About 18 years ago, I saw David Sedaris give a reading in Amsterdam where I was living at the time. He was funny, warm, friendly and engaging. Fresh off the huge success of "Me Talk Pretty One Day," he was the hot new thing. He owned that elegant Amsterdam room and every person in it. My own extremely positive response to the event shocked me. My reaction to his reading was, simply: “That’s what I want to do.”
My whole body was humming. It was as if my cells had grown vocal cords and every one of them was yelling, “YES! THIS!” in the tiniest voice imaginable.
At the time, I was working for a large company in the Netherlands, the only writing I did was in email and the only speaking, in meetings.
I'd just landed this great job and was living in central Amsterdam. There was no denying I was living my dream. Yet I was coming to terms with the fact that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Sedaris' appearance simply widened that crack to let the light in.
I had no idea how to change direction to get closer to this new experience. Over the years, I read a few more of his books and I never forgot that singular experience and my “This is it!” response. The crack was still there. Despite being moved by his work and his reading, I never so much as posted an online review of his books, most of which I’ve read and all of which I’ve laughed out loud while reading. It’s never been my style to get autographs or approach performers, and even that amazing experience didn’t inspire me to make an exception. Walking home that night through the streets of Amsterdam feeling alive and happy, the course of my life altered by a small measure, so small, it would take years for the change in direction to appear. In November of 2017, I was living in Colorado.
I went to see David Sedaris again.
In the years since I'd last seen him, I'd left the corporate world, started my own business and now made most of my living doing what I dreamed of that night I first encountered David Sedaris: writing and speaking. He’d become wildly more accomplished since I last saw him.
His mastery not only reading his work, but his precise, easy execution of the little things - his banter between readings, the short QA he hosted afterwards - all perfect.
He was flawless and funny. It was art. The attention to a detail you know can only be perfected doing it year in and year out, were there...
The shine that only comes with loving and respecting what you do was on everything. His comic writing was funnier and he’d started writing more poignant essays. When he read one that night, this time in a small auditorium in the Rockies, 300 people collectively held their breath for about 20 minutes. When he finished reading and taking a few questions, he closed by saying if he missed anyone, they could bring their question to the back where he’d be signing his latest book. There were at least 40 in line when I walked by.
I didn’t hang around for an autograph or a selfie that night, but once again, I was moved, inspired and motivated.
The people whose lives you touch with your work, may not come up to you after your talk, your set, your class, your anything and tell you how you altered their existence and the outcomes in their life.
Why? Because what they needed was for you to show up and hold up your sign. The one that says “I did it. You can too. Do not quit. You got this.” Whatever you need to hear at that moment. I mean, it could say, “keep pole dancing!” It doesn’t matter. You’ll know it when you see it. You may never meet them. They may never know you exist.
By doing what you want to do, and doing it well and working on it, investing time and energy because you love it, someone out there is getting something from that.
It's a their sign. Some part of what you do, your product, art, your work or even just the story of how you got from point “A” to point “B”, might be just the coordinate they need to continue charting their course. You matter. Your work matters. And even if they don’t stay for the book signing, they saw you and got the boost, nudge, inspiration or motivation they needed. Now, thanks to you, the light is getting in and they won't say, "I quit." Don't quit. Hold your sign up. Can't wait to see it, Courtney
P.S. If you like this, please feel free to share it or leave a comment below. I'd love that. CK
If you haven't yet, grab my free Job Hunt Daily planner here: https://www.courtneykirschbaum.com