Sometimes, you have to go where life takes you. What I mean is, follow the signs. Life has a way of unfolding in front of you, if you let it. Some people don’t believe in signs. Maybe those people have a plan for their life and the sign doesn’t fit in with that plan. Maybe they are afraid of what might be out there for them. I know I’ve felt both these things. I’ve probably missed out on tons of signs. But now that I’m aware that I can’t control every single little thing in my life, I’m looking at signs in a new way.
The seed was planted in December 2015 when I was managing a cafe (or trying to manage a cafe). My boss had given me many assignments. One was to make a sign for the cafe. She wanted it made out of ropelight. Of all the tasks I was given, this was the only one that really got my heart pumping. From purchasing the wood to painting it to drilling the holes to plugging it in and watching it light up, I knew this was something that made me feel good.
And that’s all it was. A good feeling. Something fun and creative and hands-on that got me out of my head.
I suppose the first sign that came to me wasn’t really a sign. It was more like one of the blockages was removed. In a very general sense, living in Topanga was my first sign. The thought to make them had crossed my mind every since December, but now that I was living in Topanga, I had so much space. It was one of the little excuses in my head as to why I “couldn’t possibly” make rope light signs in my spare time. And now I could.
Being newly single and crashing with friends at 31 years old really made me wonder what I was doing with my life. I had no desire to do the thing I thought I was meant to do. And that was write. Screenplays, more specifically. My weekly writers group started to feel more like a chore than a place of motivation and inspiration. I felt guilty every day for not writing. For not being “productive.” But I just didn’t want to. And I didn’t want to feel bad for not doing it. I felt like I didn’t even know myself after the break up. I felt like I should have seen the red flags that I completely ignored. I felt like I should have respected myself a lot more than I did. I felt like I had fallen for an act that lasted seven months. I felt stupid for allowing myself to fall in love with him so hard and so fast. But I couldn’t change anything (and I certainly don’t regret falling in love). All I could do was learn from it. All I needed was time, which every fucking person tells you. Like, yea, no shit. I know. That really doesn’t comfort me at all but thanks for trying. And everyone prefaces it, too, like, “Well, I know this won’t make you feel better, but…” Why even say it then? (I’m not mad, I say it to people, too.)
So anyway, a friend told me about this book, Big Magic. Then at writers group one day, one of the members was reading it, and we had a discussion about it. Then a number of different people brought it up to me, to the point that I was just like, OK, OK, I’ll read the book.
But I still didn’t. I wanted to read something. So I read a book I already had. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Wilke. This inspired me. I wanted to read another book that inspired me. I wanted to read Big Magic. While I was home for my Grandma’s funeral, one of my oldest friends whom I’ve always been able to confide in, made a point to hang out with me, even though I had little time outside of all the family stuff. RJ picked me up and brought me to his house – which I have never been to – to hang out with his baby – whom I’ve never met. When he dropped me back off at home, he gave me a gift card to Barnes & Noble. I don’t know why he decided to give me such a nice gift for no reason, but it made even more sense to waste no more time in purchasing Big Magic. (It even turned out to be exactly the same price as the gift card.)
I had already begun the path to make rope light signs when I started reading. So much resonated with me, especially since Gilbert is herself, a writer. But the chapter at the end, called “Paint Your Bicycle,” – that’s the one that really got me. She spoke of a man, Clive James; a writer and poet who had written successful plays, until he poured all of his money into this one play. It tanked, and he lost some friends in the process. He was depressed, and thought he would never write again. One day, his two little daughters came to him, asking him to make their old, shabby bikes look better. He dragged himself up and set out to do this thing his daughters asked. But instead of just painting them a new color, he went further. He painted intricate little stars on them. He completely transformed the bikes until they were the talk of the town. Soon after, one of the girl’s friends knocked on his door and asked him if he could paint stars on her bike, too. He gladly obliged, and realized, he was having so much fun with this. In no time at all, every kid in the neighborhood had little stars painted all over their bikes. He was inspired and motivated again and realized that failure has a function: “It asks you whether you really want to go on making things. To his surprise, James realized that the answer was yes. For the moment, all he wanted to make were beautiful stars on children’s bicycles. But as he did so, something was healing within him. Because when the last bike had been decorated, James at last had this thought: I will write about this one day. And in that moment, he was free.”
James’ bikes are my rope light signs. It doesn’t matter if I don’t sell them or make any money. The simple act of making them and attempting to start my own business is exciting and thrilling and most importantly, fun. I’m having fun. When deciding what my first rope light signs would say, I consulted with Rich and Tara. At first, I wanted to do “Believe” but after making it the trial one, I wanted to do a completely different word. I felt strongly about making a Harry Potter sign. I shared my passion with Rich and Tara.
You guys, do you understand how big Harry Potter is?? Fans want this. They’re going to buy it. Rich and Tara looked at me like I was a lunatic, and told me I should make a sign that says “Venice” because it will definitely sell. OK, that’s cool. I’ll do that. But I really want to make one that says “hogwarts” and “Azkaban.” Tara laughs. “Are you sure?” I don’t know, I just have a really good feeling about the Harry Potter signs. “Well if that’s how you feel about it, then do it.”
OK. Yes. I think I will.
Recently I decided to tweet my 100 Days of Lip Sync. I did this on Youtube over a year ago, but never tweeted it, so now I’ve been posting every day for 100 days and tagging Jimmy Fallon, of course, hoping as always that he will be so impressed by my dedication and lip syncing abilities that he will call me on my cell and invite me to be on his show.
Because I’ve been posting every day, I’ve been getting more followers. Not because everyone is so into my videos (I wish that were why). It’s really just because since I’m posting every day my Twitter handle pops up and people decide to follow. Just because. (I still don’t really understand Twitter.) I do happen to follow a lot of Twitter accounts that have to do with writing, so I get a lot of people who are affiliated with writing in some way, to follow me.
One day I get an email notification that someone has started to follow me. His Twitter name is @stick2thestory. I figure that, with a name like that, he’s affiliated with writing. When I open my email, it gives the little bio of his account. It’s usually only one or two sentences. This is what it says: “Creator of hand carved Wooden Staffs, Canes and Wands plus other magical items from the forests and beaches of Southern Ontario Canada. Custom made for you.”
I stop in my tracks as I’m leaving the gym. What??!!!? You’ve got to be kidding me. THIS IS A SIGN!
I rush home to tell Tara. She’s more amused by my reaction than convinced it’s a sign. No one I tell is nearly in as much disbelief as me. (Except my Mom. She gets a real kick out of it when I call her to tell her the “big” news.)
I message @stick2thestory that evening. “You make handmade wooden wands?? That’s so weird because I am in the early stages of starting my own Etsy page to sell handmade wooden signs with words written in rope light and my first sign is going to say hogwarts! How magical!”
I expect there to be a wonderful exchange between us. I’m sure this might even be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I mean seriously, who makes wooden wands and other magical things??
The next day I see I have a message from @stick2thestory. I eagerly open the message to see what he replied. His response:
I can’t help but laugh at myself. Well anyway, I think that it’s an incredible sign that I should be making these signs. It doesn’t matter if no one else does.