In the fall of 1990, I was ten. I did the usual ten-year-old things - had sleepovers on Friday nights, made friendship bracelets, and watched Beverly Hills, 90210. I cut out pictures of cute celebs from magazines like TigerBeat and Bop, and (much to my mother’s dismay) taped them into a collage that covered an entire wall of my bathroom. I drew hearts on photos of Johnny Depp and Edward Furlong (Mrs. Catherine Depp? Catie Furlong? John and Catie Depp?) and - with a fire that burned with the heat of a thousand suns - I hated any woman who, by so much as appearing in a photograph with my loves, might come between us.
I spent countless hours playing MASH with my girlfriends, trying to decipher which of the teen heartthrobs I would marry and live in a Mansion, Apartment, Shack or House with, and I remember being jealous in my bones when my mom dropped me off to spend the night with my friend Alex one weekend and I saw the life-size poster of Luke Perry hanging on her bedroom wall. It was like he was there. The bathroom wall was fine, but there’s no way my mom would let me hang a six foot poster of some actor next to my bed.
In re-watching the first season of 90210 for “research", I realized that Luke Perry / Dylan McKay doesn’t even show up until the third episode, when some bullies threaten freshman Scott Scanlon in his tech shop class.
As Brandon is checking out Scott’s class project - a floor plan for the perfect dance club, because: California - he asks how Scott designed it since he’s 14 and has never actually been inside a club.
“I used my imagination instead of my experience,” Scott replies.
At which point the bullies start making fun of and threatening him, until an ominous voice tells them they better not touch Scott’s computer. From the shadows of the tech lab, we get our first glimpse of Dylan McKay. Dark and dangerous, but obviously with a strong moral compass as per his coming to Scott’s rescue. Dreamy.
If he’ll save Scott from the bullies, maybe he’ll SAVE ME TOO.
What followed was an obsession the magnitude of which can only be contained by the heart of a teenage girl. Johnny and Ed took a backseat, their faces on my bathroom wall papered over by the brooding eyes of Luke Perry. There was a heart-shaped pillow and matching heart-shaped earrings from Claire’s with his face on them. There were entire magazines dedicated to him. In the pre-TMZ era, the grocery store rags were our only source of information and I pored over them with fanatic attention, pasting photos into my diary, describing down to the tiniest detail the life we would have together when, finally, we met and he realized that I was, in fact, the only girl for him. Nevermind that at this point Luke Perry was 23, and I was still 10. What was age in the face of destiny? I cried into my heart-shaped pillow on more nights than I could count at the mere thought of my dreams not coming true. Every day that kept us apart caused me physical pain.
In thinking back on this time, the one thing that strikes me most is how real it all felt. There was so much possibility in those days of pre-teen heartache, because no one had told me that my dreams were impossible.
I used my imagination instead of my experience.
In the winter of 2011, I was 31 and living in Baltimore. Things weren’t playing out there as I’d hoped. I was not married to Luke Perry, but had just broken up with my non-Luke-Perry boyfriend and found myself working for lululemon. I was about to have my first lesson in manifestation.
Sitting in a goal-setting workshop one day in early February, I had to write down where I wanted to be in the next year, two years, five years, etc. I wanted to teach yoga and I wanted to leave Baltimore. I shared this with the team, wrote it on my vision board and went about my business.
A few days later, a post from my old yoga studio in Boulder came across my Facebook feed - they had one spot left for a teacher training that started in three weeks. On a whim I emailed the teacher and asked if it was still available and could I apply? It was and I did. I had seventeen days to get myself to Boulder.
Through yoga teacher training, workshops, and online courses taught by the likes of Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte, I continued to develop my powers of manifestation. After I started meditating, I added manifestation to my routine by sitting for a few extra minutes, and tapping into the idea that I already have the thing that I want, and exploring the depths of the feeling that getting that thing will give me. I save photos of my future home to Pinterest. I write detailed descriptions of my future partner in my journal. I tap into the energy of future me on the reg.
While the vocabulary has evolved, the practice is much the same as it was when I was ten. The law of attraction and creative visualization look a lot like a desperate teenage crush and the collage on my bathroom wall. I didn’t just tap into the feeling that life with Luke would give me, I wallowed in it for weeks and months at a time.
But here’s the thing:
What manifestation teaches is discernment. Where to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’ on the path toward the future you’re trying to create. When you spend time in the feeling that you’re chasing, you know it when it hits you and new opportunities either trigger that feeling or they don’t. The path is clear. When that post about the yoga training came across my feed, I was able to recognize it as an opportunity because I recognized the feeling it triggered as something that I wanted.
I used my imagination and my experience.
As I’m on the hunt for #dreamjob, I’ve been putting this practice into play again. And while I don’t know what the job looks like yet, I am intimately acquainted with how it feels.
So when an interesting (#dreamjob tangential) opportunity popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago, and my first impulse was “I want to do that!” - I recognized the feeling as being a part of what I’m trying to create. Even though it didn’t seem realistic to head to Texas for the weekend, something about it pulled me in and I started playing with the idea of making it happen. I started feeling that pre-teen sense of possibility again.
Flights seemed reasonable. Lots of places to stay. I’d just gotten a limit increase on my credit card, so even if I didn’t have the cash… That seemed a little forced at the moment, but rather than agonize, I decided to sit back and let the answer come to me, and, when the time was right, trust that I’d know what to do.
A few days went by, and I just sat with the idea. I sat in the morning. I sat in the evening. I let the idea roll around inside my head when I was at work. I was exhausted and burned out and desperately needed a change of pace, but I wanted it to feel right. So I waited. A few more days. A week. Whatever.
And then I knew. On Monday, I knew. I still didn’t have a ticket, but I knew. And things just started to take shape. A ticket to Austin. An Airbnb that seemed to appear out of nowhere two days before SXSW. I found the cash and I didn’t have to put anything on my credit card. The plan materialized piece-by-piece and I began to take action that supported the feeling I was chasing. It didn’t feel forced, and I never felt like if it didn’t work out, I would find myself crying into my pillow at the loss.
Maybe that’s the real difference between manifestation and obsession - attachment to outcome.
While I certainly made this happen, it’s an important distinction that I also let it happen. I left room for it to happen, for the magic to come in, for the feeling to take shape. I left room for that pre-teen feeling of possibility. I left room for discernment, and maybe that’s what separates teenage-heartthrob-death-grip love and the love that I feel when I explore my future - the space.
As I sat with the loss of Luke Perry this week, 10 year old me was devastated. 39 year old me, however, was really just shocked that he and I never ended up together. According to everything I’ve learned about manifestation techniques plus the detail and frequency of my early 90’s practice, how could we not?!
But what I see now is that the ten year old was trying to just will it into being, the goal was the outcome, not the process. And even now it’s still easy to force things - especially in light of all the motivational blah blah about taking action that comes through our feeds these days. And, yes, we do need to take action to make our dreams come true, but that action comes in quieting our minds and stilling our bodies so that we can create space to feel what’s right.
And as I move closer and closer to #dreamjob (and #dreampartner, and #dreamhouse) I’m continuing to play with the feeling that I want and I’m careful to check in with myself to make sure that I’m actually moving toward that and not taking action for action’s sake. Because a lot can get lost in the striving toward the specifics of a goal, but so much can be found in the stillness when you leave room for the possibilities to take shape.
Onward. And RIP, Luke.