiling to my cheekbones while tears rained down my cheeks, mostly for the reason that every word she spoke about creativity and synchronicity was so true to my soul. The very first thing she said was the largest reason I was there. It would have been enough had I gone for the sole purpose of hearing her say, Your life will become a work of art in itself if you lead a life driven more by curiosity than fear.
I almost regretted that I didn’t write my question down for the Q&A session afterward… but I had a feeling whatever questions I had would be answered through her speech. And of course, they were. She asked a question that made me think deeply in a couple of different areas:
What is it that excites you the most? What ignites you enough to bring you to life each day?
This made me question all of my creative endeavors I’m currently trying to pursue and make a living out of: (1) singing/ writing songs (2) writing stories/ essays (3) practicing reiki (4) making herbal remedies and (5) making vintage button jewelry. Which one brings me to life the most? This was probably the hardest question for me to answer. It seems that all of these passions coming together at once have been more destructive to me than igniting.
But then she said something else– that she wanted to fully meet people, everyone she encountered throughout her book tour, and ask them this question.
This concept is very parallel to an idea I once had about crossing paths with people persistently. I thought that perhaps I should actually meet these people and get to the bottom of WHY we happened to cross paths so often, and then write about these connections. But for what? Would the answer to meeting recurring people resolve the mysteries of the Universe? What would happen if they thought I was a stalker?
Well, she had an answer for that too. Because disaster really means ‘exploding star’. If your creative ambitions lead to a disaster, which is very possible, at least you participated in the way of the Universe: making something out of nothing. Besides, it’s not like I would be killing anybody by writing about them. Right? And if I didn’t write about these experiences, at least I would have satisfied my spell of curiosity. This applies to every single one of my creative aspirations listed above, but a thought came to me for a moment:
Is crossing paths with new people and making soul connections the thing that excites me the most?
Ridiculous. I don’t have time for that. Singing has always been the top of my list, so I really should go after that (after I resolve my sinus inflammation issue) . But is my favorite part of singing that act of singing… or meeting people afterward? I can think of plenty stories.
Little did I know that by the end of the most impactful speech to my personal life I came out to witness, my favorite author would be having us singing! Explaining that singing in groups (karaoke!) is her most important routine ritual, she asked us to sing a song no other than the one that has always been a form of unity in my Wyoming community: “Country Roads” by John Denver. The vibration of the theater raised a couple hundred kilohertz as the entire audience sang in unison to our hearts’ content. How could I ever have almost missed this magical occurrence of union and feeling at home in an unfamiliar city with my favorite author and my new friend, Jen?
My heart was sobbing with exuberance afterward. As I exited, walking with Jen, I decided to ask her an important question. “What is it that excites you the most?”
This question led to a conversation about the exhilaration of traveling alone, a mutual gluten sensitivity, and… of course, a mutual love for meeting new people. We stood on the corner of bustling 16th Street talking about our passions for awhile before we departed, and decided to keep in touch.
I am grateful to the big magic which paved my way to this event. To think that I almost missed forming some new friendships, having a spontaneous sleepover with a childhood friend, and singing “Country Roads” with my favorite author!
5/5 did turn out to be a completely life-changing date, as prophesied. I learned to accept my fears without allowing them to overcome me on my solo adventure, all the while doing the thing that excites me most: making connections.