Epiphany and The City…

In October, I went to New York and met with publishers about Epiphany.  I am thrilled and excited to announce that Random House, Harmony Books will be publishing my book, Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight!  It’s par for the course that this latest milestone in my life occurred in New York.  I always say magic happens every day for me in New York, and when I lived there, I couldn’t wait to get on the street and see what the day would hold because something crazy and serendipitous inevitably always did.  In fact, New York is where I had my first major life epiphany.  The funny thing is, I didn’t realize it until after I started writing Epiphany.  Many times, one of the things that happens when people start telling their greatest epiphany stories is that they realize that they actually have had other moments in life that they hadn’t thought of as epiphanies.  As we tell our greatest epiphany story, we start discovering and remembering epiphanies we have had earlier.  We’d never thought of these realizations like that before.  When I started this project and started asking people about their epiphanies, I honestly was surprised that people would then ask me what my greatest epiphany was.  I was not at all prepared for them to ask me this.  I never thought anyone would care or be curious about mine …So when I got asked that question in some meetings, I just told them about my epiphany that made me a.) realize that I’d had an actual epiphany and b.) amazed me because of how drastically my life changed that I became curious enough to start asking other people if they had had similar experiences.  I thought that was the only real epiphany I’d ever had.  (This would be considered my greatest epiphany and is the one you will be able to read about in the book.)

As I was writing my book proposal and was working on the part about my background and how the project came into being, I had a realization about my epiphany (an epiphany about an epiphany!…happens all the time, I’ve discovered…).  I realized that, actually, I’d my first major life epiphany while living in New York in my early 20’s — an epiphany that put me on a completely new direction and life path.  This won’t be in the book (because it’s not the one that made me start paying attention to epiphanies) so this is what I wrote about that experience in all its unedited imperfection…

I never, ever knew (or admitted) what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up.’  My major in college was Undecided (yes, they actually had that as a major) until they finally forced me to pick a real major second semester my junior year.  I would ‘accidentally’ get into plays and musicals as a kid and took drama all through high school and college even though I opted never to try out for parts or ever take it seriously – probably because I was a big chicken, simply terrified that I wouldn’t get parts.  It was only when I found myself suddenly jobless in New York City after a brief stint at a marketing company right out of college that I finally had to really examine what I wanted to do in life.  New York City has the best of the best of every profession operating there, and I had been interviewing, exploring opportunities and gathering information in every field I had ever been interested in: fashion, publishing, film production, literary and entertainment agencies, public relations, Wall Street, and even politics, and I had also somehow bluffed my way into my first professional acting class, even though I don’t think I even knew what a headshot was at this point.  Of course, I told everyone that it was just for fun anyway.  One day, while confiding in a friend that I was freaking out about all this research I was doing and still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and career, he said this to me:

“If anything was possible in the world, there were no obstacles, no fear and nothing at all was impossible – it’s only you and God in the world – what would you do?  Write it down.  That’s really what you want to do and then you back into it from there.”

I thought, ‘uh-huh, whatever’…but later, I went ahead and grudgingly sat there with a pad and pen and thought about that scenario over and over… ‘no obstacle, anything in the world is possible, no obstacles, anything in the world is possible’…and much to my surprise, eventually I had a realization!  I realized I had been dancing around what I really wanted to do, dancing around with all the businesses surrounding it, because I was too scared to admit that what I really wanted to do. What I really wanted to do was be an actor.  Be the creative.  I didn’t know how to really go about doing that though because no one in my family had ever done anything in the arts professionally.  I hadn’t really ever considered it an option.  So once I had this epiphany, I really started taking the whole thing seriously.  I continued with my education and training, studied the entertainment business, got headshots, got an agent, got into the union, started booking jobs, etc., and before I knew it, I was a professional actress.  This path has continued to lead me over the years to other avenues in the entertainment business of producing, directing and now, writing.  As I write this, I realize this is probably my first epiphany as an adult.  This happens a lot as I interview people.  While describing what led up to the ‘greatest epiphany,’ many times they discover that another earlier epiphany had occurred to bring them to that point.  Many times, we discovered this together while doing the interview, and sometimes they discovered it while thinking about what their greatest epiphany was and then shared the various epiphanies with me.  You will see this in several of the interviews in the book.’

The exercise my friend shared with me that day in New York that led to this first major life epiphany has served me well throughout my life, and I still use it whenever I get stuck.  I just shared it with a few of my friends recently and it helped them, too.  So here it is more clearly just in case it might help anyone who may be reading this:

If it were just you and God in the world (if you believe in God or a Higher Power, of course – otherwise, just say it’s you) and there is no fear, no lack, there are no obstacles, no commitments, no responsibilities or obligations blocking you  — ANYTHING, ANYTHING is possible – nothing is impossible – what would you do?  It can be ANYTHING – backpack through Europe; meet a girl or guy and have a baby and be a househusband or housewife; climb a mountain; become a farmer, an actor, a doctor, a writer, a race car driver – whatever – but what is it, really?  What would you do?  Where would you live?  Who would you be?  Think about or meditate on this question with a pen and a piece of paper in front of you and be open to being absolutely honest with yourself.  It will come to you. And then, Write It Down – it’s only for you, no one else has to ever see it, you might even throw it away later – but write it down.  Write down what is really, truly in your heart when you answer this question.  Whatever it is may surprise you…but when you answer truthfully, it is such a relief.  And then sit with it for a bit, absorb it, and – beginning with what you truly want – start backing into it – start by write down the smaller, attainable steps that will build toward your ultimate goal…it works…

From this exercise, I realized I didn’t want to be the agent or the producer or the marketing person.  I realized I wanted to be the creative, and since that moment, my life has never been the same.  It’s not always been easy and sometimes it’s even painful, but it’s amazing to be on what you feel is your right path.  This exercise always keeps me honest.  I don’t believe that our hearts yearn for something that isn’t what we’re supposed to be doing or something about it won’t serve us in some way – maybe it’s about just taking some steps to get there that is the purpose, but you’ll never know until you get clear and honest about what it is you truly yearn for.  A wonderful teacher of mine always says…

“If not now, when?  If not now…When?  If. Not. Now.    When?”

so think about it and let me know what happens…

About Elise Ballard

Elise Ballard is the author of Epiphany! a book of inspirational stories, aha moments and exclusive interviews from Random House Publishing
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2 Responses to Epiphany and The City…

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Epiphany and The City… | Epiphany This and Thats -- Topsy.com

  2. Molly says:

    Wow, Elise. Your blogs almost always move me to tears! I guess I am one of those people who has always felt very bothered by the fact that I haven’t found my “calling” or “true purpose”. On a daily basis, I am all too aware of this missing component to my life. I have the family I always wanted, which his HUGE. But I still lack that inner fulfillment I so desire. Reading this made me realize I don’t spend enough time sitting with pen and paper, praying, meditating or whatever it takes to discover the path I’m supposed to find. Thank you for inspiring me! I’m hoping for an epiphany!

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