Get help from our network of more than 300 experts on changes big and small, personal and professional.
Elise Ballard on Epiphanies and Change
Describe in a few lines what you are creating.
I am writing a book called Epiphany and have created a website called EpiphanyChannel.com, which is all part of what I call the Epiphany Project. My dream is that this becomes a series of books, a web community and a channel for people from all walks of life and from all over the world to experience, learn about and share great epiphany stories and continue to build content along these lines. This idea actually originated as an idea for an independent film so I am shooting a lot of the interviews and there has been interest in it as a possible television show so I am developing that as well.
When did you have the idea for Epiphany?
I had the idea for Epiphany probably about a month after I had my greatest epiphany. My big one completely changed my life because it helped me finally have the courage and strength to leave a marriage that wasn't working. It was so remarkable to me about a month later when I realized that I'd actually had an epiphany that I wrote down the question, "What is your greatest epiphany in life? Ask people this question from all over, wherever you are, and record them and string the interviews together over time…." Many times when I have an idea for a project or film, I write it down, make a folder for it and throw it in my file cabinet. So I did this, but when I was working as a filmmaker and actress, I did go ahead and start asking people this question. (As a filmmaker, my thing has been this sort of "guerilla" verite style where a lot of the time I’m operating the camera and interacting with people and asking them questions.) It happened that everyone interested me so and moved me, that I casually mentioned the project idea to a producer friend. He loved it and the whole thing became a viable project. About two years afterward I had something real.
What is your hope, dream or mission with this project?
My hope for the Epiphany books, the web channel and the other related projects is that people feel inspired and learn as much as I have in working with and hearing about people’s epiphanies, and that we can network, grow and gain awareness through them. I have found that most of our epiphanies contain our greatest wisdom and incredibly valuable insights but many times we don't share these stories readily because they often occur in very private ways. I am also targeting people I admire and/or am exceptionally curious about so it's really interesting to find out what their stories are and also I'm learning how a lot people out there are affecting and changing the world, which is why I'm asking people to please write in with their wish list of people that they would want to hear about. Plus, these stories are great story-telling fodder—entertaining, moving, fascinating and true. And for me, that's the best kind!
What kinds of epiphanies have you heard from people that others can learn from?
I have heard epiphanies from everyone from famous doctors, actors, singers, politicians and film producers to homemakers, former street urchins and a missionary in Africa…and what I would say is that you can learn from all of them. I have. I’m honestly not just saying that—it's actually been stunning to me how this has been true. Some of them might have more impact on you depending on who you are and what you're doing in your life, but most epiphanies have to do with gaining a great insight or deep wisdom and I'm not sure we can ever have enough of that in our lives. The ones that have affected me the most have probably had to do with facing fear and also finding and maintaining faith and belief in your calling and talents even when you feel completely lost and everything seems hopeless to you. The epiphany stories I have gathered so far are all very different in nature, but I have noticed some patterns in the way epiphanies happen and some themes. Right now, I am calling them the Miracles, New Directions, Awakenings Through Loss, Callings, Dreams, Heart Openings, Coming of Age, Faith.
What is your Big Epiphany?
My greatest epiphany, which is the one that sparked the idea for this project, is this: "Knowledge and understanding of your fears are the keys to eliminating them." I was in an unhappy marriage and was acting in a play, playing a woman who desperately wanted a baby and found out she couldn’t have children. In my research for the role, I gained all this knowledge and information about fertility treatments and adoption and suddenly, in one moment, I realized one of the reasons I was staying in my marriage was because I was scared if I left, I might never have a child of my own. In this one instant, I was completely freed from this fear that I didn’t really know I had, or had admitted to at least, and a couple of months later, I separated from my husband. Then my whole life changed and was on a new path! I was so fascinated that this one defining moment had such an impact on me, that I started asking people about their epiphanies, and here I am now. The whole story will be in the book, of course, but for me, whenever I am scared or unsure about anything, I always try to get as much education and information as I can about whatever it is, and it is usually the absolute key to dispelling fear and uncertainty. I am a huge advocate for education—knowledge is freedom.
What drives you and inspires you these days?
That's easy! People. People are a never-ending source of inspiration for me. We are complex and simple, difficult and beautiful all at the same time. For me, the true essence of people is simply fascination and magnificence. This has been one of the greatest gifts for me about this project. My faith has been renewed that there are a great many people out there with integrity, love and great intentions. To be honest, I think that I had gotten a little cynical about that. And it's not just the people who I have interviewed that are inspiring me, but it's people I am reading and hearing about, people I am meeting and those who have stepped forward to support me and help me along the way, including my friends and family. You say in your interview for Epiphany: "We are all so much more powerful and intuitive and resilient than we’ve ever been told or realize," and I am finding that to be very true and incredibly inspiring. Along these lines, two books have greatly inspired me recently that are autobiographical accounts and are both films now as well: The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson and Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. Amazing people, great stories.
What’s your main belief about getting through times of change?
"This too shall pass." But then that sounds like change is always hard! I guess, a lot of the time, it is. One of the things about getting older is that I realize I will survive things. I may not know how everything will look on the other side of the change I'm going through, but I know that I will get to the other side eventually, and will be stronger and wiser because of it, which is a huge plus. What doesn't kill me will make me stronger is very true. And again, for me, I always try to get as much information and knowledge as I can about what I'm doing and dealing with and I try to take things one step at a time with as much grace and dignity as possible. I also think getting proper support is extremely important—whatever that is for you—books, therapy, a group of friends, family, and so on. And this is imperative: Keep your sense of humor! A wise woman once told me, "life is beautiful and it's hard." You have to always be able to laugh—it will get you through the hardest of times and will accompany you in the greatest of times and change can be either or both of those.
What’s been the hardest part of this new change/career for you?
Well, this has been uncharted territory for me. I am a first-time author so I've been learning a lot as I go and I've loved it but it's always a challenge to do things for the first time. It has taken longer than I thought it would and I wouldn't say I'm the most patient person in the world! I also have launched this project from scratch alone—scheduling, shooting, transcribing, editing all my interviews, and organizing the book along with the website and film part of it all by myself initially, so it has been an enormous undertaking to do all this as well as set up a new home and life for myself in Los Angeles. I have had help from wonderful people who have done me favors and whom I've hired but I've never done a project of this scope alone before and that has been hard on me—I love and am happiest when I am collaborating and working with people so I look forward to the next chapter of this project's development where there will be much more of that.