My mom has always said I have the luck of the Irish, and on the eve of St. Patrick’s day, I had one the luckiest weekends yet.
As always, though, things can’t fall into place unless they’re initially broken, so before I summarize all that went right throughout my weekend, I want to first tell you what went wrong.Exactly 12 hours before takeoff, I learned my housing plans fell through. Every single friend I had in Austin was out of town, and given that it was two days before SXSW, hotel and Airbnb accommodations were limited and TREMENDOUSLY expensive. Did I mention that I work for a non-profit? I panicked.
With help from my co-workers, I snagged a deal on a hotel that was relatively reasonable and not too far from the city. Even better, I learned that due to my friend’s cancelation, I would be able to inherit a free Gold SXSW badge. Things were picking up, and I considered it lucky happenstance number one.
After that, I thought my luck was fading. I arrived in Austin to find out that, not only was my hotel 30 minutes outside of the city, but I booked it for the FOLLOWING weekend. Thanks, anxiety-brain. Cue more panicking. After a few deep breaths, the kind woman behind the desk found me one of their last reasonably priced rooms. Lucky happenstance number two.
Traveling 30 minutes outside the city via Uber and Lyft wasn’t ideal, but I thought I could strategize to make it work. I showered and got ready for my first event of the trip: a Jewish networking dinner my coworker invited me to.
An hour into dinner, a gorgeous couple walked in and I seriously swore that I knew the woman. There was something about her that made me feel connected to her— like we were kindred spirits.
We chatted a while and it turned out that, not only was she from New York, a former Rosenberg and an published author by way of Harper Collins (just like my mom), but she had a RUTH BADER GINSBURG MANICURE. Yep, this woman was my soulmate.
We were among the last ones at the dinner and they asked me where I was off to. When I explained my situation, they turned to each other, exchanged a look and offered me a room in their home downtown. To which I responded:
“No… seriously… I couldn’t… I mean, I would LOVE to but… are you sure?!?”
Rebecca, my new host’s, response still makes me smile.
“Once you have a two-year-old and a dog, your house can’t get any crazier.”
And so the kind, beautiful couple— with child and dog in tow—opened their home to an almost complete stranger. Lucky happenstance number three. And lucky happenstance number four? My hotel allowed me to cancel my reservation after a one night stay despite their SXSW cancelation policy. Win.
The next morning was my first day of the SXSW conference. I walked around with wide eyes and a huge smile, in shock of the brilliant minds I was surrounded by. Truth be told, though, I was SO unbelievably overwhelmed.
If you’ve never attended SXSW, I’ll help you understand; it’s as if all the movies you’ve ever wanted to watch were playing live, at a one-time only viewing party at the EXACT same time in 15 different locations—and 50,000 people are trying to beat you to it first. Xanax not included.
Luckily, I ran into a pack of four Israeli’s that I met at the networking dinner and they immediately took me under their wing. To me, finding this amazing group of people was lucky happenstance number five. Together, we attended several sessions that resonated with me so deeply, and truly changed my way of thinking. Plus, I freaking love Israelis.
Things continued to fall into place. I attended a Shabbat dinner completely by myself and met such an amazing crew of people that we were the last ones there— talking until midnight.
Thanks to my coworker, I got to have lunch with the Jewish Blogger/Author, What Jew Wanna Eat, whom I SO admire. I also got to see Abbi and Ilana of Broad City live (YAS queen), eat amazing tacos, be in the presence of my beloved Obama, play with puppies AND win an Away suitcase (lucky happenstance six). I was having a BLAST.
And then finally, lucky number seven happened, though it didn’t exactly happen to me. Rebecca had an important brunch she absolutely needed to attend on Sunday morning. Her babysitter would come at 10:45AM and we would go our separate ways until I left for the airport.
11:15 AM rolled around and Rebecca was in a panic—the babysitter was a no show. Her husband was also at an event and she’d been looking forward to this meeting for weeks. If I hadn’t been around that morning and staying in her house, I wouldn’t have been able to backup babysit her ADORABLE son, Noah. Our personal connection was 100% Beshert, and I am still so relieved I was able to do something for her in return.
So yeah, I had amazing luck this weekend in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day. But more than that, I learned that I played a part in the fortune.
Here are my four key takeaways from my first SXSW weekend:
There is no such thing as ‘coincidence.’
There is so much generosity in this world.
With a mix of kindness, hustle and bravery, you’ll never, EVER be on your own.
I wouldn’t have learned lesson 1-3 if I had been hiding behind my phone.
I knew ONE person going into this weekend, and though he and I touched base quite a bit, I had FIVE meals with five completely separate groups of people that I hadn’t known before this weekend. By sheer happenstance and friendliness, I acquired ~12 new Facebook friends and ~8 new phone contacts. If you ask me, that’s WAY better than collecting business cards.
So did I have the luck of the Irish? Perhaps. But it’s all because I made myself available to the kindness and generosity of strangers.