My life as a pre-teen was influenced by the prevailing message of the media at the time: stay within the acceptable girl parameters. The “be a good girl” stereotype was undermining my confidence and natural curiosities about what girls could and couldn’t do.
Play with dolls, but not computers. Go outside but don’t get dirty. Bake cakes in your oven, not creepy crawlies like the boys.
Fast forward to the late 1990s, and a new show that my cousin would introduce me to: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It was deep, dark, and showed me that there were many versions of “what a woman is” beyond the good girl.
There was Buffy, the feminist heroine who turned the helpless blonde formula on its head. She inspired me to take martial arts and eventually become a black belt, and dark alleys are less scary now. She took charge, modeled balancing romance with your mission, and she also cared deeply for her friends.
Willow was your typical good girl with a few twists: she was a witch, good with computers, and she embraced all sides of herself including the dark side. She wasn’t perfect, but that’s also part of being a woman.
Cordelia softened my image of the mean girls at school and gave me an empathetic look at what might be happening inside for someone else.
As the show progressed, I continued to find my own version of what it means to be a woman in this modern world, all thanks to the show’s creator and under-the-radar feminist Joss Whedon.
Growing up in a small town in Canada, I made my way into the world with more confidence and guts than I ever would have without Buffy and Joss. I became a Software Engineer, started my own business, got married to a surprisingly feminist man, and moved to New York.
And then something kind of surreal happened…
A few months ago, I was meeting a friend for lunch in New York City, so I decided to see if the Apple store could take a look at my broken laptop trackpad while I was there.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that Joss Whedon, the creator of my all-time favorite childhood TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer was going to be speaking at the Apple store the same day I was going. I didn’t even know the Apple store hosted presentations like these!
The odds of me meeting the man whose work has had the biggest impact on my teenage years and confidence as a woman? Divine timing. Big time.
I immediately booked my spot to attend his talk at the Apple Store, and the next day I got my laptop fixed and met my literary hero Joss Whedon. Here’s a picture of us together during my fangirl moment:
Meeting him was awesome, but what’s even more amazing is that I got to ask him about his creative process, and learn more about how he writes and creates such amazing work.
This is the answer Joss Whedon gave me about his creative process: he imagines the story in his head first, paces around the room a lot, then writes it down. Love it! There’s also a really great interview with Joss about how to be prolific here.
I came home with a renewed passion for my writing and creative process, and ideas for how I can be more daring with my work like Joss is in his.
I shared this story with my family and readers, because all of these circumstances felt like divine timing. Many of my friends were jealous that I got to meet Joss, and chalked it all up to the magic of living in a big city like New York.
At the Apple store, Joss was talking about his new movie Much Ado About Nothing. He shared his love for Shakespeare, so I got some books on Shakespeare the following week, to keep the inspiration going. And when his movie came out, I was at the first screening in New York on opening day. It was extra special to watch so many of my favorite actors come together, too.
But the divine Joss Whedon timing didn’t stop there.
A few weeks later, I was visiting Portland, Oregon and attending my friend Chris Guillebeau’s event World Domination Summit. There were 3000 attendees, and we had pretty much overtaken downtown Portland.
One afternoon, I was walking toward the theater entrance when I met some of my friends from the conference who were about to grab something to drink. They invited me along, and as we were about to enter the cafe I heard a crash behind me.
I turned around to see that a waitress had dropped a glass and was bending down to pick up the pieces. Doing a double take, I saw that Joss Whedon was sitting at a table outside of this cafe.
I quickly told my friends I’d join them inside in a minute, and went back to talk to Joss. I felt bad for interrupting him since he was reading a script, but I just wanted to personally thank him for the impact of all his work. I told him that Much Ado About Nothing was awesome, to which he replied “Oh you actually went to see it?” and I explained how we had met briefly in New York just a few weeks ago.
“It’s so funny to see you here, because I’m not from Portland!” I said.
“Neither am I,” he replied.
We bantered for a minute and then my friends who were inside realized I was chatting with “The Joss Whedon,” and came out to meet him. We all got more fan photos together. Joss was humble, witty, and such a good sport while we chatted.
This second encounter with Joss really took me by surprise. A friend asked me after “what do you think all of these meetings with him mean?” because the coincidences have been more fateful than average… especially when you take a look at how much of an impact Joss and his work have had on my life.
What does it all mean?
My first thought was that I have no idea what the universe is trying to tell me through these fun and random meetings with Joss Whedon. I’ve never actively sought him out, I haven’t gone to any comic conventions, or stalked him or any of the actors from the show… and yet somewhere in my subconscious there has been something drawing me out and making me pay attention when necessary.
I still don’t have a concrete answer to this one, except that everything happens for reason… and you need to trust your intuition when you know your laptop needs to get fixed, and turn around when a glass breaks. Then have your eyes open to notice those winks from the universe.
More than anything these encounters with Joss Whedon showed me that I not only admire his work, but also his creative process and how prolific he is. It’s giving me inspiration to be more prolific and creative in my work and storytelling, too.