Manifest Destiny

Photo by  Thought Catalog

In the past few months a couple of my friends from disparate social groups on opposite sides of the country have made reference to the fact that I completely shape-shifted my life based on The Secret. Here in the ripe old year of 2018, that sounds ridiculous—but it’s true. Kind of.

Christmas 2006 found me in a funk. My fiancé had left for Antarctica a couple of months before, where he was due to stay for a year to do scientific research. The problem wasn’t that I missed him—it was that I had realized I didn’t. Meanwhile, I had recently started working for an independent publisher out of Boston. I didn’t like the company and I hated the books I was working on. Despite that, here I was spending my Christmas break 3,000 miles away from my family, essentially re-writing (as one of my current co-workers would call it) a “dumpster fire” of a manuscript. Having just come out of a position where I was working on New York Times bestsellers, it felt like I was moving in the wrong direction.

Life just felt bleak. Every morning was a struggle to get out of bed.

One afternoon during the holiday break, I took a breather from editing and watched Oprah. That episode featured the authors of The Secret. Hearing them talk about manifestation lit a spark in me; it made me feel inspired and invigorated in a way I hadn’t for a long time. As soon as the hour came to an end, I sprinted up to the Harvard Square Barnes & Noble and bought a copy of the book, which I then rushed home to read.

As I devoured the pages, I realized that I had somehow fallen into the trap of living a life that didn’t feel like mine. If I was going to consciously create a life of my choosing, it wouldn’t look like this. I set the book aside and realized I was taking the chicken’s way out and editing other people’s books rather than what I really wanted to be doing, which was writing my own. I promptly closed the manuscript document and opened a new one. I thought for a moment about what I could write about that really meant something to me. My fingers started flying over the keyboard and I felt myself sink into The Zone in a way I hadn’t in a very long time as I wrote about the experience of seeing my favorite band play live and why it was so meaningful to me.

That essay turned into a book proposal, which turned into a book.

But it didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to light my life on fire. I inelegantly quit my job, packed all of my things up into my Beetle, and moved across the country to my hometown where I could take a little breather to figure things out. While I was at it, I broke off my engagement and instead engaged in a fling with a recently-divorced ex who had been my Great Love and had gone on to be my (as my friend Denise put it) What If? Guy.

At first, I was giddy from all of the change. The Secret had worked! I talked about it to anyone who would listen, and handed out copies to my loved ones in what I’m sure was an annoying and overbearing way. The new/old flame used to joke that every time I found a good parking space I thought it was because I “Secreted it.” (He was right.)

After the buzz of all of this change wore off, things fell apart pretty quickly. I realized I was now back in my old hometown when I really wanted to be in Boston. The situation with the new/old flame went down in flames. And, in my scramble to make a living, I had landed myself in what seemed to be an even worse position than I was originally. I was miserable.

The thing that kept me going for several months was counting down to see my favorite band play at The Gorge in Washington state, followed by a three-night stand at The Greek in Berkley. A few days of music, adventure, and reprieve. Less than a week before The Gorge, one of the band’s founding members unexpectedly died due to the longer-term impact of an accident that had occurred a few months earlier. It sounds silly, but I was devastated. I cried as if I had lost someone I knew. To me, it felt like I did. He had played a big role in creating something I loved deeply. This band was my sanctuary and now even that felt as if it was being torn down.

I contemplated skipping the Gorge, worried that it would all feel too sad and broken. In the end, I drove up anyway, figuring I might as well be with my people. It was a simultaneously sorrowful yet magical three days. Most of all, it was powerful—one of the most powerful experiences I had ever been a part of, in fact. From there, I went on to the Berkeley swing, which happened to land on the recently-deceased band member’s birthday. It felt like a celebration of sorts—as if we were all walking out of the fire together. Eleven years later, I am still in regular contact with many of the people I met and bonded with at those shows.

There was something about those six days of music, shared experience, and connection that reminded me of who I was, what I believed in, and what was most important. It reminded me what it felt like to be inspired and alive and to feel purpose. I knew that I couldn’t return to the life I had been living for the past several months and pretend like it was the one I was meant to be living. So, I walked back through the doors at work and immediately quit my job. Within a few weeks’ time, I had packed up my Beetle, and, once again, drove across the country. Fittingly, as I drove down the street to get on the highway on my way out of my hometown and back to Boston, I looked over and found the no-longer-What-If?-Guy driving in the lane next to me.

I moved back to Boston. I went freelance. I pitched my book about the band, got a deal, and wrote it. That first book turned into a second book about my favorite band from childhood, which was an even more meaningful and magical experience. I figured out that it wasn’t love I was looking for—it was happiness. And that can come in many forms. This felt like the life I wanted. This felt like my life. It felt almost familiar, even as it was fledgling, if that makes any sense.

Looking back, I did manifest what was, in many ways, the life of my dreams. But I had to clear out a lot of muck before things “magically” fell into place. After the initial thrill of it all, I spent most of the time back in my hometown feeling stuck. What have I done? I wondered over and over again. I vividly recall going for a walk listening to John Mayer one day and thinking, This is it. This is how it’s always going to be. And, in the moment, I believed it.

But, in retrospect, I can clearly see how necessary that period was to go through to get where I was going. On paper, my life with my fiancé was a good one. It was comfortable and, on the surface, we were happy. To leave it required a clear break. Being in my hometown at that particular time ended up being critical, because it was during this period that I really understood my brother was not going to make it. Coming to this realization was an extremely difficult process, but I’m grateful for it, because I can only imagine how much more painful the loss would have been had I not anticipated it. And the reunion with the old flame, well, that was important too. Otherwise, I think I always would have wondered and compared. It was nice to have a trip down memory lane, and it also clarified for me that we had grown beyond who we were in our early twenties. Even though that turned out to be the case, it still doesn’t change for me who he was in my life or the role he played in helping me find and bring to life what are, to this day, some of my most favorite parts of myself. In fact, it was those parts of myself that largely sparked to life when I was with him that allowed me to “Secret” all of the things that came later.

I bring all of this this up because a client-turned-friend recently recommended the book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One to me. This is a book about quantum physics. However, it’s oddly familiar. In many ways, it is The Secret, only it is the scientific version of The Secret. It demonstrates how powerful our thoughts, emotions, and levels of gratitude are in creating the life we lead and in creating our future. It breaks down energy in scientific terms—the energy that comprises the universe and us—and how that ties into our version of reality.

I think the reason this book has been resonating with me on such a deep level is because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about input and output. For the past few years, I have been absorbing a lot of fear-based input into my brain and heart. That has adversely affected both my reality and my output. It makes life seem like a sludge. It makes me feel stuck. It makes me forget that I do have control over my life and my future. I have gotten stuck in a pattern of ruminating on negative things.

When I look back at the things that I have been able to draw into my life, the commonality becomes clear: they are things that I love deeply and without question. They get down into my soul. This applies equally to people, places, and even bands. They are things with which there is a certain innocence attached. The innocence of youth and purity, when your experience has not yet proven to you that belief isn’t always enough.

But, having said that, I think that in a lot of instances, belief is enough. If we can just let go of fear and hold on tight to possibility, at the end of the day, I do truly believe that anything is possible. I have proof of that in my own life, and I bet you do in yours, too. I’m grateful to have been reminded of that. And I’m doubly grateful that science can now prove it.