I’m so grateful to my friend, writer Jenner Gandin Le, for posting Amanda Palmer’s recent TED Talk on her blog so that I knew it was available! I, like all of Amanda’s fans, have been privy to her nervous, excited preparation for the talk for a while now.
And it was worth her effort, and worth the wait.
I’m not a rock star (except in my own mind), but I do seem to have what some have referred to as a “magical super power.” Generally, when I ask for something, there’s a good chance that I’ll get it – be it financial help, or a place to stay, or a ride somewhere I can’t get to on my own. I’ve asked for jobs and gotten them. I’ve asked for seemingly outrageous favors from seemingly out-of-reach people, and gotten them. I don’t think that I’m particularly special, but when I think about it, I think there are reasons why this happens so frequently. First, I trust people. I trust pretty much everyone unless they prove to me that I shouldn’t. My trust isn’t something that has to be earned, but rather, everyone gets an allotted amount and it grows or shrinks depending on your treatment of me and others around me. I don’t trust blindly or naively – I’m cautious when I need to be – but I do trust that everyone is, at their core, a human being, and deserves the respect of being treated without suspicion. My suspicion is something you earn.
I have many dear friends who find this way of thinking totally backwards; who think it should be the other way around. Yet, these are often the same people who marvel at the fact that, no matter how dire any situation I face might seem, that I always manage to have people around me willing to help. It makes me really sad that this isn’t everyone’s experience, and a big part of me wants to tell them that the reason why this works is because trust allows you to be open to people, and when people sense that you’re open to them, they’ll be open to you. Secondly, (and this sort of ties into the first reason), because I trust people, and because I’m open to people, they know that if it’s within my power to help them when they ask, I will. And I won’t expect anything in return, except their kindness. Third, for whatever reason, there are people who believe in my talent and my creativity, believe in the work I do, and feel like their helping me allows me to do more of what I do, which they seem to like. Also, they know that I’m not a slacker. That if I’ve borrowed money, it might take me a while, but I will pay it back if you’ve asked me to. That if I have a couch, or a corner of floor space, it’s yours if you need it to crash. That if I have the cash, and you need a meal, you and I are going to the nearest food establishment on me. I’ve convinced people that I am a worthwhile investment. I work hard with my writing, and I work hard to maintain my relationships, so people know that I will work hard to prove that their faith in me was well-placed.
I’m not perfect, but I do have integrity, and I think people know that.
When I watched Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, I recognized a lot of myself in it. In the shame felt for asking, and in the knowledge that I need to trust that whether people respond with “yes” or “no” (and believe me, I’ve been told “no” plenty of times – there goes that “magic super power” theory!), they will not hate me, or think less of me, for asking so long as the asking comes from a good place. It’s a difficult thing to live a lifestyle that is uncommon and unsteady. What makes it less difficult is trust. Trusting that if you fall, there will always be someone there to catch you. It could be someone close to you (as in my best friends who have ALWAYS been there to help me through thick and thin), or it could be someone you’ve never met (like the people online who supported me going to my first Gallifrey One), but there’s always someone if you’re willing to be open to them and willing to be brave enough to ask.
I realize that not everyone feels this way, or that not everyone’s life experience hasn’t taught them this. All I can say is…no war has ever started because one side was too open to or tolerant of the other. I’m not magical, and I haven’t come through life unscathed, but I’ve learned that the more I’m open to others, the more others open themselves up to me. It’s as close to “math” as the human experience can get.