What Magic Taught Me About Life

“What are you passionate about?” It seems like a pretty easy question; one that most people know their answer to. This question caught me completely off guard when I was asked it during my sophomore year. How is it that a question so simple, one that my peers answered in seconds, could leave me with a blank stare? Before I could respond with the first answer that came to mind, years of my life had flashed through my head. But there were a few memories that stuck out more than others: my time as a magician.

I was in middle school when we were showing some family around San Francisco. We were walking around Pier 39 when I came across a store that read Houdini’s Magic Shop. Though now I realize it was probably the most overpriced magic store in the country, at the time I couldn’t help but beg my dad to buy me a trick. Within five minutes of him nodding his head, I had already walked out of the store with my first magic trick in hand. Little did my dad know that trick would be the beginning of Jonathan the Illusionist.

In the following years, my sleight of hand skills improved, magic inventory grew (by a lot), and I was receiving requests to perform at birthday parties and schools — all the while my friends had no idea of the other life I was leading. Needless to say, I had gotten pretty darn good. It had become part of my daily routine yet I never got sick of it. For me it wasn’t a chore, it was my passion. Of course, my parents were a little less fond of my hobby fearing that I would want to make it into a career. Much to their relief, and their wallets, my passion became a hobby, my hobby became a chore, and within a year I had ceased to do any magic.

Nowadays, when people find out I used to do magic, the first thing they usually say is, “Do a trick for me!” Though it’s hard for me to recall certain tricks, it’s not hard to remember what magic taught me about life. First and foremost, magic was the first concrete example of “practice makes perfect.” Most magicians will tell you never to perform a trick unless you’ve practiced it at least 100 times. You’ve got to know the trick like the back of your hand. It must be perfect from every angle and for every spectator. Though you may think the trick is ready to perform, there is always more room for improvement. Second, magic taught me acceptance of being wrong. Magic humbles us as it constantly defies what we think is impossible, it shows that your brain can betray you, and proves that things aren’t always how we think they are. Perhaps the most fulfilling lesson of them all, it’s better to give than to receive. It was just as fun for me performing the magic as it was for the spectator watching it. Seeing the joy and wonder that each trick brought to the audience’s face made magic that much more fun. It taught me that helping others is always more satisfying than helping one’s self.

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