The image above was probably taken three years into the process of writing this book. I found that if I had an external queue to track the progress of my revisions, it kept me motivated and on task. But I digress...

Beyond creative expression, the biggest decisions I have made in my life have been in the service of creating a backstory for this moment. Just as I wanted to know the lives and choices behind the writers I looked up to in my youth, I knew when I did have a product (book), a rich backstory (myth) would make me more intriguing to readers and fans. And so a quarter century before I heard the word, I knew I had to forge my own mythopoeia.

Mythopoeia is the creation of story through myth. My mythopoeia began in 2006 when a job and a relationship ended in the same week. I felt like life was telling me it was time to answer my calling, and so having never traveled as an adult, alone and anxious I left home to volunteer at an orphanage in Tanzania for two months.

Ever hungry to create, in the same decade I taught myself guitar and fronted a theatrical band which garnered a Seattle following. Over the course of three summers, I created my own European travel show with a friend. When a woman improv performer saw it online, she reached out and suggested I try improv, and so I followed the muse and took improv and commercial acting classes.

After a challenging decade of watching two sick parents deteriorate, when they both passed away I packed up my life in a Seattle storage unit and left home for what I thought would be 3-4 months. As luck would have it, it turned into 15-months (the last three of which I lived and worked in Berlin). When I returned to the United States, I had more money than I left with (all legal, might I add) and countless experiences and encounters with the magical, the mystical, and the transcendent.

When I think about the choices I’ve made, what I find remarkable is I had the gumption to make these decisions while at times suffering from what were debilitating bouts of depression and hopelessness. It was only when I truly committed to finding the story (as well as meditation) the depression lifted. In hindsight, I realize it’s because I engaged myself in the process of self-actualization. For years, I had been living the dream of being a writer in my mind—not in the real world. So if I can do it, so can you—no matter what your dream might be.

When I began the journey of an aspiring artist more than two-and-a-half decades ago, A Curious Year in the Great Vivarium Experiment is the book I wish someone had given me. Since it wasn't available, I had to go out and seek it in the world, call it in, experience it, and live it in order to bring it into being. My genuine desire is that it offers light in the darkness of our current world, and that it demonstrates the way to happiness, love, and acceptance is not an outward journey, but an inward one. I hope you enjoy it.

Lastly, I want to leave you with this thought: don't forget to take at least one step towards your dreams today...because even baby steps take you places. Six years after I began the journey, this book is proof of that.

~ Tim Shields