2.13: "The Defining Decade" feat. Cyndii Johnson
Exactly two months ago today (well, yesterday), I returned home from vacation in Bali. I’ve mentioned on the podcast, on social media and IRL that in 2017, I chose to go on 3 vacations with Travel Noire Experiences—the first was Bali in February—I recorded an episode of the podcast from my resort room! I then travelled to Cuba in March, and I’m so grateful I went. If you’re interested in hearing more about my time in Cuba, let me know on the @bribookspod Instagram and @bribookspod on Twitter. But I’ve never told the real story about how I almost missed the trip in the first place. My trip to Bali and relationship with today’s guest (actor/ storyteller Cyndii Johnson) started with a missed flight.
That’s right. I almost didn’t even make it on vacation. Long story short, I missed my flight by 13 hours. I thought my ticket was for Wednesday midnight, but I didn’t realize it was midnight on Tuesday, leading into Wednesday. Within two hours of realizing my error, I was on the next thing smoking and Asia-bound out of Newark. I got to vacation a full day late, stressed and a bit crestfallen—I’m SURE all the ladies had formed relationships by then, and I’d be “the late girl” for the entirety of our adventure. But after I made it to the resort, the first face I saw was that of Cyndii, the Experience Designer for the trip with Travel Noire. She said, “I’m so happy you’re here--you have a massage scheduled in a half hour.” I couldn’t have prayed or asked for a more welcoming end what had been trying experience.
On this episode, we dig into Meg Jay’s book “The Defining Decade” and how we’re both making the most of our 20’s by choosing to make CHOICES, and how “distraction is the opiate of the masses”—so here’s what we’re doing to stay focused and develop discipline—which is a practice! I love Cyndii’s commitment to telling her story while in the thick of it.
Who is Cyndii Johnson? Cyndii is an actor and storyteller in NYC, but she’s’ from Midwest like me. Cyndii Johnson is an ARTIST! From a 6th grade to 12th grade drama major to earning a degree in her craft, she’s flexing her storytelling muscles. One of her survival jobs when she’s not being an AMAZING nanny and working as Soul Cycle is as an Experience Designer with TN Experiences, which is how we met.
On being a Midwesterner outside of the Midwest in her 20s: “These past three years in New York flew by. I’m from Ohio, so age has a different meaning to me. The timeline I gave myself when I was younger, baby girl ain’t on that timeline anymore.
“If you meet me within 5 minutes, you’re find out I’m from Cleveland. I love, love love where I’m from. I think it makes up everything about me. And just what Cleveland stands for what happened to it. How it was this big industrial city and people flocked there for jobs and the jobs went away and everyone was like what do we do? How make this work? We didn’t go to college because we went straight here to make a life for our family and we got a home and all that's been taken away. What do you do with that? What do you stand upon?
What has travel taught Cyndii about appreciating the basics? “We live in a world of excess. People’s literal jobs are making us believe we need these things that we’re trying to sell. You can go get a college degree about how to make someone believe they need the thing you have. But getting down the basics: All I truly need is food shelter love and freedom, when you get down to the nitty gritty!”
How her role as an Experience Designer with TN influences Cyndii as an artist: “When I got this job, I didn’t realize...I see people like flourish every week. I literally watch these life changing moments happen, and I’m able to witness it. As a storyteller, I’m like I have so much to pull from because I’ve seen so many types of people.”
The glow-up is imminent: “I literally see it sometimes. Me and my friends, I’m like, one day they’re gonna ask in an interview do you know so and so...and I’m gonna be, like, “DO I KNOW THEM?! WE WERE IN BROOKLYN ON SUNDAYS RECORDING PODCASTS IN OUR LIVING ROOM. WE WERE IN THE TRENCHES TOGETHER! YES, I KNOW THEM!!”
I see it happening with my friends they’re getting shows, pilots, these huge things where everyone’s getting to know who they are. And I’m like, this is just my friend. I remember when they weren’t getting anything and they were so sad.”
On an end of the panties-out-the-pack era that ushers in the mid-20’s and a focus on quality: The quest for adult underwear. I was like, “I have to stop buying panties out the pack.” That’s grown shit. It’s like graduating from Ikea to West Elm--you value quality. You start investing yourself more because you also have less time. Time is an investment.
How “the strength of weak ties”—associations that give us something fresh—helps Cyndii understand her industry:” Everything Cyndii got in NYC is through someone she knew. And, in the art world where people are hiring their friends and actors they knew before, it’s like how am I supposed to break in, if everyone wants to work only with people they know? Then I realized it’s not out of a place of malice--people want to help people they know. You want to come up with your circle of people.”
Cyndii on showing up for yourself: But I think you also have to learn to show up for yourself. And when people don’t show up for you you’re like, “Oh it's fine,” because you’re not showing up for yourself. And then once you start showing up for yourself, you realize how important it is to show up for other people, and showing up for other people makes them realize they should show up for themselves.
How floating and teaching swimming is transformational for Cyndii: “When I teach people to swim, I first teach them to float. But you can only float if you let go. You have to trust that the water underneath you will support you and keep you buoyant. And it’s hard because water is so very powerful. You can drown in 2 tbsp. of water. But your body’s 70% of water. So, it’s something you have to know deeply and let go of that can kill you. You have to believe it can support you. You have to lay on top of it. When people swim, I tell them, you work with the water...you cup and pull yourself through it. Everyone should learn how to swim. I’m not afraid of drowning because I know if anything happens, all I have to do is turn over and float.”
At 26, this decade has definitely been amazing and I know the best is still yet to come. Overall, this book was everything. It took the fear out of my 20s and replaced it with gratitude and excitement and ready to “claim my adulthood.”