THE Ruby Slippers, a real pair from Judy Garland’s The Wizard of Oz movie, were slipped carefully and perfectly, on my feet – ME! It was crazy. Unbelievable! As I took in this remarkable event, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that it never would have happened if I hadn’t taken a leap. A leap purely from a desire for a great story for my old lady self to tell!
Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, interviewed people on their deathbeds and garnered a treasure trove of information. I was struck that almost all of us go to our deaths regretting that we lived a life for others, according to their expectations and ideas, rather than how we really want to live for ourselves.
Without knowing this, I had intuitively been avoiding this my whole life by constantly seizing opportunities that took me out of my comfort zone, to be curious, to dare to be different. The fear of NOT doing things has been far greater a fear than doing them.
This fear of regret I think came from a family trip to an amusement park when I was 10 years old. We, my little brother and I, were allowed to each buy one thing that day. A big fan of stuffed animals, I discovered right away a stuffed brontosaurus and fell in love! It was different, unique, and I wanted it. BUT, I also knew I had a whole day ahead of me to consider more possibilities. I told myself, “there might be something better.” And so I waited.
At the end of the day, I decided the brontosaurus was the souvenir I wanted. However, it had become too far a walk for my parents to consider, and sadly, I didn’t get the toy. While it may seem childish now, I can tell you, it was a long, arduous drive home that seared the lesson of ‘seizing the moment’ to my very core.
I learned that no longer would I hold out for something I enjoyed more. Now, when I have a giggle in my heart to do something, I do it, even if it propels me out of my comfort zone! “Jumping off cliffs” has taught me that the fear of regrets is actually bigger, hairier, and scarier than actually taking the leap. Remembering that toy brontosaurus and the childhood pain of regret for waiting and missing out inspires me to go ahead, laugh about it, and do it anyway!
So what do ruby slippers have to with all of this? I have always known I look like Judy Garland, but growing up on the farm in Indiana, I didn’t have many opportunities to explore it more. So, when I moved to Toronto later in life, I tuned into a radio show where the trivia of the day mentioned some milestone in her remarkable career. I was curious to see what events might be happening in this big, multicultural city. And I didn’t wait.
I fed this curiosity by Googling what events might be taking place to celebrate her. There, on a small Craigslist notice, was an ad to audition for a one-act, one night only, play about Judy Garland. I could imagine THAT being quite the story - “Farm Girl from Indiana Auditions for a Big City Play”. It would be quite the memoir to share when I was 90. Wouldn’t that be fun!
BUT doubt turned its ugly head. I knew that in a city as big and metropolitan as Toronto, there would be tons of highly skilled, highly qualified performers who would want nothing more than to own the stage as the remarkable Judy Garland. Who was I to even consider auditioning? “It would be crazy,” I told myself, “You’ll be humiliated.” I didn’t even know HOW to audition. I couldn’t just walk in there because I looked like her. My only experience in acting was in the small town high school plays I did! What was I thinking?! All of these voices raced through my head at breakneck speed, drowning out any semblance of confidence.
And then I remembered that stuffed brontosaurus and that burning regret I felt as a child. The voices in my head did an about turn. “When will you have this chance again?”, I asked myself. “Think of the fun it will be just to experience it!”, and “OH, just think of the story you’ll be able to tell!” Instead of “why,” I asked, “why not?” Do it for the fun and just the fun. Try. I knew I would not have the chance again. And so I did it. I auditioned.
As it turned out, not only did I audition that day, I got the damn part! That one-night-only play turned into a two year run! I was picked up by an agent – and most fun of all – I was featured on Vanity Fair as one of the world’s most noted Judy Garland doppelgangers! Since then, I have traveled all over North America as Judy and have fans all over the world! All from that one little leap out of my comfort zone!
Francis Chan once said, that “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” I never want to have a deathbed experience of regret. Today that philosophy fuels me from one extraordinary experience to another. My fear of regret has become the steel in my backbone and today I remain curious, and take one leap of adventure and experience after another! I’ve driven a CASCAR, an Indy Light car, moved to another country and became a serial entrepreneur. The list keeps growing. I passionately believe that when we live our lives authentically, choosing life over fear, finding a way out of our comfort zone, that not only are we better for it, our families, and our world are better too!
Oh yeah, back to those ruby slippers.
After my first performance as Judy Garland, there was a man wearing sparkly red Toms’ shoes who came up to me. He said he was a collector and a HUGE Judy Garland fan. He claimed to have a pair of the REAL ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz that I should come and see. Surely, this guy had had too much wine, I thought. Admittedly, I dismissed the man, and the offer.
A week later, I was invited with the cast to a special party that was hosted by – you guessed it - the very same man in the sparkly shoes. He was over the moon at my arrival and immediately went to a glass case, opened it, donned white gloves, and pulled out a very old, fragile, somewhat dulled, but very real, authentic pair of ruby slippers!
He went on to explain that he, as a collector, had purchased the entire estate of the Judy Garland lookalike, Barbara “Bobbie” Koshay, from the filming of The Wizard of Oz. Among her possessions were said ruby slippers given to her for the show. Oh my gosh!!!
Now, he was handing them to my shaking hands. “Here – try them on,” he said, beaming. I am not ashamed to say I swore at the man “Are you f#cking kidding me?! I can’t do that!” These are priceless!” “Go ahead, please”, he begged.
Gingerly I eased them on, one after the other, tears streaming down my face from joy and wonder. And just like Cinderella, the shoes fit perfectly! Later I learned that Judy’s feet were much smaller than mine, but her lookalike had the same shoe size as me! It was meant to be! So, what’s the learning in all of this? If I hadn’t indulged my curiosity and got on Google that one day, hadn’t conquered the fear of failing, hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone, I would never have been able to say I wore a pair of THE ruby slippers! It has become one of many stories I share about taking leaps into the unknown.
What will yours be? There are greater rewards waiting for you to be curious, to take the chances, to pursue your heart’s giggles. In the time you’ve read this, there have been approximately 300 people who went to their deathbeds regretting that they lived how everyone thought they should rather than how they really wanted to.
Don’t let that happen for you. Use the fear of regrets to power over the fear of the unknown. Choose YOU, your real you.
Magic is there waiting for you when you do! Just like Glinda the Good Witch said to Dorothy, “You’ve had the power all along my dear!”