Tom and I attended the Helena Chamber’s Big Night Out last night. I was tired after a full day of work and casually told Tom I would rather be punched in the face than find the energy to go to the event. It would hurt less and wouldn’t last so long, I reasoned out loud. He rolled his eyes at me and finished getting dressed. We were going. That was settled.
We arrived early and did our best to look busy as we waited in lines for food and then again for drinks. I’m not drinking these days so I watched Tom stand in line and took up unnecessary space as we approached the bar. It isn’t hard to refrain from drinking, but it does harshen the lines around things as a drink normally would help me unwind into the evening.
Once we were settled, I started to remember why Montana is such an amazing place to live. Our table mates were incredibly gracious and kind, and conversation was easy and interesting. I really enjoyed getting to know the couple who traveled the world together into their retirement, and the couple from Europe who longed for more travel themselves. Everyone has a story, I know this. If you let yourself, you can experience amazing moments when other people start to share with you.
I had heard that the entertainment for the evening was supposed to be good, but my expectations were blown out of the water when Jeff Civillico took the stage. I haven’t laughed that hard- and I mean truly, genuinely laughed- in ages. My face hurt. He was funny, insanely talented, hard working, and real. His performance included a little story telling of his own, and I think he might have changed my life.
It is rare that someone performs with the level of authenticity and commitment that Jeff brought to the stage. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful combination. It was clear that Jeff was living his passion, and I always light up when I see someone living their deepest calling. Jeff was born for the stage and his presence was magnetic. I couldn’t stop watching or smiling. He was that gregarious.
More than that was his commitment to his craft. I have always been somewhat taken by people who are wildly talented. Talent is such a cool, random thing. I have talents and I love when something just comes easily. Jeff may be talented, but he is also insanely hard working. I can hardly fathom the amount of time he has spent juggling, unicycling, balancing, and making people laugh. Behind every trick he threw must have been months and months of hard falls and misses. He has had to have fallen flat ten thousand times. It is staggering to think about.
Yet, he stands on stage and offers a supreme performance. He is confident and charismatic. He is kind and humble. He brings everyone into his show and for a few blissful moments, you get to live inside his head (which is an insane and inspirational place).
Most importantly, Jeff reminded me of the power of hard work. As he performed on stage, he taught me the power of effort. In a moment, I realized what I could be if I applied the same focus and dedication to my life.
I also realized that Jeff, while incredibly successful, was also probably a little different. I mean, he is brilliant at his work, and most brilliant and innovative people necessarily are unlike their peers. Creativity doesn’t come from uniformity, after all, and there is definitely a time in a creative’s life that the oddity outweighs the social benefit and you feel the pinch point.
For me, that pinch point lasted a long time. It was with me for most of my youth, and it still tenses up when I am made aware that my life path is not like others. I have been told, in so many words, to be less different, more normal, less active and bouncy and to conform more and stand out less. I have definitely been called weird and/or crazy. Living my life out loud in writing also yields some of its own brand of criticism. And yet, I keep writing.
And I’ll keep on working. I’ll keep on pushing Element to offer the best family focused legal services we can offer. I’ll keep giving presentations and speaking publicly about cancer and grief and loss and pain. I’ll continue to be vulnerable. I’ll continue to be honest. I’ll continue to be transparent through the good times and the not-so-good times because I believe in authenticity.
When I am honest, when I share myself in that way, it is an invitation to connect. At the end of the day, I think the most loving thing we can do for one another is walk each other home. We are the same, you and me. Letting you know that, and inviting you in, is the most loving thing I can imagine.
Jeff inspired me to raise the bar on my own performance. He showed me what it could look like to be the best version of myself possible, and I am so humbled and grateful for the message. If you ever get to Vegas, please see his show. It’s really incredible to see someone so talented and dedicated practicing their craft. It is inspiring and deeply touching. And hey, you’ll even get a bunch a ton of joy out of it, too.
Give ‘Em Hell.