Required Listening: Tina’s Glorious Comeback by Dan Mangan

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a convenient spiritualist.  In the same way I would tell you that I’m not religious, you know, and I know–on my death bed, you won’t be able to pry the rosary beads out of my cold dead hands. What were his last words? my future children will ask. He was just saying the Our Father over and over. There goes a great man, who dedicated his life to the church. Then I’ll stroll right through the pearly gates, and grab a prime seat on some cloud while I wait for my wings.  It’s not that I’m a hypocrite, it’s just that–well, I tend to only call on my religious and spiritual beliefs when it’s convenient or self-serving. This became most obvious a few weeks ago when it finally hit me: in just a few short months I will be turning thirty. It was around this time that I started checking my horoscope more regularly, blaming my low energy levels on Mars being in retrograde, and not at all on my poor diet. It was also around the time that I started asking the universe questions about the state of my life, and where things were heading—and to my surprise, it was around this time that the universe started answering–I think.

I feel the need to clarify one thing about the type of Universe I’m talking about. According to Oprah, the Universe can give you everything you want out of life. You just need to “will it” to yourself. How do you do it? If you put the message out there, plant the seed, dream it, live it, write it down, put it in your journal–anything your heart desires can be yours. Oprah calls it The Secret. Orphan children in third world countries call it–bullsh*t, and so do I. You know who else calls bullsh*t? Anne Frank. If only she had wanted it more. If only she had created a vision board, things could have been completely different. I kid—for the sake of putting this whole Secret business in perspective. I may believe in Oprah, but I don’t buy her Universe. I do believe there is a master plan for us all, and sometimes if you look hard enough, and ask nicely, the universe might just reach out to you.

The first time I got “the call” I was at the gym–on the treadmill. Yes, seriously! I do a solid three minutes of brisk walking four times a week. Cardiovascular health is important, you guys. Anyways. Okay, so there I was–walking briskly—listening to Sarah Mclachlan remixes—pondering my life thus far. The truth was, a recent business trip to California had given me a new lease on life—one that opened me up to a more laid back, stress-free style of living. I discovered a side of me that read the paper (TMZ.com), ate delicious brunch and drank from bottomless cups of coffee every morning. In short, I was happy. And it was there in San Francisco that I realized it had been a long time since I had used that word in reference to myself. At first I was convinced I was in need of a vacation more than I thought—but a few months later, I couldn’t help but wonder if this exposure to ‘the other side’ wasn’t part of the universes plan to show me what life could be like, if I had made different decisions.

So there I was–on the treadmill–staring longingly out the window when I decided to put myself out there. I asked the Universe: “Universe, am I on the right path? Am I behind schedule, or am I right where I’m supposed to be?” It was a hypothetical question. I wasn’t looking for an answer, but I was hoping for a sign–an idea–something that could help me make sense of the questions inside my head.

I know what you’re thinking: If you have this much time to chat to the universe, you’re probably not running fast enough. To those people I say: guys, be cool. I have an incredibly fast metabolism. My body is literally eating itself from the inside out. So I like to keep my cardio workouts on the lighter side. Is that okay? Can we continue?

Where was I? Oh yeah. I wasn’t really expecting an answer. Even if the Universe was a real thing, there is no way it should be spending it’s time helping me figure out my life. I mean, some people out there have real problems.  It was the old I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member approach and as easy as it would have been to convince myself the Universe wasn’t taking my calls, I couldn’t help but notice that across the street, something was happening. I watched as a forklift, or some sort of construction vehicle (this is an area in which I do not excel) slowly raised  a twenty-foot neon sign into place above a pair of freshly painted fluorescent yellow doors. The sign read “Weslodge.”

This was a sign, yes– but was this a sign? Or was it just a convenient coincidence? If it was a sign, what did it even mean? Am I supposed to head west? Lodge in the west? It was either cryptic or completely obvious. If the Universe wanted to get my attention, it was going to need to do a much better job. “Universe,” I asked. “Can you send me a better sign, to prove that that last sign was a sign?” I looked around, but nothing happened. Guess not. I felt stupid. Look what I had become. Some poor sucker with six-pack abs, salt and pepper hair and the legs of a gazelle–walking the treadmill looking for signs. Look at yourself, I taunted. Look at yourself!

I turned to look at my reflection in the window, and that’s when it happened. That’s when a car, waiting patiently for a green signal spontaneously BURST INTO F**KING FLAMES. I sh*t you not. If the universe was trying to get my attention, it had succeeded. But what did it all mean? Was I on fire? Were things in my life about to heat up,  like in a blaze of glory kind of way? Or was I about to crash and burn, like an Ali Lohan singing career kind of way?

It’s usually around this part of the story when people ask, “Oh my God, was the driver okay?” These are better people than me. The truth is, and I hate to admit it, but I was so transfixed on reading the symbolism of it all, I forgot to think about that—but a quick Google search revealed everyone was A-Ok. Thanks Universe! Oh, but sorry about your car. If it’s any consolation, the universe had inconvenienced me too. I was a bit stressed out by the whole thing to be honest–and it was starting to impact my treadmill walking, so I decided not to give it any more thought. I let it go. All those sinking feelings? Banished!

Then, later that day, while walking home from work, I watched with a smile as a flock of birds flew above my head. It was no joke, one of those animated Disney cartoon Zip-a-dee-doo-daa type of moments. Life was good. The Universe was stupid. Then, right on schedule a bird fell from the sky—landing directly at my feet–dead as a doornail. Another sign.

Universe 2. Dan 0.

The carnage didn’t stop there. The next morning I arrived at work only to discover seven dead flies on my desk. Yet another sign. I was quite literally, The Angel of Death. I considered going underground for a bit. What choice did I have? It was for the sake of all humanity. Luckily, I guess, life and work got busy again; the world started turning faster, and the days flew by. I shut myself off to the opportunity of signs—I fell back into my old routine, re-learned old habits and before I knew it those signs were a distant foggy memory. Until last night, when I dreamed all my friends and family were dead.

I don’t remember how they died, but I know I was devastated because when I woke up, I realized I had been crying in my sleep—and I’m not a crier. I’ll take a lie detector test: the last time I cried, I was in the seventh grade, in a dark theatre watching The Lion King. I was twelve.

I was The Last Man Standing. A Man Without a Country. Completely alone, without a friend in the world, the dream version of me did something the real me would probably never think to do. He packed up everything he had and walked away from it all. He hired a film crew, and started a reality show pilgrimage to far off destinations where miraculous events had occurred.  In short, he reacquainted himself with the beauty of the world and he rediscovered the miracle of life. It was a sad dream, yes–but I woke up feeling hopeful. Not like, win the lottery hopeful–more like lose my virginity sometime in my twenties hopeful.

I played back the dream in my head the entire bus ride into work–furiously texting every detail to my friends, hopelessly trying to preserve every waking memory of it. If only I had the right contacts. If only the universe could fall into place for me. I felt confidently that I had been given a gift of an idea here–something that could have a profound impact on others and myself. I asked the Universe for one last push, a modest miracle of my own. And that’s when the universe delivered–in a matter of speaking.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a wallet, just sitting there on the seat beside me. I scooped it up quickly—first making sure there was no obvious owner. I was completely paranoid to open the wallet in public. It would be my luck that some intimidating hipster would accuse me of stealing their wallet. I would be confronted; questioned– thrown in hipster jail sentenced to ten years of sarcastic irony, exaggerated glasses and plaid shirts. I couldn’t bear it. Especially since it had only been a few years since I had been released from Emo prison. I hurried to my desk, opened the wallet and began a Facebook search for Brian, the wallet’s rightful owner.

I was on a mission. The selfless passion project of a digital Good Samaritan.

Me (via instant message): Hi Brian, I think I have something you’ve been looking for. Contact me with the address on your license and your phone number. Looking forward to hearing from you.

In hindsight, it was the wrong approach–especially because I sent this message to the wrong Brian. To Wrong Brian I was a pathetic cyber-stalker with a zest for desperate icebreakers.

I needed help, so I sought the advice of my co-worker, a notoriously good online sleuth. Together we tracked down his place of employment—at one of Canada’s most successful—wait for it—Reality TV production companies! Did your brain just explode? This time I didn’t wonder if it was a sign, I knew it was a sign. Brian and I exchanged emails back and forth, then made plans to meet at my office so I could return the wallet to him in person.

The actual in-person exchange went a little like this:

Brian: You’re a good man, Dan! Thank you so much!

Me: No problem. I was going to give it to the bus driver, but I just had this feeling that I was supposed to hand deliver it to you. So here I am, and here you are. Actually if you have a minute, I have to tell you about this this dream…

Brian: Let me just open this and make sure everything is in order

Me: Ha! Imagine if I had the wrong guy? That could be really anticlimactic

Brian took an inventory of the wallet—leafing through the bills ($55 dollars worth, if you were wondering). He took out twenty dollars and handed it to me.

Brian: Thank you so much, here’s a little something to say how grateful I am.

Me: I’m not a whore, Brian.

Okay, I didn’t say that. I refused repeatedly, thanking him for the kind but unnecessary gesture. Then I told him to have a good weekend even though it was only Tuesday.

When I got back to my desk, my sleuthing partner was waiting to hear how it all went down.

Her: What did he look like?

Me: To be honest, he kind of looked like me. Well except for he was three years younger, working in the industry that I had gone to school for and had money in his wallet. Also he seemed happy. And it wasn’t just because he had his wallet back.

Her: Did you tell him about your reality show idea?

Me: I guess it just didn’t seem like the right time.

Do I regret it? Not even a little. Did I learn something? Absolutely. The truth was–I had convinced myself earlier in the day that the Universe was making my dreams come true. Then, as I stood there with Brian not even a little insulted that he was taking an inventory of his money and credit cards as I watched–It became obvious that the Universe had sent me a gift: a glimpse at myself three years ago. It was a clear picture of how far I had come, and how much I had achieved. Most importantly it was a chance to revisit some of the dreams I had forgotten.

I realized it was unfair to expect the universe to deliver a solution. Yes, I believe there is a preordained plan for me. Do I need to figure it all out now? Hell, no. Everything happens in it’s own time. You can worry about the future and pick at every little detail till there’s nothing left, or you can look for the positive side of life. It’s either car fires and dead birds, or finding wallets and bringing joy to someone’s day—no matter how big or small. The rest, I believe will fall in to place when the time is right.

Want to know what else I learned? The rush you experience when performing good deeds is hella addictive. Once I had a taste of it, I just had to do it again. That’s why I’m posting this blog a bit late. It’s been a long night of picking pockets. But don’t worry, I always return them to their owners in the morning.