A few weeks ago I was invited to talk with a Meetup writers’ group. In the e-mail, the person extending the invite said, “We will not be wasting your time,” and further explained, “We are seven unpublished writers, and very SERIOUS.” I met with them at the host’s apartment in Sherman Oaks, a community in Los Angeles that is “over the hill” as we say in L.A., in the San Fernando Valley. There were six young women (the seventh was out-of-town), and if I had to guess, in their mid-, possibly late-, 20s. A lovely, and delicious, lunch was provided. And champagne. These were young professionals, and living a twenty-something Los Angeles life. I sensed that they were reasonably grounded.
Through lunch we talked about writing, and sipped not-bad champagne. I had been invited to offer some journey-to-being-a-published-author advice. And the would-be writer who extended the invite was right: These young women were SERIOUS about writing. Each read a little something from material they were working on, and I offered a soft critique. After roughly 90 minutes, we started in on the “It was fun,” and “I’ll follow you on . . .” No sooner than the topic of writing stopped, iPhones and Samsungs came out of nowhere. The young women were like children at a playground, and most of their discussion leaned toward young men and what was going on with the young men on social media. Happy laughter, and the platitudinous Oh, my God was blurted out constantly. They shared tidbits, about this guy and that guy, and on and on. Two of the young women were, demonstratively, growing excited about the band they were planning to see at a club in Tarzana later that evening.
We hugged, said we’d “stay in touch.” And prior to leaving, four of the would-be writers downloaded my new novel, Vulnerable, on their Kindles.
While travelling through Sherman Oaks, which led me through Studio City where I once resided, I reflected on my afternoon with the would-bes. It hit me–they were in a time when life was about to surprise them. I was reflecting back on my own 20s when I began to notice a song playing on the radio, “Fantastic Voyage.” The timing was remarkably striking. My theory is that life’s nuances are never random. I have a tendency to attempt to connect what appears to be a so-called coincidence to that of something that I need to pay attention to; something which has been hovering around my life at the time. When a totally random experience comes at me–a so-called “coincidence”–I try to determine if in fact it is linked to the Universe throwing me a subtle message. While making an effort to decode that message, it need not require over-thinking it, but does demand objectivity.
Just as I was leaving, several of the would-be writers in Sherman Oaks were discussing this band they were planning to see later that evening. They mentioned that they “followed” the band. It didn’t resonate with my own youth-filled life experience; not at the time. After all, that was so many moons ago. In my amazing 20s, a few friends and I followed this band. Before they became recording artists and their songs played on the radio, they were known as Ohio Lakeside Express. Yet, when they inked their first record deal they became Lakeside.
By the time I merged onto the freeway, I was thinking how astonishingly different I am now to that girl who threw caution to the wind to see Lakeside play–speeding on freeways to obscure parts of California, to the absolutely obnoxious crush on one of the artists in the group. That girl was, as I see it now, a diehard groupie; moreover, unworldly. As I reflect on my Sherman Oaks afternoon with detachment, I realize that I have been extraordinarily hard on myself because of life choices. Here’s where I made the link: the Universe, for some time now, has tried both subtly and with a bit of a push to coax me into accepting some of my life choices; to make peace with a departed past. I’m still working on that, but often I can sense the Universe’s elbow nudging, nudging me to let it all go. That nudge almost always comes with experiences like my afternoon in Sherman Oaks.
Someday–and it will feel as though it came out of the blue–those young would-be writers will be traveling down a street, reading a book, having lunch at a sidewalk café, and something–a gentle nudge–will remind them of their groupie days and their just-having-fun-days. Should they continue on a writing path, that time in their life will be some of the most raw material to create from. Had it occurred to me at the time, I would have advised them to savor these moments. I feel confident, like me–and the moment will most certainly present itself–they will wonder, who was that girl?