Story Gathering: What I’m certain of

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I decided I was going to go to Story Gathering while I drove home from a particularly bad day at work in April.

This was a creativity conference I had been following for a few years, and came up with all the excuses why I couldn’t go each year.

It was too expensive.

I had no one to go with.

I had work commitments.

It probably wouldn’t add that much to my life anyway.

But that drive home, after that particularly bad day, I knew this was the year I was going.

And that April Lindsay? She had no idea how much her life would change between when she bought that ticket and when she attended that conference.

April Lindsay was on the brink. She knew things couldn’t stay as they were. She was miserable, frustrated and desperate for change. Well, she got that change…and then some. Life has thrown some curve balls she did not predict.

April Lindsay knew September Lindsay would need this conference. But really, she had absolutely no idea how much.

Because a few weeks after Story Gathering, there are a few things I am certain of.

Pay attention to what nudges you.
When the conference theme of “liminal space” was announced on the same day I first heard the term, I paid attention. I’m not sure I actually believe in “signs”, but I do believe we get to decide what we pay attention to.

Since then, I’ve paid attention to liminal space. The space in between. Between no longer and not yet. I see it everywhere. In sunrises and sunsets. In job transitions. In that period between diagnosis and treatment. In Instagram memes, in conversations, in podcasts, in quotes.

Maybe liminal space had always been around me and I just never noticed it. Maybe it only started to appear after I heard the term and it truly was a sign. I’m not sure, and it doesn’t actually matter. All I know is that since I opened my eyes to it, it shifted how I take in the world around me.

And to spend two days completely immersed in the topic of liminal space and how it related to creativity, that was magic.

I could’ve ignored it. My life would’ve been fine. But I chose to pay attention when liminal space nudged me. I chose to investigate and dive deep. And that changed everything.

Be willing to be vulnerable.
The most meaningful sessions of Story were the ones where the speaker didn’t claim to be strong. It was the ones that offered twists like “and then I found myself staring at the ceiling in a psych ward” or where the speaker broke down as they shared their story.

We were drawn in, in those moments. Not a single person in the audience thought the speaker was weak for being vulnerable, in fact, we leaned in, rooted for them, trusted them, and stayed with them as they took us through their vulnerability. Those were the sessions that got standing ovations. Those are the sessions I’ve talked about since I’ve been home.

And one breakout session, that likely will be a post unto itself, took a sharp left turn due to an audience member’s vulnerability. That session, that sacred moment I got to witness, is the most impactful thing I took away from the conference.

Invest in yourself.
As far as conferences go, this one wasn’t too expensive. But convert it to Canadian dollars, add in a flight, a hotel, transportation and food (because southern comfort food is not cheap), and a two-day trip is all of a sudden a big investment.

Since April, I said no to a few things to make this conference happen. It was an investment in me, and I decided to make it a priority. Then as a last minute surprise, my new work covered the cost of the conference.

I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky to have a new job that values personal development. I’m lucky to have the time and lifestyle that allows for this kind of adventure. I hold none of that lightly. But I think we can all pay attention to what nudges us and make sacrifices to prioritize that. Whether it’s big or small, the return on investing in ourselves pays dividends.

Choose butterflies.
This trip was so scary. I had to do it all by myself. I didn’t know any of the 1300 people that would be there, the thought of walking into the conference on my own was enough to make me almost change my mind. I had to navigate a new city all on my own. I had to manage flight delays, missed connections, flooded hotel rooms and strange Uber drivers all by myself.

Every part of this trip involved choosing to do things that gave me butterflies.

But I connected with a few attendees online before I got there, so I had people to meet up with, to eat lunch with, and to save seats for.

And navigating a new city is easy with Waze and Google.

And I took each travel twist as they came, figuring it out as I went.

This whole Story adventure was an exercise in Choosing Butterflies. And it only reinforced why that’s important. Because if I had chosen comfortable, I wouldn’t have heard these incredible speakers. I wouldn’t have had my eyes opened to liminal space in new ways. I wouldn’t have met all the creative and adventurous people that I met. I would’ve have had the confidence to realize I can do adventures by myself.

Choose butterflies, my friends. When you’re given the option between choosing what’s comfortable and choosing what gives you butterflies, choose butterflies.

 

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