Keep your eyes open.

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My friend has three incredible daughters. Each one filled with talent, unique attitude and an open-mindedness that some adults strive to achieve. Throughout their childhoods, their mom and I were inseparable. I, with no kids realized quickly that if I was to have time with my friend, I was to become a second mom for these babies. And so I did.

We did everything together. Our days were filled with games, arts and crafts, puppet shows, playgrounds, picnics, swimming, hiking and story-telling. My friend and her little girls became my family. The four of us did everything together. About a decade after our merger, my two little boys came and added such life to the mix. Our children became known as “the girls” and ‘the boys”. The girls welcomed the boys into our lives with glee and extreme enthusiasm.

Then, we moved. Clear across the country, closer to blood family. Yet these four that I was leaving behind were indeed my family. No one could really understand and the pain of not being able to witness the growth of all of the children almost became too much to bear. However, with sincere dedication and constant phoning we managed to muddle through.

Fast forward to the day the oldest of the bunch was preparing for college. She came to visit ‘the boys” and myself the summer before leaving. I could tell as soon as she was within eyesight that she was riddled with fear. After the initial “it’s been too long” antics had concluded, we sat down to talk. Like a faucet that had been cleared of a block, she let loose. Questions like, “How will I?”, “What if?”, “Where will I?”, “What happens when?”, “Who will?” and statements like “I’m afraid”, “I’ve never left home before“ and “I don’t think I can” came streaming out of her. We talked for hours. Mostly I listened. When she was done, I shared with her one of the greatest life lessons I have ever learned.

“Keep your eyes wide open”, I said. “Read every pamphlet, sign, notice, brochure, publicity that you see.” “If there is a telephone pole with flyers stapled to it, read every single one.” One of the most beautiful and important things about the college experience is that there is a ton of opportunity all tied up in a bow and placed within your fingertips on the campus. All that you need to do is watch, look, observe and then act. While I was not in college at the time, keeping my eyes open treated me to a gigantic reward that has stayed with me from that point forward. I saw on a flyer that there was an audition listed for an improvisational comedy troupe. As a kid, I had acted in a few plays and even had a starring role in some but participating in comedy troupe? Never. I decided to go. Not sure how or why I didn’t talk myself out of it. Upon arrival I saw headshots (which I had none) and resumes (which I couldn’t produce). Yet still, I told myself just do this. Have fun. You have nothing to lose.

The auditions ended and I went home, proud of what I had achieved. With eyes wide open, I had found something new. I risked the fear of rejection and a new, better part of me emerged. I was terrified of something but put myself out there and survived! Heck, I had even had fun!

Several hours later, I received a phone message asking me to join the troupe. I was shocked. They had liked my unassuming energy. Everyone else was trying to outdo the others and I was just trying to do something new and different. Eyes wide open had lead me to this new experience that I was THRILLED to embark upon. That one troupe lasted for a year and then I went onto performing in several other troupes over a 10 year period. All because I had my eyes wide open and took a risk on something that in my heart I thought would be fun. I didn’t allow my self-consciousness talk me out of it, and my fear didn’t overrule me this time. The rewards were absolutely amazing.

So many of the famous self help gurus will tell you that everything is already here at your finger tips. All you have to do is be willing to see it and act on it. It begins with the idea and then with time, motion and action it will become a reality. Yet, for some reason, the teenagers of the world that have the most excitement and drive don’t ever hear this message. They are so busy following rules and doing homework that they don’t have a chance to keep their eyes wide open for things that may lead them into a direction that perfectly suits their soul.

As for my friend’s daughter, her eyes wide open process read a sign about an incredible program with the University in which she attended. A hearty application process and a series of interviews resulted in her acceptance to this unique program. They take 15 kids a year out of the hundreds that apply.
Four years later she has travelled with that program to a smattering of third world countries, become fluent in sustainable living, nabbed an internship with an insanely cool project and now assists with running the first year training program for new students.

All because with eyes wide open she spotted a random flyer. Then because she knew she was supposed to be looking for things, she acted upon what she saw.

Teenagers of the world: Keep your eyes wide open. Look for interesting activities that you can be a part of. See yourself in a new way. Try something that you would otherwise hold yourself back from. It’s all right there. You just have to see it, grab it and use it.

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