Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meet Matt

I'm late. I know. If you know me in real life, you aren't surprised. I believe it was over a week ago when I said I would publish Matt Kelsey's My Daily Fortune guest post on Friday, and when I said that I meant I would do it last Friday. And now it's Wednesday. (I think. The days have started to run together recently.) Regardless, without further ado, here it is!

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People often ask me what I hope to accomplish with My Daily Fortune (www.mydailyfortune.net). For the longest time, I didn’t really have a good answer.
The answer to another common question – why did you start this project? – is a lot easier. Back in late 2010, my wife and I were in a tough financial bind. I was unemployed and the prospects for a new job were thin. Jamie was working a low-paying job at a non-profit organization. My unemployment benefits were set to run out the first of the year. And Jamie’s past medical bills had come under the thumb of a collection agency.
As we dined on Chinese food from a local takeout place, I pondered these dilemmas. And then I noticed the obligatory fortune cookie that accompanied the meal.
“We could use some good fortune now,” I thought.

So I came up with My Daily Fortune. Starting January 1, 2011, I began to crack open a fortune cookie each and every day. Whatever the fortune says is what I do that day.
But the project was almost derailed before it ever started. I got a job, and the need for a daily dose of good fortune didn’t seem so pressing. However, my brilliant wife encouraged me to proceed. It’s been a challenge to juggle a full-time job and a nearly-full-time writing project, but I’ve been doing it now for over two months, and I’ve grown as a writer and as a human being.

Which brings me back to that first question: what I hope to accomplish. I thought about that for a long time, and only after I’d been doing the project for a while did I realize the true answer.
Let me first say that I don’t really believe in some sort of mystical power surrounding fortune cookies. I know they were not written by Confucius (rather, by an accountant in Long Island), and I know they weren’t handed down to Moses on stone tablets.
But the thing about fortune cookies is you hardly ever find a negative fortune (although Not-A-Fortune tends to disprove this theory). You’ll never see a fortune that says, “Crush somebody’s dream today,” or “You will soon ruin your best friend’s life.” If you follow the advice of a cookie fortune – truly follow it – you will be doing something good for yourself or for somebody else.

I’ll be doing that 365 times in 2011. My life can’t be anything but better for it.
When I opened the fortune “Your friend or partner is needing advice or encouragement,” I was able to give advice to several people at my job, one of whom in particular was touched by my words. The fortune “Your flamboyant personality will soon bring you to a new hobby” inspired me to create one of my wife’s favorite restaurant appetizers: stuffed artichokes. After I received the message, “It’s time to write a letter or email to one who is distant,” I re-connected with a lost friend from elementary school.

On the other side of the coin, some of the fortunes have created unusual chains of events. After I opened the fortune, “A short stranger will soon enter your life to share blessings with you,” I went to a bookstore and stalked short people to gain wisdom from the books they purchased. When the fortune “A friend will soon reveal an exciting secret to you” was opened, one of my friends divulged a deep, dark memory that has haunted them since childhood. And only six days into the project, the fortune “Do something unusual tomorrow” inspired me to get a tattoo.

That’s right. A tattoo.
I think this experience will change my life. In many ways, it already has. And I can only hope it will change the lives of the people around me for the better.

Matt Kelsey is a writer and editor who lives in Kansas City. You can read about his quest at www.mydailyfortune.net.

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