by Amy Herring
“So,” I said to Kai, “tell me your life story.”
Although I have a more-than-casual interest in the inner workings of other humans, I said this more as a strategic move to pass the time with a minimum of awkward silences. Little did I know, this unexpected muse wouldn’t just tell me his life story; he would help me write a pivotal plot-twist in my own.
Two days before, my husband had driven with my best friend and her two kids to Disneyland where they both awaited our arrival. Kai was my best friend’s new beau. He and I didn’t have the vacation days to spend on a road trip, so we made the practical decision to fly down together a couple of days later.
Still, Kai and I hadn’t yet met and the idea of making uncomfortable small talk for hours in the terminal and on the flight made me anxious. I am an introvert.
I hoped a life story would take up a fair amount of time. I could be in the audience, not on stage – a more comfortable proposition for me. Listening to others is my default mode. I like to get right to the good stuff.
Kai obliged me with tales of parents, siblings, and growing up in Philly. We passed the time until our flight was ready to board, the tide of our conversation carrying us onto the plane and into our seats. When the talk turned to me, I gave a few “I was born, I grew up” facts, but eventually arrived at the topic I talked most about those days: work. Not my boring, sensible day job, but what I felt was my true vocation: astrology.
As if that wasn’t weird enough, I had been contemplating taking some kind of serious move toward becoming a professional astrologer for years, and to me that meant letting go of a day job crutch. I didn’t want to tell people I was an astrologer when really what I meant was that I was a Procurement Program Assistant masquerading as one. At the time, I was too inexperienced with myself and life to realize how little that mattered.
As we buckled and waited for take-off, I told Kai my hopes, trying to minimize the “New Age-y” aspect. I expressed my reservations in the same breath. Never mind how little money I’d make or how ridiculous most people would think I was. I wasn’t sure there was even a place for me. With plenty of astrologers already hanging their shingles, I doubted I could make any kind of meaningful impact.
“Who knows if it’d even work out?” I said. “I’m sure I’m kidding myself. Besides, the world doesn’t need another astrologer.”
“Who cares what the world needs?” Kai asked. “What do you need?”
The words stunned me. What an idea: to measure your success not by your place in line, but by your own fulfillment.
I was no stranger to doing what I wanted despite what others expected of me. I’d done a good job in my post-teen years of standing up for myself, including countering the misguided assumptions of an overzealous boss about my work ethic. I knew how to defend my boundaries. But I’d always fantasized about being the best, the chosen one, the right hand woman. I thought being great required proof: the go-ahead from the Powers That Be, a declaration of my worthiness from a mentor, the adoration of throngs of screaming fans, something. But there’s a lot of frantic scrabbling and maneuvering involved when you put the “go” button under another person’s finger. Until Kai’s question, it never occurred to me that I could push it myself, even with no one there to approve.
Like earthquake aftershocks, epiphanies rippled through my consciousness over the next few days. Insightful dreams and meaningful conversations with my husband over dinner kept the soil of this thought-seed fresh and fertile. However, one experience sealed the deal.
Having arrived at Disneyland during a volcanic heat wave, we sought out a lot of shows and exhibits purely for the deliciousness of their air-conditioning. We cooled off in a small theater that was showing a ten-minute film of highlights in Walt Disney’s life and career. In his mid-twenties, Disney suffered a major and unexpected defeat when the contract he’d had to produce the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, his biggest success to date, was suddenly sold out from under him. Ever the optimist, he created a new character on the train home. From that disappointment came Mickey Mouse. A star was born.
As I watched success after success parade by on screen, it occurred to me that Walt never knew what his accomplishments were going to amount to. He certainly had confidence and big dreams, but what drove him wasn’t becoming the “Man Behind the Myth.” It was his dedication to being himself: an innovator, an optimist, a creator. He simply started doing his thing and never stopped.
This epiphany was the downpour the seed needed to sprout. I decided I would make the move to phase out my day job when I got home.
A few years later, day-job free, fulfilled in my work as an astrologer, and holding my first published book, Astrology of the Moon, in my hands, I opened it and reread the acknowledgements I’d written:
“Thanks to Kai for uttering the sentence that shook my brain half awake and, surprisingly, to Walt Disney for shaking it the rest of the way awake.”
Amy Herring is a writer, astrologer, amateur psychologist, friend, wife, and mommy but not necessarily in that order. She is also an avid crocheter and is under the delusion that she has trained her three cats to leave the yarn balls alone. She loves working from home in her pink, polka-dotted sweatpants. Her online home is heavenlytruth.com. She wears sweatpants there, too.