A few years ago, I went into a gas station in my hometown to buy cigarettes. The cashier was a friend of mine and he knew about my inspirational writing and the kind of "out of the norm" life I live. Outside the gas station sat a girl, all knees and elbows, around 15 years of age.
My friend said to me, "Would you sit and talk with her a bit? She's getting disheartened about her life." So I said, "Sure," and I went outside to talk to this girl.
I sat on the bench across from her, outside this run-down gas station and as I looked across the table, I saw myself looking back at me. Large brown eyes that shone both hope and despair. Long brown hair, brushed but not styled. And I thought back to myself at her age.
Given all the years and experiences that separated the 15-year-old Bri and the 27-year-old Bri, what would I say to my past self, if I was given the opportunity? In the humid August evening, I spread out my long cotton skirt. I sat and talked to this girl who could have been me.
"This is the best advice I can think of to give you," I said. I took a long drag of my cigarette and exhaled it for dramatic emphasis. "I want you to go out into the world and fuck up."
This young girl's mouth dropped open. That was exactly the reaction I was looking for. I knew, at that moment, she was hearing me. I knew that I had just cut through all the walls that all 15-year-old girls put up between themselves and adults. With those two final little words, I had her.
"Let me explain," I said. "The best thing that can happen to you is for you to finish high school and go on to college. From there, I want you to go out and explore this world. I want you to talk to people that you think you have nothing in common with. Become friends with them. Go out and have adventures. Make mistakes. Make HUGE mistakes. Inconvenience everyone around you - friends, family, lovers. Because through your mistakes and your fuck-ups, you'll learn not only who you are, but who and what you really want to be."
I talked to this girl for almost two hours. I told her stories of my life. I listened to stories of hers. In the end, she went her way and I went mine. I haven't seen her, again.
But my advice stands. And it's the best advice I can give to anyone, really. Everything transformative that I've ever experienced and every great story that I recount at dinner parties? They often started out as really bad decisions.
"Hey! I'm going to hop into a car with 6 people I barely know and go camping 1,900 miles away. There'll be about 30,000 other people around in a state park - none of which have showered in 2 weeks. There won't be any toilets or cell phone reception, but I'm gonna come back with a puppy!"
"Hey! I'm going to go and dress up in Medieval garb. At 11:00 pm, somewhere in Pennsylvania with myself dressed like a hippy and my friend dressed like a Catholic priest, we're going to go get carryout beer from the only bar we can find. It happens to be a biker bar and the guy who's staying with the car? He'll be crocheting a scarf in the back seat!"
"Hey! I'm going to strap myself to a guy I don't know and jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 feet with nothing between myself and death but a thin sheet of nylon!"
See? Bad decisions.
But each and every one not only turned out for the best, but gave me an experience and memories I'll carry, forever. Essentially, each horrible decision and each fuck-up, they made me who I am, today. I am grateful for each and every time I made a mistake, each time that I stepped outside my comfort zone and each time that I said, "Well . . . why not?" Each time, adventure happened. And each time, I learned a little bit more about who I was, as a person.
During our daily routine, we get stuck. We begin to think that who we are during our routine life is who we really are, at our core. This is almost never the case.
Camping with 30,000 other people, I learned that I am not alone in my strangeness and that there are many different ways of existing in the world. Walking into a biker bar dressed in crazy costumes? I learned that I can be adaptive in awkward situations. Jumping out of a plane? I learned that I am strong, confidant, brave and that I can FLY!
And that's the truth. So I urge you all to take risks and make some bad decisions. I encourage you to fuck-up and fail and flounder and be confused. Stretch and do something you've never done before.
My comfort zone expanding as of late? I auditioned for a movie (which I didn't get), and I'm competing in a landscape art competition this weekend. I've never done A) an art competition or B) landscape painting, so I'm really psyched to be pushing my art envelope in this new way.
What are you doing to push your comfort zone? What do you find when you're outside of it? Let me know. I'd love to hear your stories!
Until next time, remember that every single one of us are visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.
Love to All,
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