An Unconventional Guide to Meeting Chris Guillebeau

Today I’m excited to announce that I’ll be attending the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon this June —  an unconventional convention… an unconvention — hosted by Art of Nonconformity author Chris Guillebeau.

Don’t fret, WDS is not a conference of would-be comic book supervillians.

The Summit promises to attract loads of inspiring writers, world travelers, professional bloggers, speakers, renegades and genuine dream-pursuers. Naturally, I knew I had to join this party. In fact, I so knew that I needed to attend WDS that I booked flights out to Portland in June before I had an actual ticket to the sold-out event.

Taking this “mini” leap of faith — booking hundreds of dollars worth of cross-country plane tickets and hoping I’d be able to grab a spot in the sold-out event, which I thankfully was able to last week — rehashed memories from when I first met Chris Guillebeau in Boston last September.

This is a comical account of the experience, which dared me 10 times over to take the easy “defeated” route of just quitting and going home. That route, as anyone who has ever dealt with social anxiety can tell you, is one I’ve been familiar with in my past. It’s easy to call it quits because “the quit” unburdens all tension and anxiety with immediacy. But I had different plans in mind this night.

September 13, 2010

Last September, author Chris Guillebeau was scheduled to be in Boston for a book signing session at Harvard University.

The March previous, in the never-ending journey of becoming a published author, one literary agent told me that my writing reminded her of Chris. She went on to add that I was probably “4 or 5 years behind” his pace as a blogger-turned-author. When the  dismaying “4 or 5 years?!” timeline settled in, I thought, at least I have someone’s path to follow.

I had only tweeted with Chris a bit at this point since then, so naturally I thought I should buy his book (The Art of Nonconformity) and try to meet him. I wasn’t expecting a life-altering moment, poignant words of wisdom or something that might accelerate my own journey to become published. It was a simple, gut feeling that I ought to go. So I went.

5:30 PM.

Lesson One: Plan to leave early, and leave even earlier.

I left my apartment in South Boston with hopes I would get to the signing early. Thanks to Boston’s rush hour traffic, the city’s characteristically awful road layouts and hitting a myriad of traffic lights, I finally got to Harvard Campus forty minutes later.

6:10 PM.

Lesson Two: Maybe public transportation isn’t so bad after all.

Cambridge, MA is a notorious hell-hole for public parking, (not to mention pedestrian-riddled streets and billion freakin bicyclists all over the roads). Because I missed getting to the area before 6PM, all of the on-street parking meters were free and promptly snatched up by every car in sight. Mind you, I don’t even know where this bookstore is. But hey, I got plenty of time to spare, right?

I start driving in circles around Harvard’s campus, up and down tiny streets with tons of traffic and even more bicyclists swarming me. I decide to take a left turn to loop back around towards campus, and, as soon as my front tires hit the street…

I realize it’s a one-way street. And I’m heading in the WRONG direction. And it just so happens that a cop is watching me from the intersection I just drove through. Sirens. Blue lights.

6:40 PM.

Lesson Three: Sometimes, looking like a tourist works to your benefit.

I am pulled over by a Cambridge cop for going the wrong way down a one-way street. Apparently when your two tires hit the road going in the wrong direction, you’re screwed, because what more can you do except try to The Fast & The Furious Tokyo Drift your Hyundai SUV in a tight circle to reverse course?

License and registration… 15 minutes pass. I’m thinking, “Give me the ticket, I admit I screwed up, but it’s getting late and I got a book signing to get to!” However, another part of me is having a serious gut-check. This is mildly disastrous and a total buzzkill. Do I turn back, go home, and say, “Well I tried…”?

6:55 PM.

Lesson Four: Buy a bigger umbrella.

The officer lets me off with a warning because my license and registration are from Rhode Island — he tells me he knows Cambridge’s streets are hell on earth and impossible to navigate. Having dodged that bullet, my confidence is beaten a bit but not shattered. The signing starts in 5 minutes. I still need to find parking without getting pulled over again. In the next 20 minutes of driving around in circles in Cambridge, I witness:

  • a car accident next to me
  • a bicyclist almost hit a pedestrian head-on
  • a car almost run over a bicyclist

At last, I find a free meter on the street that, according to my car’s GPS, is only about .2 miles from the alleged address of the book store. Golden! Then, a torrential rain and thunderstorm has decided to join the party. Luckily I have an umbrella in my car. Unfortunately, it’s raining sideways.

I walk the .2 miles to where the book store is allegedly located and find… nothing. Really, nothing. It’s a street with houses and no apparent bookstores. Fearing being struck by lightning, I walk up and down a few side streets trying to find this place.

7:15 PM.

Lesson Five: brush up on French / never trust your GPS.

The book signing with Chris is fifteen-minutes in, and I cannot find the bookstore for the life of me. I ask everyone I pass if they are Harvard students, hoping for directions. The one student I find is a French-speaking kid. He leads me in the absolute wrong direction. It’s not his fault. I should have paid better attention in French class in high school.

I find another girl who tells me the store is a few blocks away, but in the opposite direction… right near where I had parked. I walk back to my parked car, now soaked up to my knees in rain. My laptop bag — carrying my copy of The Art of Nonconformity — is dripping wet. I finally see the sign for the book store called The Nook… but it’s for the Harvard Law School bookstore. And it’s closed — there are two “Nook” stores in the area, and this is the wrong one.

Another gut-check. I’m soaked. The book I hoped Chris could sign might be ruined. I’m already at my car. It’s after 7:30 PM. I’m at the wrong book store. Somehow, I’m still determined although I don’t know why. I choose to tarry on.

7:35 PM.

Lesson Six: Harvard, change the names of your bookstores.

I walk back, again, toward the Harvard campus and find another student who tells me the correct “Nook” bookstore is “a good ways away.” Hellbent on finding this place, I:

  • drudge (run) through the storm
  • watch another bicyclist almost get run over by a speeding car
  • dodge traffic (through traffic)
  • leap over puddles like an action hero in slow motion, and
  • a mile later finally find the RIGHT bookstore!

I make my way up to the top floor of the bookstore, soaked and sweating and completely disheveled. Chris is there fielding some questions from a large audience that takes up most of the entire top floor. I hear two (uninspired) questions from the crowd before Chris wraps the event up.

7:59 PM.

Lesson Seven: Trust your instinct, distrust your ego.

The final gut check came as I stood at the back of this crowded room, dripping wet, feeling like a failure for having missed the entire event and for the array of anxiety-riddled ridiculousness that was the last couple hours of my life. As some of the crowd began to file out, others stood in a long line to get their books signed by Chris. Whatever, I thought, as the defeated mentality settled in. I turned and began to leave the book store.

Steps later I stopped in my tracks.

This whole awful endeavor began with a simple feeling, a gut-instinct — one that I trusted was guiding me in the right direction. A positive direction. A direction my spirit needed to follow.

And now my worried, egoic mind wanted to resign from that self-trust and intuition. I’m embarrassed, I reasoned. But, embarrassed in front of whom? Technically no one had known about my hectic evening but myself. My ego was embarrassed. It was bruised. And I refused to let my ego dictate my path over my instinct and trust and intuition.

I walked back up to the top floor of the book signing and stood in line for a few minutes. Finally, I got to meet Chris and was able to chat with him for a few minutes. As he signed my copy of The Art of Nonconformity — that, thankfully, was not ruined by the rain — I told Chris the story about how the agent had said I was “like him” but years behind his pace. I joked that I was planning to be nipping at his heels in the near future.

He replied with earnest encouragement, “I really hope you do.”

A Story of Ego and Intuition

The human ego is our sense of Self, the judgmental voice that we hear talking all day in our heads, the narrator of our lives, the worry-wort and harsh critic of others. The more I live, the more I understand the vital aspect of minimalizing the impact of the Ego upon our everyday thoughts and actions — as foreign and difficult as it seems to quiet this never-ending voice that we’ve grown to know as a “normal” way of living.

In this story, my ego was telling me to quit, to run, to hide, to abandon what my spirit — my heart, my gut, my intuition, something “beyond” — was encouraging me to pursue. If you listen closely, if you pay attention to your senses, we can begin to train our hearts to understand these feelings of our spirit’s beckoning — the feelings we can’t rationally explain but simply “feel” right.

Chris’ simple words of encouragement really resonated with me that day and helped me through periods of adjustment and readjustment since.

I don’t believe I’d be where I am at this point in my journey otherwise, and I can say for sure I wouldn’t be attending the World Domination Summit this June. I hope to see you there.

So, last night a young author by the name of Chris Guillebeau was in town for a book signing. In March, a literary agent told me that my writing reminded her of Chris Guillebeau’s, but that I was “4 or 5 years” behind his pace as a blogger-turned-author. At first I was like, 4 or 5 years?! But then I thought, at least I have someone’s path as a guide to follow. I’ve tweeted with him a bit so naturally I thought I should buy his book (The Art of Nonconformity) and meet him. The book signing (advertised as a discussion group sort of thing) was slated to begin at 7 PM at Harvard U’s bookstore called The Nook. I left my apartment at 5:30 PM to get there super early. Thanks to Boston traffic, the city’s characteristically shitty road layouts, traffic lights, and a billion freakin bicyclists all over the roads in Cambridge, I finally got to Harvard Campus (4 miles away from Southie) at around 6:10 PM. 50 minutes to spare… :)

But wait! It’s Cambridge. A notorious hell-hole for public parking. Because I missed getting to the area before 6PM, all of the on-street parking meters were free and promptly snatched up by every car in sight. Mind you, I dont even know where this bookstore is. But hey, I got plenty of time to spare. So I start driving in circles around Harvard’s campus area, up and down these tiny streets with tons of traffic and even more bicyclists swarming me. I take a left turn and as soon as my front tires hit the street… I realize it’s a one way. And I’m heading in the WRONG direction. And it just so happens that a cop is watching me from the intersection I just drove through.

Sirens. Blue lights.

F-M-L. It’s 6:40 right now, and here I am pulled over by a cop for going the wrong way down a one-way street. License and registration… 15 minutes pass, I’m like, OK cop, give me the ticket, I admit I screwed up, but it’s 6:55 and I got to get to this book signing. He comes back and (thank god) lets me off with a warning because my license and registration are from Rhode Island so he knew Cambridge’s streets were hell on earth and impossible to navigate. Back to the mission of finding parking… I spend another 20 minutes driving around in circles, witness a car accident next to me and a bicyclist almost hit a pedestrian head-on before finally find a free meter on the street that, according to my car’s gps, is only about .2 miles from the alleged address of the book store. Golden!

Buuuuut wait! A torrential rain and thunderstorm has decided to join the party! Luckily I have an umbrella in my car, but it’s raining sideways. I walk the .2 miles to where the book store is allegedly located and find… nothing. Fearing being struck by lightning, I walk up and down a few side streets trying to find this place. It’s 7:15 now… and I cannot find the bookstore for the life of me. I ask everyone I pass by if they are Harvard students for directions. The one student I find is a french-speaking kid. He leads me in the absolute wrong direction. I find another girl who tells me the store is a few blocks away… in the opposite direction… where I had parked. I walk back toward my car, and by now I’m soaked up to my knees in the rain. My laptop bag carrying my book is dripping wet. I find a bookstore called The Nook… but it’s for the Harvard Law School bookstore. There are two, and this is the wrong one. It’s 7:40.

I walk BACK to the Harvard campus, find another student who tells me the RIGHT bookstore is “a ways away,” but down Mass Ave and should be on my right. Hellbent on finding this place, I drudge through the storm, watch another bicyclist almost get run over by a speeding car, dodge traffic, leap over puddles like an action hero in slow motion, and about a mile and a half later finally find the RIGHT bookstore! The event was taking place at the 3rd floor, so I make my way up, soaked and sweating and completely disheveled. The author is there fielding some questions from the audience. It’s 7:50. I hear two questions before he concludes. Thankfully, he stayed to sign books. Buuuuuut…. as I’m standing in line, I look over and who do I see? A girl (my college friends’ new roommate) that I had met two days ago and completely and overtly flirted with for the entire night at the bar. Awkward. This is possibly one of the last people that someone would want to see in my mental and physical condition. My first reaction was to call the night a loss and haul ass outta there. But I was like… I did not just suffer what I have suffered without meeting this author!

I waited for the girl to notice me (obviously haha) and talked to her for a second, but finally got to meet Chris and chat with him for a few minutes. I told him the story about how the agent said I was like him but years behind his pace, and that I was planning to be coming at his heels in the near future :) He encouragingly said, “I really hope you do.”

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