Meet The Catalyst for My Dreams

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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The time had come for me to move off the horse farm in Saratoga Springs, where I’d lived for my first six months in New York state.

I’d moved there after graduating from Princeton, and it was my first “adult” apartment in which I paid my own rent, dealt with my own bills, and generally inhabited “grown-up” life.  

It had its advantages — a large picture window with a view of the horses cantering around the corral in the morning, a location close to Saratoga’s charming little downtown strip on Broadway Street, with easy access to the nearby horse-racing track in the summertime where I could dress up in a sundress and wide-brimmed hat, strolling around to see and be seen.

And its disadvantages — a two-hour commute down the Northway to my job in Albany on snowy days, a roommate who was a lovely woman except for her OCD tendencies, mopping, swabbing, wiping and cleaning obsessively and frantically multiple times a day, and the fact that I only seemed to meet 19-year-old Skidmore freshmen boys who wanted to pick me up, instead of connecting with other young professionals.

Time To Find A New Home…
I looked at apartment listings all over the Capital Region and very nearly took an apartment in Schenectady’s historic Stockade district when my friend Miriam took my future into her hands, and told me how it would be.

“You need to move to Troy,” she said. “It’s full of young people, it’s a creative city, there’s a lot going on. There are beautiful apartments and they’re really inexpensive. You will love it!”

Miriam drove me to downtown Troy one day so we could walk around Troy’s historic Washington Park together. I was in awe of the large Victorian mansions around the perimeter of the park, enchanted by the carved wooden front doors, 10′ tall windows, ornate cornices, wrought-iron balconies.

It was like a city out of a dream.

I soon found a three-bedroom apartment, one block away from Washington Park, for an astonishing $360 per month. I wouldn’t even need a roommate.

It felt like fate.

And Onto the Next Dream…
Troy would become such an important city to me, launching many of my dreams — becoming a community leader, heading to Harvard to study best practices in government. It all felt serendipitous, unfolding as it should somehow.

Incredibly, it was Miriam again who helped me to find and focus on my next passion. I first went out swing dancing with Miriam.

Before we went out dancing together, I’d done ballet, jazz, flamenco, salsa and tango for fun but hadn’t yet found the dance that was “the one” I wanted to focus on, study, practice, for the long haul.

I fell in love with swing dancing instantly. I loved dressing in vintage dresses, and loved being twirled around the dance floor. I loved the live big band music.

I loved spending three minutes in the arms of one handsome man, and then being passed onto the next handsome man.

They Call It The Lindy Hop…
It was Miriam who also first introduced me to lindy hop, the granddaddy of all swing dances and the style I dance now. She suggested that we attend the American Lindy Hop Championships in 1998 and I agreed.

What the heck, I thought –  I didn’t know a lot about the dance yet, and it would be fun to watch, take classes, and learn.

I didn’t expect to fall head over heels for the dancers, and the feeling of it, and the scene. But these dancers just made the music come to life for me in a way I’d never experienced before.

Their moves were so fluid, and musical, and improvisational, and sometimes hilarious. The dance was alive with humor and passion.

A syncopated body movement, a visual joke, a slow glide across the floor, a body roll, would make me see the music in a new way.

I’d suddenly hear an instrument that my ear had missed a moment ago — the sax would jump out at me, or the melody line become more pronounced. I’d laugh out loud.

I felt with a sense of absolute clarity that I would become one of those dancers. I would be a lindy hopper. I could see myself in vintage outfits, being lifted in the air, and spun around.

I was sure it was part of my calling. I could see myself dancing, teaching, performing, competing.

So I became a lindy hopper, thanks in part to Miriam.

And Then, She Introduced Me to My Husband…
Miriam would also introduce me to my ex-husband. Granted, that didn’t last, but Adrian was an important part of my life for a number of years, and taught me a lot. I loved our life together in many ways.

It was Miriam who first introduced me to Adrian at a dance, and who drove all three of us to a dance workshop in Connecticut soon after our first date, and who joked to me that Adrian would be her brother-in-law someday, since she and I were like sisters.

My city. My dance. My man. All of these came into my life via Miriam.

And Where Is She Now?
Crazily enough several years later, Miriam and I are not even in touch. I have lost track of her, and haven’t seen her on a dance floor in years.

We had a small falling out years ago, and never fully recovered from it. Honestly I don’t even remember anymore what it was about! She was still pleasant to me when she’d see me, but didn’t seek me out anymore.

As I worked on meeting my page counts for my book this week, advancing on almost 200 pages, I found that Miriam kept coming up again and again.

A Dream Agent
I have to think of Miriam, after all these years, as a catalyst or a dream agent. She introduced me again and again to people or places or activities that would turn out to be important to me becoming who I now am today.

We’re not even close friends any longer, but she was accidentally so influential in my life. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also through Miriam that I got my first paid writing gig as a freelance journalist after moving to Albany.

That was how I originally met her — through the paper she wrote for, that then hired me after she recommended me. She was the first person to interview me and to read my clips.

As I head to San Francisco to meet with my writing coach this week, approach my 200-page deadline, and prepare for five nights straight of dancing in San Francisco (a personal record!), I am thinking of Miriam, and how she was so pivotal in my life.

Miriam was a catalyst for launching so many of my passions and dreams that are still alive today.

Who Were The Catalysts for Your Dreams?
In all of our little acts of generosity, in introducing someone to a fun activity, when setting someone up on a blind date, we really just never know when we will be creating something for them that is life-changing.

I’d ask you to reflect on that this week — both on the people in your life who helped introduce you to your dreams and passions, and those for whom you may have been a catalyst.

I’m going to see if I can track down Miriam to thank her, as I head away for a week of living my twin passions (writing and dancing!) in San Francisco.

Who are the people who have been catalysts for you living your dreams? Can you thank them this week? How have you “accidentally” helped others to live their dreams?


Lisa of 8 Women DreamLisa has launched her dream by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally, and committing to a regular writing schedule — 50 pages completed by December 5th, when she also turned in her first book chapter! She recently achieved another milestone — 150 pages written in her manuscript! Being invited to join was a dream come true, and she looks forward to chronicling her writing process. Lisa is currently bi-coastal with her home in historic Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco. Lisa’s post day is Tuesday.

  • H

    My catalysts involve reading books and magazines for inspiration. My retirement dreams are also a catalyst for my dreams.

    – H

  • Steve nhim

    Lisa keep on traveling.

  • Veronica

    My children each were pivitol in changing my life, not only the birth but their presents in my life.

  • p.s. to Julita – I hope that horseback riding is something that you can someday return to! :)

  • @Cath ~ “Angels of Change” – I love that – Yes Miriam is one of these in my life. :) My ex-husband also helped me live my dancing dream and Harvard dream and Troy dreams… He’s been pivotal in my life as well.

    And yes what would you do without the wonderful Heather! :)

    @Terry thx for tweeting :)

    @Julita – thank you sweetheart – I’m so honored to be a friend on your journey… and to see all the great things you are up to! Glad that some things I have said/written have been helpful…

    And sooo glad that you got to see the fam and my mom… Yes she is AWESOME! Such a great role model for me.

    Lots of love!

  • Julita

    and I love the picture of these horses!!! miss horseback riding, but am too afraid to do it now with my injuries.

  • Julita

    Lisa, you are one of the catalysts in my life, you know!

    all my love coming your way, hope you are having a great summer. I loved seeing your parents in Ocean City over memorial weekend, your mom is amazing!!!

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  • Lisa, the famous author

    A little update: I found Miriam on Facebook (we have 13 mutual friends, not surprisingly!) and sent her a friend request. So I hope to be able to thank her soon :) for all that she introduced me to all those years ago… I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

    Thanks Miriam, my lovely Italian dancing dream agent! ;)

    • Catherine

      I attended a wonderful lecture once where the speaker talked about the people that come into our lives, the positives and the negatives and why they stay or leave.

      He called the ones that come into our lives for a period of time and leave our “Angels of change”. They seem to only come into our lives to facilitate some needed change and once the change happens, they leave.

      Heather has been a large part of facilitating my dream and oddly enough, my ex husband too.