It is a grey December morning in Scotland. I wake up realising I had missed my alarm. As I grab my bag hastily stumbling outside, my thought is ‘Bad Karma Day’. So on my way to work, I called my sister to distract myself, only to get a response from her screaming baby full volume inside my earbuds. Did I mention PMSing? I pass by a car window only to notice my hair was doing its own thing as usual, so uncooperatively. Crap.
Lifelessly paddling to campus along the bumpy brick road, I pass by a majestically lit sign at The Pear Tree Garden pub. In the corner of my eye, I vividly catch a shockingly large screen. It is larger than the building and brighter than daylight. Projecting on it is a beautiful video of a warm fireplace. I fantasise for a few seconds: ‘My God, if ever…’, but immediately it was replaced with: ‘Definitely not me, far from it…’
Somehow, a brainwave challenging my assumption, Landmark’s coaching repeats in my mind ‘Bold leadership is acting against all disagreements’. To me, this means my practice is to confront my inner state, place my thoughts aside, and get into action. Warner Erhard’s quote on my bedroom door says: ‘The world doesn’t care how you think or how you feel. Look for yourself and see that the world only moves for you when you act.’
So now my fears and thoughts are distinguished. I place them aside together with my bicycle which I lock to the street pole.
I walk in. Yikes. An intimidating good looking bartender asks me: ‘Can I help you?’ I freeze. ‘Uhm like, your large screen outside is incredible. Maybe I can ask.’
Bartender swiftly points ahead: ‘Right behind you, do you see that corner table? Our manager, his name is Brian.’ My thoughts get louder: ‘I am a loser’ ‘hopeless’ ‘bad outfit’. Very familiar feelings.
Snowball. I did not expect a snowball. I have never imagined such a snowball in my life. Definitely not today.
Brian will turn to be of the kindest people I am about to meet. In fact, until today, our entire team still calls him ‘Brian Sweetheart’ due to how I saved his name on my phone, later shared with them. Melting away I learn right there about the kind of person he is. How much he cares about the people in his life, adores his daughter to tears, how committed he is to those who deal with mental health. Still hesitant for no good reason, I share my work with him, to speculate costs of renting that screen for my graduation in two years. Sharing how I co-produce music videos on mental health, with young people, to reach the public. Brian with incredible generosity comments: ‘Let’s bring several projects on mental health together for a big event?’
I was blown away. What Brian doesn’t know is that for the past 10 years I had this dream. I called it PosiFest. A theme park with research-based well-being games, practices, and performances. Long collected written pieces in the plan were accumulated for ‘one day when I am 60 or so’. This fantasy started at Harvard when I sat in the PSY1504 Happiness course and decided to dedicate my life to bringing such helpful information out of the ivory tower to the main street.
My heart blooms and booms as I leave the Pear Tree, still not believing this could ever happen. Thirty minutes later I am on campus. My Eating Disorder Awareness team combines postgraduates. We facilitate events on campus. As I acknowledge what we have already been doing, I ask if they would like to create with me something a bit bigger. We speculate together what an umbrella festival would look like, celebrating all coping skills and encouraging togetherness and belonging. Six out of seven of us are in. Budding here is the founding flower team of my PosiFest dream. We invent roles: a PR outreach group, a minutes taker, a volunteer coordinator. Brian has already begun enrolling a list of celebrities, comedians, as we add musicians, researchers, practitioners, and positive DJs to create PosiFest.
That evening I met Mario who became our DJ event master. We drive to the farmhouse to look at equipment like lights and bubbles. This farm will later become our broadcasting headquarters. My recent declaration to overcome my vocal fears and make music was hesitant in this practice. However, today that began as ‘bad karma’ is my first time ever in my life when I feel certainty like this: melody, words, instruments: This Is My Song. Today.
I don’t care if it sounds cheesy. It is exactly what my heart dictates. I love people. You are amazing. I celebrate what we can do. What we are doing. Together. Belonging.
So, what happened later and where am I today? Brian invited our growing team for weekly meetings at the Pear Tree restaurant, providing free hot drinks on the house, also hot chocolate. We arrange performances, activities. We order rainbow sashes for the expanding volunteer list. More special guests plan their arrival in the capital of Scotland for the big day of PosiFest, some to fly in especially from across the world. Preparing for 28th March, PosiFest 2020. The requests flow in so we plan an additional follow-up full week event for late in September. An after-party is suggested at The Dome, of the most tourist-attracting stunning fancy venues in the capital of Scotland.
COVID-19. Quite an entrance. It is about three weeks before we launch. Brian sits with our team and expresses with so much care how much he loves us and how committed he is to safety. Now even the biggest Festival cancelled. We collectively introspect on our context to empower ourselves: our WHY. ‘Bold leadership Acts Against All Disagreements’ and while each of the other events cancel, we choose to not. To us, this is likely more needed now than ever. Over the next three weeks, we reorganise. PosiFest goes live on 28th March for just over 15 hours as a live digital Festival. Our Facebook views reach 11,000. Being allowed performers that otherwise could not have come, such as a poet from India, a pop celebrity in California, a cancer patient and resilience coach isolating from his home, an NHS mental health clinician with her daughter, and so many more – all from their homes.
This vast turnout encourages us to broadcast daily. Sharing music, games, coaching, skillshare workshops and fun unicorn dance, performances. We are featured in international magazines. Our PosiFest family is joined by hosts from The Gambia, Spain, London, Boston, Kurdistan, Islands. We play weekly capoeira and dance with the Jeevan Utthan orphans in Nepal. We walk peacefully with Black Lives Matter in Scotland. One of our hosts is 10 years old and another is a grandma – a sneak peek of a sharing team.
Beaming with more colours than the rainbow. PosiFest is a celebration of people and of what we could do for each other. It’s a celebration of my dreams and us all being Care Bears with our shared heart. Together, we create fun and belonging. We declare into existence a loving world that cares.
To you ll we dedicate this song. I also invite you to share with us and tell us what you love about people, or anything that would benefit peoples togetherness, belonging and well-being. On this ‘horrible’ day, this song was born. Just like that.
Humans still surprise me. My team humbles me. I feel like a music video just in their humour with moments of awe I have from them – me crying.
- ILP landmark
- PosiFest humans
- Landmark Worldwide DFW
- Peter, Julia, Elijah, Jacob and Gabriel Adefowora.
- GRO team: Jungle Andy, DJ Kemal, Sami Okan, and their posi non alcohol parties in Glasgow.
- Heroes of the world from online and beyond.
- Dedicate to the children of the Nepal orphanage who love singing this song with me
- True Citizens Nepal
- Impact Festival Vancouver
- Lumyr Derisier, Tooky Kavanagh, Anrek Watts, Stephen A Winterroth, My Grandma Ruth Kolko Cohen who loved to sing with me “anashim tovim beemtza haderech (good people come across our path)”,girl in hug w me, Naomi Cohen, My family.
- And all you people of the world. Those I know who helped us and those I will never know who did.
This song is available on Spotify.
Shalhavit-Simcha Cohen is doing a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh.