A year ago, I went to see Oprah LIVE in Montreal. I was in a place in my life where I wanted change, I had an idea but I felt unsure. I didn’t quite have the courage to try the things I had in the back of my mind.
Oprah excites me because I believe she is the only person who successfully inspires so many people to believe that they can change their life. I didn’t watch her show religiously, but on sick days, she did provide comfort and inspiration.
My favorite episodes were when Oprah interviewed people that had radically changed their life to do something wild; i.e. quit their day job and move to another country to start a vegetable farm, or move to LA to become an actress at the age of 50. I like my job, and I am happily married so I didn’t need a radical change, or at least one that looked radical on the outside. I didn’t need to cut off all my hair and go on a bender (been there, done that), or take up emu farming (have not done that).
I did want an outlet for my creativity, a way to explore my voice, to play, and a platform to reach out to people to start a new conversation. I wanted a place where I could explore and share my passions. I have always had a million ideas, so many that sometimes I lack the focus it takes to put a plan together to make them happen. I also lacked the belief that I could withstand the criticism that could come my way, so I sat on the idea for a long time.
Secretly I started a blog years ago that I only shared with 3 people. I felt very protective of myself and eventually I stopped because I wasn’t getting any feedback. It felt lonely and pointless. But, dammit, I wanted so badly to share my photography, my travel experiences, to do something that felt crazy, and I wanted to talk to people outside of my circle. It’s hard as an adult to do that when you are somewhat settled and not meeting new people everyday the way you can as a student, a waitress or a back packer.
I have always been extremely curious about other people, but shy at first. I find it hard to network because I want to ask “What is your story?”, “What is your relationship like with your parents”, “What are your secrets?”. I find it hard to stick to the “appropriate” questions because I am not really that interested in those surface answers. I am afraid to be thought strange or to make people uncomfortable. Once you get to know me well, you will think that it is absurd that I might be shy, because I am also such a ham, especially after a glass or two of wine.
A few years ago, I had a friend/colleague that was unsatisfied at work. Not because she didn’t like the company, but because her real passion is animals, specifically their protection. One day, another very good friend and I saw that she was having a bad day. She was at a crossroads but didn’t know what to do. I said, let’s go get her an Oprah magazine and maybe that will help her decide what to do. We really screwed ourselves by doing that because a month later, our friend sold her car, her house, quit her job and went to Africa.
She now lives in Europe, I never see her except on Facebook when she is either climbing a glacier, riding a waterfall, or drinking in Greece (too often in my opinion) or partying with strange Danes who have very large smiles on their faces. It’s all very off putting because I don’t know how she gets any work done when she travels so much. That being said, such is the power of Oprah, or as I like to say, HOPE-RA!
I am not saying that Oprah changed her life, she isn’t an oracle, but she does put the notion out there loudly enough that your life is yours for the taking and you do not have to follow the status quo. Your life does not have to look good on paper (although, we wouldn’t mind Oprah’s check-book); the book of a thousand mistakes is a much more interesting read than the opposite. She helps quell the fear that comes from wanting change, change that comes from doing something unheard of. She puts the idea out there, that you can, you should, and really you must, follow your very own personal passion.
People filed into the Bell Centre like they were on a pilgrimage. When she entered the Bell Centre, she was greeted by the roar of a thousand lions. Oprah, not my friend who went to Africa who was actually greeted by a scorpion bite and 20 lions at the conservation site. Oprah reintroduces people to their passions, and gives them permission when society, parents, and reason, may not. When she came on stage, the audience went mad. Maybe people thought she was going to give out gold nuggets, but I don’t think that’s it.
Oprah spoke of many things that night. She shared her stories. She told good jokes. If I attempted to encapsulate all that she said, this would be too long. Trust me, I have tried many times in the past year. What stuck with me most was the notion that each of our lives is like a canvas, and we are the artist. It’s not a new idea, but it is one that when she says it, I believe her.
Throughout our life we hear tiny whispers of ideas that pass through us like tiny breezes and they are so easy to ignore in a world of a million interruptions. She said, if you ignore the whispers, eventually they turn into bricks. The idea being that if you ignore them, it will eventually hurt you. I also believe in the creative collective that houses all great ideas. They pass from person to person until one person grabs it, and does something with it. How many times have you seen or read something and thought “Hey, I thought of that”. Well, ideas move on, until one brave or open person does something with it. Creativity also breeds creativity. It is like a muscle that gets stronger with use and can become habit if we let it. You just have to start. How many great pieces of art did not get made because someone was afraid to try to create it?
What she said that felt like a slap was, if you can’t take 5 minutes to meditate every day, then you don’t deserve a great life. How harsh is that? I was surprised that she wasn’t a cushy coach, she really put it out there that hey, if you can’t commit to making your life great, then it won’t be. Meditation specifically because many of us can’t hear the whispers with cell phones, very addictive TV shows like House of Cards, and so many other distractions that block our ears. So you need to be quiet sometimes to hear yourself, and we don’t know how to do that anymore. It makes us nervous. Hey, I am not buying, or thinking of buying anything right now, that can’t be right. Obviously, everyone is doing their best. I am not judging anyone else and I don’t think she is either. But what really got me on fire after seeing her, was the reminder that my life is my creative responsibility and that no one has the right to stop me from trying to express myself, especially not myself!
She used the example of her hairdresser to demonstrate that everyone has a purpose, and it is our job to find out what that that is, even if it doesn’t seem particularly important or noble. As a child he was obsessed with doing everyone’s hair, his Barbie’s hair, his aunt’s, you name it. And now, he travels with Oprah and does only her hair. Pretty great right? What if he had stopped himself?
Seeing Oprah, combined with that frustration that came from stopping myself, I started this blog. I felt like a flower in the sun, opened.
One year later, I have posted weekly and I have had thousands of views which frankly is so beyond what I could have hoped for, that everything after this point is pudding. Not because the numbers sound great, but because I committed to something weekly that makes me happy and some people actually read it. Some people even write back! How great is that?
I started the cozy sweater café not only as a personal exploration, but because I wanted to provide a little moment of comfort, inspiration, and beauty to you. I called it the cozy sweater café because one Saturday, while wearing my favorite cozy sweater (as one has to in Montreal in February) while drinking a delicious latte at home sitting on my couch, I felt so damn good. The sun must have been out. And bang, it hit me, the cozy sweater café. Because a) I love coffee b) who doesn’t love at least the smell of coffee c) who doesn’t like going to cafés and people watching and d) there is nothing better than breakfast and a full day ahead of you. That is precisely what I wanted my blog to be, a place of comfort where you get that feeling of excitement that life is ahead of us, so let’s celebrate that moment, that idea, that passion. I went on-line and no one else was using it, unlike all the other names I had explored.
I also realized that I could wait for the “perfect” name for all of eternity and never actually start, so I went with it. I think they call that momentum. It felt so good not to block myself. My blog isn’t the most graphically impressive, it isn’t the best branded or best marketed, but it is mine. I have a lot of exciting plans for this passion project. I hope you use it as a resource and share your suggestions.
This past Sunday I had the frankly incredible opportunity to interview someone really special, that a year ago I would not have had the guts to reach out to. For me, the definition of happiness is to feel that you are growing, that you are expanding, exploring and learning; it is the opposite of feeling stagnant. It is feeling a little scared, a little vulnerable, and maybe even out of control of what is happening. This interview marks for me the proof that I am growing because I have gotten more adventurous, and that makes me really happy. Noone can take that away from me. No, it isn’t Oprah, maybe one day, but in my world it is really huge and it happened because I spoke to my husband over dinner about this little idea I had…
We don’t know who or what is just one degree of separation away, just one click away, just one plane ride away, until we reach out. The world really is a small place, and people are not as scary as I thought. I feel like we sometimes forget that. I can’t wait for you to read this interview. I can’t wait to finish writing it! But if you don’t for whatever reason, but you have gotten this far, then I leave you with this image of me in the midst of the conversation. This is me, happy, reaching out and being touched by something that felt magical. No, it is isn’t Gob from Arrested Development (I wish), maybe next time. But if I know anything for sure, I know that if you want something bad enough, the whole world will conspire to help you achieve it, just like The Alchemist says.
I hope that this will inspire you to try whatever idea keeps whispering to you, that you keep ignoring or pushing away, because I promise whether it is singing opera, trying the banjo, or whatever crazy idea you have, that not only do you owe it to yourself to try it, but you owe that expression to the world because it is honest, beautiful, unique, and that is what the world needs more of. It is so easy and popular (not sure why) to criticize, to be negative and hide. But those aren’t the people or ideas I am interested in, and they certainly aren’t going to run my life, or my mind. Life is too short for no. It takes responding to a whisper, to roar like a lion. Do it, worst case you have a really great embarrassing story to tell. I love those, and have many of them.
And if you think my writing stinks, show me your story and let’s talk about it.
Stay tuned for my interview with a really cool, César winning actor !
Thank you for reading, for commenting, for following, and for telling me your thoughts one on one. To those who have “played” with me in the creation of this blog, thank you for giving me your time, and making my it better. Thank you to my inspirations: my ex-colleague and girl crush Viviane Lapointe (who right now is launching the first ever print edition LIVEfast magazine in NYC, a magazine she started on-line and then raised the 75k she needed by herself) and Emily Schuman (of Cupcakes and Cashmere, the book that made my inner child happy) for both making me jealous enough to say “hey, I want that”. I also thank whoever came up with the term “content creator” because that really got me motivated.
You have all made this little alien feel a little closer to home.