Tuesday, June 28, 2016


An illumination point is a moment in your life when you are suddenly absolutely certain about what the next step in your life will be. I collected a few from friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Hearing these stories helped me recognize those moments when they occurred in my own life.

Debbie was working as the director of a social services agency in Georgia when she happened to see a television show filmed in Telluride, Colorado. She sat straight up in her chair, knowing immediately that she would go there. She picked up the phone and called a few agencies and yes, there was a vacancy. She flew out, interviewed and was gone within four weeks. She said she just knew it was time.

Leonte was pursuing a graduate degree in higher education administration when she met Tim, another graduate student who was pursuing a degree in fine arts. A few visits to his studio later, she was painting next to him, marveling at the mixing of colors and the textures she was creating. Within the year, she was giving up her once solid career path and setting out to explore her creative side. She was terrified, but absolutely thrilled.

Monica calls it divine inspiration, that leads to bold and unexpected change. She says not everyone will get behind life changes of this magnitude. Her bold moves were more quietly done so she didn't prompt any nay-saying. In my case, the most vocal concern trolling came from friends or family who had made very traditional life and career choices. They chose to stay in safe zones and they wanted me to do the same. I couldn't! My illumination points demanded that I step out on faith.

Polly was another artist friend who made multiple choices that boggled people's minds. While in South America, she kept seeing brightly colored woven hammocks, but she couldn't quite figure out how they were made. When she asked, she was told that only certain families made them and the method was a family secret. She kept asking though. Finally, in a local shop, she saw a painting of people weaving a hammock on a loom. She asked the shopkeeper and several other locals about the painting and about the loom. Nobody would talk.

But as she left the shop, a man approached and offered to take her to see where his family produced the hammocks. Polly got into a taxi with him. They drove away from the city. Miles and miles later, the pavement ran out and they traveled even farther on packed dirt roads. Then even that road ended. "This is as far as the taxi goes," the man said, "so we'll go the rest of the way on foot." I wouldn't have gone. You probably wouldn't have gone. Polly went. They walked into the jungle and eventually reached a small village. Inside the largest building Polly was introduced to the man's family - wife, mother, children, and siblings.

And there was the loom. The family taught Polly how to weave the hammocks. With the family's permission, she then used paper and pen to make measurements and draw pictures of the loom. When she got home, she and her husband built a loom. I have one of her hammocks. Any time I look at it, I think of her walking into that jungle. Polly is gone now, but she serves as inspiration to me to walk into metaphorical jungles, even if I'm scared.

One more. Cindy was a nurse. She liked being a nurse. But what really excited her was beautifully packaged goods at the grocery store and other markets. One Friday night she attended a happy hour schmoozing event sponsored by a staffing agency. At the event, she tripped over someone's carelessly placed bag and literally fell into the arms of a complete stranger. Awkward! But they got to talking. Cindy found out that he worked for a marketing firm designing marketing materials which included, you guessed it, packaging. What kind of training do you need to do something like that, Cindy wanted to know. At home that night, she researched graphic design programs. Two years later, she was taking just enough shifts as a fill-in nurse to be able to do freelance design work.

Cindy's illumination point involved an actual fall. Most of us get tripped by an unexpected idea of how things could be. A vivid image of a possible future is illuminated for us. Then we choose whether to follow the path into the unknown jungle. And for some of us, the thought of NOT following the trail is just not doable. We have to know what's around that mysterious bend in the jungle road. We have to go see.

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