My name is Chris Miller. I am a 49-year-old living in the "Sportsman Paradise" state of Louisiana. I was born in a small town in southern Mississippi called Pascagoula and developed a great work ethic as a child.
I worked on a family newspaper route for seven years, mowed the neighbors' grass, washed cars, etc. I have never been afraid of work. With only a high-school diploma and not being very smart, I jumped from job to job with the intensity and direction of a pinball.
I thought I had found my niche in life when a friend trained me to run a transmission shop's front office, and hired me as a manager at one of his locations. After working for him for several years, I ended up owning my own shop. I was making enough money to live modestly and help provide for my four children. As the economy began to shrink, however, along with all of my company savings, I had to make a decision to sink or swim. I hung in there a little longer than I should have, for fear of not being able to find another job myself and having to jeopardize the financial situation of my handful of employees. But I finally made the decision to shut down my shop in November 2009.
Fortunately, a shift in my life had already occurred several years earlier, something that had set a new direction for me in motion. And so when I became unemployed, my life went through a big change. That's where my new story begins.
After the youngest of my four children announced she would be attending LSU and living on campus, my heart shrunk in my chest. At that moment, for the first time, I realized that all of my kids, and the fun that had gone along with having them, would soon be gone. A terrible empty-nest depression set in, but then my wife suggested that I try volunteering to work with special-needs children.
I thought that was a great idea, so I did. Once a week I would go and spend a couple hours with children that had become wards of the state. As I was always looking for something new to entertain them with, I pulled out a couple of magic tricks I had had since I was a child and tried them out on the kids. When I saw the delighted reactions in their faces, I was hooked.
Within a couple of weeks of that wonderful experience, a customer came into my shop and did not have enough cash to have his car repaired, but he did have something he was willing to trade. Would you believe me if I told you it was magic props? He was a local magician who had performed mostly in the '70s and '80s and had a vast collection. I (of course!) traded and so had enough to perform a much-longer routine for the kids. I don't know who enjoyed it more, them or me!
I knew this would easily ease my empty-nest symptoms, and it did. Soon someone approached me and asked me if I could do a show for another group of special-needs kids. I immediately said "yes," thinking of the excitement the kids would feel, but then my own nervousness set in, thinking about having to perform for people I did not know, and having to put together a routine with patter and purpose. But I did it, and that show led to another and another and then I went to local TV stations, offering my services for free to special-needs events. I loved every minute of it, and hadn't once gotten paid.
But those shows led to requests for private shows, and eventually I was performing at least two times a month -- and getting paid for it. I remember thinking, "Wouldn't be great if I could do this for a living?"
So when I shut down my shop, I already had a little extra income coming in from my magic shows. But I still began to stress about my situation of being unemployed -- when you have worked every day, all of your life, and then are just sitting at home watching daytime television, you feel worthless.
But the shift in my life that had begun while I still had my shop was at work. So I got off the couch and signed up with a nationwide talent agency. They began to get me magic-act bookings all over the area. I have booked and performed 14 shows since the first of this year. I'm not making a ton of money, but it does help pay the bills. Besides all that, my life has changed profoundly. I have found the secret to man's quest in life. It is CONTENTMENT.
I feel better than I have ever felt in my life! I am not religious, but I have become enlightened and am deeply spiritual. I have finally located my inner passion and am letting it flow in the direction it wants to take me. It is a wonderful journey.
What I have learned from this is, without a doubt, everything that happens in your life happens for a reason. And there is nothing you can do to prevent it. So stop trying to, and enjoy the ride. In the world of ebb and flow, where there are downs, there will later be. Learn to accept the downs and enjoy the ups and you will be in a much better place. Seek your spirit's passion and pursue it with a passion, and the world around you will shift to allow that passion to be fed and eventually enlightened.
I had a plaque at my work station for 15-plus years that read "Priorities -- A hundred years from now it will not matter how much money you had and what kind of house you lived in or the car you drove, but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child."
I guess that was always an omen of what was to come because now I am living that reality. I have no money, my wife and I drive 15- and 12-year-old cars and live in a small home -- and almost every day I get to be important in the life of a child. I can honestly say that I have the best job in the world: I get to play every day, make kids laugh and scream, and get paid to do so.
Who would have ever thought that a few tricks I was taught as a 7-year-old child would have led me to this? I make it a point to take the time and teach the kids who show interest in magic a few tricks that they can perform themselves, always thinking that maybe there's another me out there.
Amazingly, around the same time I started performing as a magician, I received a package from my grandmother that contained stage props that had belonged to my grandfather, who was a magician in the '40s and '50s. I never knew that, as he had passed away when I was about 7. I had never made that connection, but that was right about the time when I stood in front of my third-grade class and performed my first magic trick.
Just another coincidence in my spiritual journey to the best job I have ever had.