I have a habit of picking up feathers. These aren’t just any feathers. They’re feathers that I find along my daily path that seem to just jump out at me, appearing seemingly out of thin air.
I started noticing them a couple of years ago, when I was feeling stuck and restless. It’s sometimes difficult to work a 9-5 that requires little to no creativity when there’s so much of it inside me, begging to be released. Sure, creativity can be infused into daily life, but the urge to completely abandon everything that seems rigid and callous in favor of lighter things – beautiful things – is always just below the surface.
In 2009, I was suffering from a bout of ennui. The world just seemed a gloomy, uninteresting place. I had no creative outlets, no creative friends (or so I thought), and no hope that the future would be any different. Trapped in a town built around military contractors and engineers of varying degree, I felt like a lonely piece of right gray matter in a sea of left-brainism and conventionality.
I had a long (I even think tear-filled) conversation on the phone with my mom, asking her advice on how I should move forward and break out of my self-imposed rut. She suggested that I get a newspaper and find some writers groups or something similar. Since I’m internet prone, I decided instead to check Craig’s List and found a post from a filmmaker in Birmingham, Alabama, who was looking for someone to work as his production designer.
My initial response was like, “What do you know about production design? You have a full-time job. How are you going to fit this into your schedule?”. I followed my mom’s advice and put my self-talk aside and called the number listed in the ad. Little did I know that this one small act would change my life.
The day after I committed to the project, I started finding feathers. The first one was found just outside of my place of work. The second was found in the same parking lot. I found probably ten or so within the first few months of working on the movie. I came to think of them as a sign from the Gods of Circumstance, telling me that I was on my path and that I could let go and enjoy myself…so I did.
Releasing myself to the process of making a movie brought me into a group of very special, very creative and very dedicated people. The inner strength and courage that I (and I think all of us) found was more than I thought I owned. Our budget was small…miniscule, in fact. It forced all of us to work harder, smarter and faster. It drug us out of our comfort zones and kept us there for several months, sometimes complaining about our difficulties and hurdles, but always coming back for more.
When the smoke cleared and we had an actual physical product to look at, the remembrances turned from bitter to sweet. Yeah, there were problems. Of course we had set-backs. Nothing went as planned and Murphy’s Law pretty much ruled the project. But we made it out alive. Alive and better for it.
Even though I’ve never had children, I liken it to being pregnant and giving birth (the natural way). It’s a hard, long road. You feel exhausted. You don’t sleep. You eat horribly or don’t eat at all. You spend hours at a time wondering if what you’re contributing is even any good. But then…then it happens. The proverbial water breaks and when it’s over, there’s a completely new thing in the world, beautiful and shiny and unsoiled, and it owes its existence to you and all of the other sperm, er…creativity donors.
The movie wrapped in 2010 and is now in post production. We were invited to unofficially screen at The Omaha Film Festival, and have since been invited to submit to Austin and Albuquerque. Slow and steady wins the race as we all know, and it’s no different when it comes to getting your project noticed.
What was I going to do now that the party was over? After a long hiatus from school, I decided to go back and study interior design. The feathers soon returned. One night, after leaving a class and bemoaning my status as a 31 year-old student, I found the largest feathers to date…pigeon feathers! There were three of them. I found them coming out of a side door that I usually don’t take on my way out of the building. The Gods were calling again, letting me know to not give up and that they were behind me.
I have been finding them on a regular basis since then. I even found two very small ones (perhaps an inch or so). I keep some of them on my desk at work, as little reminders of my true purpose in the world. I plan on keeping them all in a box so that when I am discouraged or feeling stuck, I can look at all of the tokens of love from the Universe and feel the love and safety of just letting go. When I forget my fears and push forward, I win. No matter what I am doing, I will be successful…if only I will enjoy the process.
Doing that isn’t part of the human condition, but it’s something I’m enjoying learning.