As the waitress sits me down at my booth at The Frying Pan, I giggle a bit at the table top advertising their "premium coffee." The nearby table has exceeded the Hawaiian shirt quota for the city as I hear one of them begin a story with, "that Montana boy that married the Eskimo girl..."
The past two days have been some of the most inspirational and needed days that I've spent surrounded by top quality humans.
The city of Fargo, North Dakota may not be awake yet, but I've been wandering the streets taking photos and now crave the special sustenance that a greasy spoon breakfast joint can always give. When it arrives I know that things are different here as I gaze in amazement and horror at the slab of butter that is melting over my morning hash browns.
MisfitCon 2014 was an event that had to be experienced in person to fully understand.
To me, it was a gathering of people of every shape, size and color from around the globe who want more out of life. They realize that living a purposeful life is the only path for them.
A living, breathing, art experiment where you sit down and have no idea who is speaking or what they'll share. There is art, food, music, poetry, advice, love, dancing and marshmallows. Attendees hug, cry, share, create and become friends in magical moments. Part summer camp, the best party you've ever been to and a creative salon of old.
Where else would the festivities begin with a black, bisexual, disabled poet and end with an emotional thank you from the residents of the host city? In between you'd hear from yo-yo champions, entrepreneurs, best selling authors, free-style rappers and an activist potter.
AJ and Melissa Leon are the masterminds of this menagerie of amazement. They are dear Friends of mine and I love them for asking me to be part of something so special.
The time they put into curating every last drop of experience in this weekend is beyond words.
Sitting down to breakfast, we were greeted with affirmations from a local artist. The coffee was from a small roaster and hand brewed by a member of the staff.
Sure, we could have drank out of any coffee mug, but instead we were presented with hand thrown mugs, cups and bowls that a local artist had created specifically for the event.
One long table served to insure that we interacted with out neighbors. Over chorizo breakfast tacos, we discussed photography and what we hoped to get out of the weekend. Who knew that later on we'd find ourselves at another long table, but this time inside of a skywalk as we filled our bellies with fresh cornbread and vegan chili.
As we made our way from the yoga studio to the art gallery, you could feel the excitement. How could you not, when you looked up and a massive billboard proclaimed that we were indeed in the land of the Misfits.
I speak and attend conferences around the world and have never saved my name tag from one.
Yet, when they are individually crafted and decorated with dried local flowers how could you not take it home and hang it in a place of honor?
A notebook is always in my pocket, but I put away the one I brought and eagerly opened the custom one Stick.ly made for the event. I had a feeling that before the weekend was done, it would be full.
I also had the pleasure of talking at length with the woman who made them. I'll always cherish it with fond memories.
Rather than trying to explain all that I felt and saw, let me share some quotes and thoughts directly from my notebook that were shared by the speakers:
- You can bend time when everything else is aligned.
- Values must be actionable.
- Love always has a cost.
- I believe in the mark of the maker.
- I'm not a misfit. I'm a perfect fit.
- I didn't quit my job. I quit my employment
- You don't start wearing a band t-shirt until after you've been to three concerts.
- Every new art form you learn about makes you better.
- Having a lifelong passion means you must grow up innovatively.
- I didn't need to be told no when I can tell myself yes.
- Honestly is about showing people how fucked up you really are.
- Stress is what pushes a little more sugar into the best wine grapes.
- We are not afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of the known ending.
- Stories of comfort are rarely told.
- You can judge a city by how fast they walk and if their smiles.
- Art is a pain killer.
As you can see, there was a variety of topics discussed.
I was asked to give the day two opening talk. While, I had arrived with a talk all planned out, I decided to scrap it and start all over after the first day.
My focus was on how much I hate the question of "What Do You Do?"
I shared my desire for each of us to encourage our kids to follow their hearts. To make sure that they know it isn't always an easy road, but that we supported them. How we are setting the example for the world around us.
As a speaker, I always hope that my words connect with the audience I'm in front of. I knew I had accomplished this when a single mother came up to me and thanked me for letting her know that it is ok to be scared. She thanked me for sharing how rough the road has been lately and how it was a relief to her to know that others are going through similar things. I gave her a huge hug and encouraged her to keep pushing forward.
Every good journey needs a book to go along with it. As I boarded the plane in Boston, I began reading Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins. It was the perfect side dish to the main Misfit course. I devoured both and my mind is spinning from the beautiful combination.
There will be more thoughts shared in the coming days. My photos hopefully captured a bit of the magic of the weekend for those who could not be there in person.
Fargo is an amazing city that not enough people know about. I'm tempted to find a way to head there for a few weeks and write my next book. Not sure how to make that happen, but perhaps my new tribe of Misfits will have some ideas.
Thank you to everyone I met this weekend. Thank you for the kind words and nudges of encouragement.
Thank you to all the residents of Fargo who made me and all my fellow Misfits feel welcomed and loved.
Thank you to the entire Misfit Inc team and all the volunteers for making this weekend as special as it was.
Thank you for reading.