It’s a Tuesday night at 9 PM and I’m transcending.
I’m holding a beer standing in the back room of a bar I’ve never heard of. Big winter jacket and heavy backpack still on and weighing me down.
But right now I am light as a feather.
Because a stranger is standing on a tiny stage before me surrounded by twinkly lights playing what I can only comprehend as pure magic. He’s playing wine glasses filled with water and singing a song he wrote at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis.
It occurs to me that there are only about 15 other people in this tiny room experiencing this right now with me. I wonder if they too understand. I wonder if they know just how privileged we are to be in this room surrounded by this sound.
My heart is so full I think I might burst into a pile of confetti on the floor.
It was a Thursday night and I saw my first improv show since moving to New York. The lights came up on the stage and I remembered the first time I fell in love with comedy; sitting on the floor in front of the TV with my sister well past our bedtimes watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway? until we both fell asleep.
It’s a Monday night and I’m coming home from my day job as a nanny. I saunter through the downtown streets of DUMBO, Brooklyn and have to stop myself because the light is hitting the city across the river in such a breathtaking way that I take the long way to the subway.
The really long way.
In fact, I forgo several stops and almost walk myself all the way home.
It was another Thursday night when I followed a crowd of improvisers I didn’t know to a bar I’d never heard of and had the most important conversation of my life.
A conversation not unlike any other introductory walkthrough about who I was and why I was there in New York City.
“I’m a writer,” I announced a little unsure. “I mean my book isn’t published yet or anything, but I’m working on it.”
I guess I hadn’t realized that the words “my” and “book” might generate some interest to a complete stranger.
And some follow-up questions.
As fate, or coincidence, or even magic would have it, this particular stranger (Hey Aaron! You’re THE MAN) knew a publisher who just months later would take a chance on me and my little book, changing life as I knew it forever.
I used to be afraid of magical moments such as these.
I would watch moments of pure joy and wonder come into my life and brush them off as mere happenstance; anomalies in my overall “predictable” life.
Like that time I sat on a rooftop drinking wine in Toledo, Spain with my best friend staring up at a billion stars and a 3,000-year old cathedral thinkin' "dayum, life is good."
Or when my best friend and I single-handedly curated two amazing art shows in Denver with 13 artists in a gallery that we couldn't really afford with an audience of 300 people and we felt all fancy and shit.
Or that time I went to New York City for the first time a few years ago to take an improv class just weeks before starting my short-lived career as a high school teacher.
It was there that I’d get my first real taste of the magic.
“This isn’t real life,” I’d spit back to the universe as I performed on one of the most notable improv stages in the world at the end of the week-long intensive.
“I can’t actually do comedy in New York. That’s not a life I get to live. That’s just ridiculous.”
For whatever reason -fear, doubt, perceived adult responsibility- I didn’t believe in magic back then.
The idea that I could find and even create wonder in my day-to-day life terrified me. Magical moments were spontaneous, and my meticulous and planning-obsessed brain didn’t like spontaneous.
In fact, my brain fucking hated spontaneous.
It was hard enough trying to conquer the grocery store without sucker-punching someone back then, much less try to organize my life in a way that allowed for disorderly magical shit.
I returned from my week-long improv adventure in New York a bit shook up, traumatized even. For I’d seen a taste of something I didn’t think was possible or realistic for me.
“I had a lot of fun,” I told my mother (true). “But I don’t think I could ever live there.” (False).
To this day my mother recounts this very conversation as evidence enough for me to come home right this very minute you hear me. And at that time I truly didn’t think I could live in a place as magical as New York.
The night before I packed my two suitcases and took a one-way to the Holy Land, I had an epic meltdown in my parent’s kitchen while finishing a bowl of mac and cheese.
“I’m so fucking scared,” I said, discarding my cheesy carbs and looking up from my detailed and color-coded check-list titled “New York Attack Plan.” Items included hilarious things like “Week 1- Get a job” and “Week 2- Sign a lease.”
“What are you scared of?” My dad said from the sink as he scrubbed a pot.
“Dad,” I gulped. “I’m scared I’m going to fail-” The word “fail” was promptly interrupted by a cascading waterfall of ugly tears.
“Oh, sweetie,” he said softly and rushed to my side. “You are not going to fail.” My tears were globbing down my pink face now and making a mess of my lovely (and supremely unrealistic) to-do list.
“First of all, you’re too stubborn to fail. You get that from me,” he chuckled. “And second, as bad as I want you to stay, I know in my heart that you’re going to get out there and do something amazing.”
My scared tears quickly turned into “why is my dad so adorable” tears and it took a bag of chocolate chips and half a box of tissues to get me down off the ugly crying ledge.
There would be a lot more ugly crying once I arrived in New York City.
There would be job rejection after job rejection. My dad would get some cancer* and I’d have over $1,000 stolen from me by a student loan scam. I’d have a heartbreak and I’d spend a lot of time on subways contemplating the meaning of life but also just staring out into no-mans-land and missing my stops.
The fear of an unknown place with a billion people zooming around my head sometimes made me question if I was going to figure my shit out without completely draining my savings account or if I was going to have to stick my thumb out and bum my way back to Colorado like a total failure.
But hey, guess what.
That didn’t happen. Because I’m still here.
Dad was right.
I’m sitting in a kid’s play studio watching the boys I nanny parkour off of gym equipment and kick soccer balls with ridiculous accuracy at my head. I’m submitting 400-word pieces to clients like banks and plumbing companies and podcasts for $15 a piece. I’m managing a 20-person co-living space that I tell everyone is a commune. I fill my days with performing plays about talking Brocolli to 4-year-olds and fill my nights with telling jokes to drunk strangers about performing plays about talking Brocolli to 4-year-olds.
And maybe this is all a little magical too.
I propelled myself into a magical life by letting magic exist in the first place. It hasn’t been easy or anything like my carefully-crafted “Attack Plan” would have predicted.
But I’m staring out of the boy’s bedroom now, tucking them in** and telling them they can’t have another popsicle. And out of the window, I can see it. The most magical of all New York structures.
The Empire Fucking State Building.
If that’s not magic I don’t know what is.
*I am happy to report that Dad is now cancer-free and as awesome as ever.
**This has been the most arduous, horrendous, and emotionally traumatizing of bedtimes for these lil ’ monsters including the 2-year old chucking a baseball directly at my eyeball during storytime, lots of tears (from them and possibly me), and a kitchen tantrum/Mexican standoff involving a popsicle stick and a ham and cheese bagel. I’m just lucky to be alive right now let me tell you.
P.S. If you want to make this fun for me, comment below with your #magicmoments!