I spent this weekend at Camp Mighty at The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. It was a small public event (seriously, the Mighty Events sell out in two seconds with very good reason, but if you find yourself able to go to one, grab that opportunity) that was built around the idea of life lists and building the life you want. Or really, about building the life you need.
The weekend started with a private show by The Tontons. (Holy crap. You heard about them here first.) After which I had a twenty minute chat with the lead singer about going to art school in New York, figuring out what you want to do as an artist, and working your ass off to make that happen.
Then the next morning, Brian Piotrowicz, one of the co-producers of Oprah and a producer at OWN, spoke about the way Oprah built her business around the idea of intention. And man, did he sort some things out for me. Because yes, “intention” sounds very woo-woo and hippy-dippy, but he talked about the concept in a very literal sense. When you produce content for a big audience, it’s very important that you think about what you’re putting out there in the world. What are you using your platform for? Are you making people think and reflect and grow, or are you getting off message, and letting ego and ratings get in the way? And while he did a lot of talking about the idea of intention in the work environment (no one is allowed to yell or treat other employees with disrespect at HARPO), he also talked about the idea in a personal sense. He talked about the power of waking up and checking in with yourself, asking what you want to bring to your day. He talked about how twenty minutes of meditation is built into the (sixteen hour plus) day at HARPO, so that everyone has a chance to come back to themselves. For me, his talk was centered on the idea that we can’t control the world, but we can control what we greet the world with, and that makes a whole ton of difference.
The final morning, Grammy winning artist Kenna came to talk about his project Summit on the Summit, where celebrities climbed Kilimanjaro, filmed by MTV, to raise money and awareness for the crisis of clean water in Africa. By this point in the weekend I was exhausted. I was a little emotionally raw. I sat down for the talk, not terrifically excited. “Mmmm… another charity project,” I thought to myself. And then what happened totally blew my world wide open. First up, Kenna, explained to us that good activism comes from a personal place. He’s Ethiopian-born and as an adult discovered that his father had spent most of his childhood ill from a water born illness and had lost a sibling to it. He had a realization that most of us wait to do good till we’ve built our careers, or till we’re in a place where we can do more good, and that’s not good enough. And that made me do some serious thinking. What we bring to the world matters, and the world only has our hands. Not having time is not a good enough excuse. Oh, and he called his mom and had us sing her “Happy Birthday.” She asked if he’d “been to church, taken his vitamins, and met a nice girl to get married to because [she] wasn’t getting any younger.” Moms, man. Talk about doing good in the world.
But what really blew me away about the weekend was being around people who were serious about changing their lives. It’s easy to think that writing a Life List is a silly exercise, or wishful thinking, or just greed. It’s easy to write off people who have a life you want as being lucky or privileged and not make the effort for yourself. But what I was reminded of this weekend is the sheer force of will that’s involved in changing your life. Last year, at Mighty Summit, I committed to changing things for myself. It wasn’t magic that I was in a place to do that. I’d spent the previous year busting my ass, never sleeping, never having time off, while I built my business and wrote a book proposal. But I needed to be pushed into really taking the leap, and being with a bunch of women who forcefully believe in you, will do that to a person. So I quit my job. I started working for myself full time. I wrote a book. I hired a staff. You know, just a few little things.
But this year, I was in a slightly different position. I’d spent a year changing everything about my life, and I knew that my goals for the year were A) Keep the momentum going, B) Rest, and C) Give back. So this year, I got to spend some time playing cheerleader instead of playing bird-waiting-to-be-pushed-out-of-the-nest. Which apparently I’m overly good at.
I made the trip down to the Summit with Dana of The Broke Ass Bride, Amber of The Amber Show (who took all these pictures), and Becca of Stumble and Leap (formerly of A Los Angeles Love). On the way down we stopped in my hometown for In-N-Out. The following conversation unfolded over our fries and shakes:
Becca: How did you get your photography business started, Amber?
Amber: (Looking up from her fries) Meg yelled at me.
Amber: Meg yelled at me, made me get focused, gave me some advertising, and now I have a successful photography business.
Dana: That’s how I got my book proposal done! Meg yelled at me.
(Becca later told me that part of the reason she came to the weekend was so I would yell at her, too. Also, apparently at least three women in one of the groups stood up and said they were there because “Meg told me I had to come.”)
All of this made me realize I better keep using my yelling powers for good, as apparently they are powerful. But it also reminded me of what one of my friends told me in high school. He’d made a chain letter where he had to say something nice about the person he was sending the letter to, and he said, basically, “Meg is amazing because she wants you to be your best self and is super forceful about making you work hard for it. Upside: It makes you feel like you’re capable of amazing things. Downside: It’s sometimes kind of annoying.” So at least I’m consistent, right? The same at 31 as at 16. (Sorry you guys. NOW GO BE YOUR BEST SELVES.)
So for me, Camp Mighty was a mediation on just how hard you have to work, and just how brave you have to be, to pursue a life that makes you happy, to live with intention, to not give up, to make time to bring the world what it needs. It was an honor to cheerlead women getting ready to make the plunge into new things. It was a good reminder to never settle, to keep pushing myself, and to keep forcefully pushing those around me to be brave, to keep going, and to give them the support they need.
That, and there was a pool, a hot tub, and amazing cocktails. If you’re going to do the hard emotional work, it only seems fair that you should get a boozy slushy, a super warm pool, and some sunshine, amiright?
So for all of you pondering your next step: lean into your best selves. And imagine I’m right behind you, lovingly yelling at you and only being slightly annoying.
Pictures: Amber Marlow Photography