“Give up on your dreams.” — Everyone
When I was a kid, I used to write stories. I’d grab some paper, sit at my desk and write. I’d draw inspiration from my toys, my friends, or the latest prose from Stan & Jan Berenstain. I loved writing and I wanted to be an author.
Imagine: sitting around coming up with ideas, using your imagination and getting paid. Now imagine a young boy being told that an author doesn’t make any money and they should probably give up.
And so I did.
I wish I had more of a spine back then, but this was a time when my mom still cut my hair and I was afraid to take swimming lessons. It’s safe to say I didn’t have the ideological fortitude to defend my ambitions. As I slowly collected the jagged fragments of my shattered dreams, I decided I guess I’ll be an accountant or some shit.
With the instilled notion that being creative wouldn’t bring home any bacon, my creative muscles atrophied. The only writing I did was in high school, at the last minute, for a passing grade. Somewhere my former creative self was in a tesseract, staring at me from behind a bookcase yelling, “Murph! Murph! Pick up a pen and write!” Alas, I did not.
Six years into my job at a shoe store, my complacency had reached an all-time high. It’s not like I filleted a fish on a pair of penny loafers or anything, but I needed out. I needed a change and it came in the form of a text message from my brother.
“Hey you wanna work at Wine Bottega? Someone quit and *insert store owner’s name* is in a bind.”
“K”, I replied.
Who knew dropping a ‘k-bomb’ would change my life. I was brought in to the store as soon as possible and thrown right into it. I loved it because the store owner was also a close friend.
Now, making wine sounds creative, but it’s a bit of a cookie cutter process. What we do at Wine Bottega is laugh, discuss, argue, challenge and think.
We’re encouraged to arbitrarily yell out nonsense, dance when we feel like dancing, create characters, come up with crazy ideas and challenge those of others. We do our work and we do a great job, but we make sure to enjoy ourselves.
Above our lunch table is a wall of people who inspire us featuring Terry Fox, Andy Kaufman and Biggie Smalls among others. We’ve got the ‘Think Different’ ad from Apple on our calendar and also this speech from Samwise Gamgee. You’d think we were a hip start-up tech company in Silicon Valley but we’re not. We’re just a bunch of kids making wine and having fun. This is what I so desperately needed. This was the defibrillator that brought me back from my creative flatline.
What got me back into writing was encouragement from my ‘boss’ and a colleague. Both writers, both thinkers, both great people. Thank you. I wouldn’t be writing and I wouldn’t be pursuing a career in advertising if it wasn’t for the environment that you created.
All of that to say, sometimes a change of scenery is all you need. From a creative perspective and from a life perspective: change is good, stagnation can be toxic. Don’t stay somewhere simply because you’re comfortable. Quit before you become Tyler Durden and blow up a city skyline.
You’d think it was some kind of an anomaly that working at a wine shop changed my life so drastically. The truth is, I’m not the first. Many people have left the store with a new purpose and mindset. So much so that my dear buddy believes that he is no more than a stepping stone. I can say with absolute certainty that you aren’t my friend. You are much more.
One last trip down memory lane.
When I was a kid, I also used to collect rocks. I kept them in an old Peek Freans tin. To me, the humility and innocence of that is heartbreakingly beautiful. Picking up a dirty, old rock and keeping it in a dirty, old tin because you thought it was special.
I think we’re all just a bunch of kids with beaten-up Peek Freans tins searching for rocks. We’re searching for rocks we believe in, that we value and that change our life. Along the way we find some and we lose some and that’s okay. It’s inevitable. We’ve got to decide which rocks are worth hanging on to. We also have to keep moving. Keep searching for new rocks. It’s not healthy to stay in one place. Stay where you are and you’ll have the same set of values and beliefs until the day you die.
If Wine Bottega was a rock, it wouldn’t be a stepping stone. It’d be one of those colourful, smooth rocks you find on a walk with your parents. Maybe you only found it cause you tripped on a root and landed right on top of it. You stumbled upon it haphazardly but you covet it. It’s the kind of rock that goes on top of the collection in your Peek Freans canister. It stays there even twenty years later when your mom finds your old rock collection and weeps menopausal tears of nostalgia into her glass of white zinfandel.
If there’s anything more appropriate to leave you with, it’s this interaction between Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and James McAvoy’s. It’s a little overdramatic, but it sums up my situation nicely. Sometimes, all it takes is learning how to hope again.