What’s the Worst Thing that Could Happen?

I was always the “new kid” in school. My family moved more than 10 times before I graduated from high school.  We weren’t a military family, running from the law or in the witness protection program. My Dad was moving up the corporate ladder, our family was growing and it just set up a series of moves.

Being the perpetual “new kid” forced me to take risks every time we moved, forming new friendships, adjusting to new schools, dealing with the inconsistencies in the curriculum from school to school, and learning

gail and wagon
Me, taking a stand in the new neighborhood.

new neighborhoods and the local culture.

In my early years, I was not the one who was initiating “change” or deciding to take a risk – my parents were. Nevertheless it made me the person I am.  As a child I was learning that it was OK to take chances and in fact, it was a good thing. But I also knew that we were not a “normal” family and at times I longed for a life that was less transient and more like the families I saw on TV.

I look back at my upbringing and Roller skaters jump over teammates, Tokyo, JapanI believe that the greatest gift my parents gave me was to teach me that it was OK to take chances.
And in fact when I was afraid to take a risk, I remember my Dad asking me “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” To be honest, I never really thought of anything that was all that bad.
So, is it any wonder that someone like me would opt to go around the world with my daughter, traveling to remote places on six continents, and live out of backpacks for 99 days while creating a movie?

Erin and Gail, Peru
Erin and Gail and children of village along Amazon River, Peru

I was actually going to do this by myself until I received an email from my daughter telling me that she wanted to quit her job and sublet her apartment and go with me.

At first, it surprised me when she said that she wanted to do this with me.  She had only been working for a year after graduating from college and was lucky to have a job. But she was willing leave her life as she knew it, apartment, take a trip around the world for four months and face looking for employment upon her return. Then I realized I shouldn’t be surprised at all, she too had grown up with the notion that “taking a risk” was normal.

These days, I see young people growing up in a society that has been so over litigated in an attempt to make our lives more risk free that it seems like we are teaching our children NOT to take chances. Losing or failing is looked at as a bad thing and that instead everyone has to be a winner.  It seems that fitting in and becoming part of the status quo is what we should strive for rather than being unique or original.  The problem is, if everyone thinks and acts that way, innovation will die.  No on will dare to be different.
In the last few years, I’ve probably had to face more rejections than I’ve had to over my entire career, or at least it’s seems that the way.  On the other hand, I have had the most incredible experiences and successes of my life.  To be honest, I’m scared to death just about every day but I grew up thinking that was normal and that came with growth. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the courage to spread my wings.

 

Your Inspirational Heroes Are Just Like You

Today, October 9th is the birthday of two people who have been very inspirational to me over the years – Jackson Browne and John Lennon. Lennon would have turned 73 years old today if he had not been gunned down in NYC when he was only 40 years old.  I admire both of these men, not only for their incredible skills in writing but also for their activism and courage to stand behind their beliefs.

I had the honor of meeting Jackson after one of his concerts last October.  It was a memorable moment. Jackson had allowed me to use his song, “Alive in the World” in my film, Opening Our Eyes and it had been arranged for me to personally thank him after the show. He was warm and generous with his time and we talked a bit about the blues – a topic that continues to surface in my life.

The blues (music) seems to be the foundation of many of the musicians that inspire me. The blues is authentic and that authenticity comes through in the lyrics of both Jackson and John.  Throughout their songs, we get a very clear idea of how they feel and think. They share their frailties and inner thoughts as we see them as real people just like us.

I suppose a lot of us think it’s too risky to be so open with our thoughts and our hearts and choose instead to bury our  dreams, desires and fears inside the deepest recesses of our minds. A lot of angst can come sometimes from remembering things that have happened in our past – things we did or wished we had done – things we said and wished we hadn’t said – you know all those fleeting thoughts that seem to haunt us at times.  None of us can change the past – it has already happened. But we all can choose how we let our past affect our present and our future.

Some of us try to “block out” the painful things that have happened in our lives. I have found that I can’t really succeed in doing that because there will always be something that will trigger a memory. In fact when I try to “close myself” off like that, it actually just continues the pain, because I’m expending negative energy, trying to “block” it out . Instead, I try to channel those thoughts when they come, into more positive energy by reminding myself who I am, not how someone or something made me feel.

Everyone has ups and downs in their lives – it comes with being human.  That’s why the music and lyrics of Lennon and Browne resonate with their fans – they can relate- as humans. I think as creative people we can learn from these two musicians – how to take chances and how to be true to ourselves and follow our own path – regardless of how unconventional it may seem to others .  When we are true to ourselves, we will find that our future direction will unfold as it should – we just need to get out of our own way.

“You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!” John Lennon