Anna Kloots, MY OWN MAGIC: A Reappearing Act

Anna Kloots, MY OWN MAGIC: A Reappearing Act

Zibby speaks to New York Times bestselling author and travel influencer Anna Kloots about her new memoir My Own Magic: A Reappearing Act, the inspiring and resilient story of how she built a dream life out of a seemingly hopeless situation. Anna lost herself in her ex-husband’s world as a magician, molding her own identity around his. She discusses the joy and hopefulness in feeling “lost” but free, as well as the importance of an uplifting community, which she’s found both in real life and on social media. Anna concludes with a glimpse into her current life abroad in Paris and the screenplay adaptation she is co-writing with her sister.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Anna. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss My Own Magic: A Reappearing Act. Love that.

Anna Kloots: Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. I actually had your sister on this podcast. Did you know that?

Anna: No, I didn’t. How wonderful.

Zibby: Yes, that was fun. I loved hearing your view of some of the events that I talked about with her in your book. Behind the scenes.

Anna: Definitely.

Zibby: Would you mind telling listeners what your memoir is about?

Anna: It is basically about a ten-year period of those pivotal years in your twenties where you’re figuring out who you are and what you really want and how I sort of got lost in the midst of all of that in a relationship that just wasn’t the right one for me. When that ended, I was left at ground zero again at thirty and, of course, like anyone would, thought that my life was over. Actually, it was just getting started. It’s about how I picked up those pieces and refound what made me powerful and strong and used that as a fuel to go build my dream life.

Zibby: It’s so amazing. I love it. So inspiring. I also got divorced after a twelve-year relationship. Now I’m remarried. I wrote about that as well. I related so deeply to your experience and some of those feelings and the aftermath and just all of it. Loved reading all these stories where we have second acts, third acts, whatever it is. It’s great.

Anna: Exactly. Life is like that. We should always be growing and evolving and reinventing. When we hit a pitfall or we hit something that feels like the end, we have to look at that as, maybe this is just a new beginning. What am I out of it? That’s what I did. That’s what I think a lot of people do. We need to share that more so that when you are at that rock-bottom moment, you realize there’s hope and you’re not alone in those feelings.

Zibby: Yes, so true. Your own magic, the man you were involved with was a magician. You told us all about what that was like and being a magician’s assistant and how you know all the tricks, but you’re not going to tell us and all of that, so thanks. Thanks for that taunting, dangling that and snatching it away.

Anna: I’m sworn to secrecy. this magician’s code. Don’t want to be the one to break it.

Zibby: Talk a little more about how you got into the relationship and how you decided to go on this wild ride following him around to all the magic shows all over the world and all of the travels and what that part of your life was like and what it felt like to almost become subsumed into somebody else’s whole world, if you will, and lose yourself a little bit in that.

Anna: Absolutely, that. I met my ex-husband when I was nineteen. I had just moved to New York and was starting school. I kind of had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do and what I thought I could do. Then I met someone who I just became enamored with. He was a bit older than me, so he already had a lot of his life set up and already had a job and had a lifestyle that wasn’t very malleable because of the nature of it. I became the malleable one. I started to shape myself into the exact type of companion I thought required for his life. I started compromising and giving up a lot of pieces of myself that I didn’t realize how crucial they were to who I am until I was too far gone to get them back. I eventually reached a point where I didn’t even recognize myself. I realized I was extremely isolated. I had nothing but him in this world we had together. I had very little control over any aspect of my own life because my world was coexisting within someone else’s.

That really began to bother me and make me very deeply unhappy despite me kind of always wearing these rouge-colored glasses and always trying to find the beauty in it and find the joy in it, because there was. That’s the nature of life. Nothing is ever all bad or all wonderful. There’s so many shades of gray. While it was a very difficult and troubling time in many ways, in other ways, I was rapidly growing and discovering things I was passionate about and having these unusual, wild experiences that I could’ve never even dreamed I would’ve had. I look back on it both very fondly and with a bit of pain in retrospect. As I say in my book, I wouldn’t change anything about anything that happened or any choice I made. I certainly never thought I would become a magician’s assistant. I think that’s the crazy beauty of life. It throws us these curveballs. If we take these crazy chances, sometimes they work out beautifully. Sometimes we crash and burn. It’s all about, what do we learn? Where did that take us? What experiences did we gain from that experience to go, then, what do I want to do with these ashes I now have of this thing that went up in flames?

Zibby: I think it happens often at that age in particular. We’re all trying to figure out who we are. You were so young, nineteen. I think about my boyfriend at nineteen. It’s like, oh, my gosh. We’re looking around being like, who am I in this big world? Where am I going to fit into things? When we see somebody who has that figured out and we can shortcut and almost piggyback ride onto certainty, it’s tempting. I think a lot of women in particular find guys who have the sense that it’s all figured out. Of course, they might or might not. It doesn’t actually get you where you’re going. The shortcut doesn’t work. It gets you to someone else’s — like you were saying with this boat cruise, you jump on, but then you end up on the wrong dock when you land. You have to get back on. Then you feel like a failure. Anyway, I’ll stop. I think it’s tempting to latch onto certainty, not even just at this young age, but for some people who don’t have that sort of inner sense of self, which hardly anybody has at age nineteen.

Anna: It is. You give away things before, like I said, before you realize how important they are to you. You’re very willing to go, okay, sure, I’ll trade that away. That can be very troubling because then to get those pieces of yourself back sometimes is a lot of work and really hard. Maybe there’s parts of it you’ll actually never fully recover. It can be a very troubling time to get to a point where you realize, I actually don’t know who I am anymore. When my marriage ended, I remember being like, I don’t even know what I want to do. I had lost my home, my husband, and my job in one day. I was like, where do I want to live? What do I want to do? Who am I without this person? I’ve built my whole life around them. Now I just felt like nothing. I felt like I wasn’t capable of doing anything on my own. It really took some work to remind myself who I was before this relationship and that I was actually capable of a lot and gain a lot of that confidence back to say, I’m going to be just fine. In fact, maybe I’m actually going to be even better. Then that became really powerful.

Zibby: Look who’s laughing now. Look what you’ve done. You have this massive following. You have a book. It’s amazing. Who knows where it would’ve gone?

Anna: That’s what’s crazy. We make these choices young because there’s this pressure. You have to know what you’re going to do, especially as a woman. When I was getting married at twenty-five, all my girlfriends were like, you’re so lucky. You have it all figured out. You already met your person. Then cut to, I’m going through a divorce as they’re all getting engaged. Now I’m back at square one. That is so life.

Zibby: But you’re still so young.

Anna: Exactly. I was so grateful I was. Okay, I’m thirty. This is fine. So many ages are still so young. I don’t know why we feel like we have to all have it figured out by — we have to have our job figured out by this age or our husband figured out by this age or our home bought by this age. Who has decided this? It puts pressure on us to make these choices before we actually know what we want and who we are. We choose things because we feel like to not have a choice makes us look weak or all over the place or unsettled. We jump in too soon. It’s too hard, then, to create the life you want because you’ve created a life that you were complacent with because you felt the need to make these choices.

Zibby: It’s so true. I got married at twenty-eight, and I felt like it was late because I had had a few friends who already were married. I was like, oh, my gosh, I’m already twenty-eight. Then I had twins by the time I was thirty. Now I work with so many younger women. I’m like, god, I was a baby when I had those kids, but I felt old. It’s all about perspective, which your book really, really highlights.

Anna: To normalize this, finding your partner in your forties or your fifties, who cares when it happens? I’ve actually started to embrace — when you look back, this alone time you have is actually so small. It’s sacred. It’s beautiful. I almost think, why are we rushing into making all these choices when these moments we have where we’re just kind of lost and free and trying to figure it out, in retrospect, are so beautiful? If you’re in that moment, just try as hard as you can to soak it up because there will be a day when you miss that feeling of endless possibility. Who am I going to meet? What things could happen to me? Where will I end up? It’s, in some ways, so fun and exciting if you can just get over that fear of, I’ll never, I’ll never, I’ll never. You will, so just enjoy the freefall while you have it because it can be beautiful.

Zibby: You should put that on a T-shirt, #youwill, in your twenties. This whole thing keeps reminding me of — maybe you don’t even remember this movie. There was a movie with Julia Roberts called Runaway Bride. Did you ever see that?

Anna: Oh, yes. Big time.

Zibby: I love that because you see her with all these different relationships. With every guy she’s with, she orders her eggs at the diner the way he orders his eggs. First, she’s having sunny-side up and then scrambled. It’s not until the end when she’s like, wait a minute, I can order eggs however I want them. She finally realizes, okay, I like my eggs this way. She can be with the guy who doesn’t mind that she orders eggs the way she wants them. The profound takeaways of a Julia Roberts movie.

Anna: detail and nuance of that movie. We all do that so often in relationships. We mold into the person we’re with. We make choices we think they want. They’re little compromises, like your breakfast. At the same time, is it that small? give up so many little things like this. When you compromise so many of your own preferences away, it adds up. It takes a lot of who you are away. Post my relationship failing, I was back at ground zero and really started to figure out, what do I enjoy? What do I love? As I leaned into those things, then I really realized which of those are sacred, and I can never compromise that thing away again. Some things, I can. Other things, I’m like, oh, no, no. thing that makes me me. I cannot give this away for any reason under any circumstances because I know what will happen to my soul if I do.

Zibby: When you did lose everything, then you had to confront something even worse because then it was COVID. Your sister lost her husband. It was a very public way. Not that it made it worse that it was a public way. It was so horrific, her loss and your having to support her and the whole situation. Talk about that a little bit if you don’t mind.

Anna: You know what was crazy? That year started, and I was like, all right — I think so many people went into 2020 being like, 2020, it’s my year.

Zibby: You’re like, Paris, here I come.

Anna: I finally moved out of my apartment with my ex-husband. I moved to Paris. I started building this dream life. I was so happy. I was on cloud eleven. It all crashed down. The whole world shut down. I first was just so miserable and mourning the loss of this life I had built. I had to come back to the US because it was just too much uncertainty. I didn’t have anything established in France yet. I came back to the US and was just moping.

Zibby: You also had a thousand cancelled flights. As I’m reading, I’m like, is she going to get back? How is she going to get out of France? It sounded so awful, oh, my gosh.

Anna: It was very scary there for a second. Then I came back. My brother-in-law got sick very quickly after that. Then that just put everything into perspective right away. Okay, I don’t need to keep whining about the fact that my new life I built is on hold. This is obviously way more important. I had moved to France, in a way — I talk about in my book, I kind of put the distance between me and everyone I cared about on purpose because it’s always been my nature, also just growing up in a big family, to constantly be thinking about my siblings and my parents and the people I love. When my husband left, I really substituted them as fillers. I just filled my time with them. I served them and helped them and took care of their babies and helped my parents set up their new apartment. It gave me purpose. It gave me distractions, something to do. I moved to France like, I’m going to be selfish now. I’m not helping anybody anymore. I’m focusing on me. I think this is what I need. Then I end up in a situation where I literally don’t have a second to myself for three months.

It healed me in the weirdest way. As much as that whole experience was so painful and so difficult and I felt incapable of holding someone else up when I was, quite honestly, a complete mess myself still, to witness this crazy outpour of love and kindness and generosity and to become a part of this community that was just so giving and to see how when you’re serving and giving to the right people, you actually end up completely full — you don’t end up depleted. It was this beautiful moment that I realized I don’t need to be selfish to make my dreams come true. I don’t need to be selfish to be happy and take care of myself. If I give my time and energy to people who truly love me, you end up completely filled and whole and healed. Obviously, I wish that had all played out differently, but the lasting effects of that are just incredible. The community of people that I still am in touch with, that are still in my sister’s life, the amazing outpour of love, that changed me and my brother and my sister, my whole family immensely and deeply and forever. That’s the silver lining of what was a very tragic and awful thing to happen. In the weirdest way, it was so beautiful.

Zibby: I’m so sorry you lived through that. I lost a loved one to COVID during that time too. I feel like so many people were like, we’re fine. It’s going to all be fine. It’s not fine. It wasn’t fine. There’s always some sort of thing you learn from every loss. That sounds so trite. I’m glad that the community that rallied around you, they still uplift you. I was talking to a girlfriend on email last night. She had actually forwarded me when you were looking for a venue. She’s like, “Did you see this story?” I was like, “Oh, I’m interviewing her tomorrow.” She was like, “Ever since COVID time, I follow Anna and Amanda and everything they do. I’m rooting for them every step.” You really do have this wonderful, huge fan base. It’s amazing.

Anna: It’s amazing how people can connect through — people say good and bad things about social media. To me, I have always just found it this beautiful, amazing thing. I talk about in my book, I didn’t have a network and a community at the time I started my Instagram in 2015. I was very isolated. I was only with my ex-husband all the time. Instagram became this world that I could connect with people all over the world. I found this online network. It saved me in many ways because I was very isolated, the only woman in the room most of the time, the only non-magician in the room. Suddenly, I could gain coworkers and peers doing what I was trying to do online. Then I ended up meeting a lot of these people. A lot of them are now some of my dearest friends. I think when used properly, it’s amazing what we have at our fingertips.

Zibby: I agree. So true. What’s happened since the end of you writing the book and now? Give us the update, the postscript.

Anna: The postscript, I ended it where I did on purpose. Obviously, when I started writing this book it was three years. A lot of what that initial outline when you write a book was ended right there. A lot of life happened after that. I was wondering if it should be included or not. I very quickly decided it shouldn’t be, that that story ended right where it ended. Then hopefully, my next book is my first year of living in France. Where that book ends is the summer of 2020. Then I start actually living here. In that amount of time — now it’s been two years. I have rented and renovated an apartment here. I have been through, what I say, the honeymoon stage of moving to Paris, which is pretty much the first year where you’re just like, this is amazing, and a year or two which, quite honestly, is hell, absolute . What is going on? Why did I do this? Why is everything so complicated? Then when you survive that and you just stay — it’s easy to love Paris. It’s easy to visit and fall in love and go, oh, I want to live here.

If you can survive year two and you still want to live here when you know the real Paris and the real struggles and the real complications of living a life abroad and you still choose it anyway, then that’s when year three, which I’m in right now, becomes fun. You’re comfortable. You know the ropes now. The learning curve is never-ending, to be honest, but you’re not at the start of it. The city starts to really feel like yours. There’s a beauty to knowing that darker, complicated side of things and accepting it and loving it. It’s been a wild ride. I met my boyfriend, who was my upstairs neighbor before Emily in Paris came out. I have a wonderful, very, very French boyfriend that is hilarious and very sweet. I’ve started the project of working on the first book that I cowrote with my sister, adapting that into a screenplay, which has been amazing to have all these new tools. When you’re writing a book, which is the only kind of writing I’ve ever done, you just have your words. When you’re writing a screenplay, you get to play with music and scenes and moments and shots. It’s been really challenging but really interesting to go into a whole different world of writing.

Zibby: Wow, that’s so great. That’s amazing. Is that scheduled to come out at a certain time? Are you starring in it?

Anna: You know what’s funny? I said to Amanda from day one, I was like, “I would like the opportunity to audition for the role of myself.” She was like, “You’re not an actress.” I was like, “Our middle school was a magnet school for the performing arts. I wasn’t a writer before this project either.” No, is the short answer, but we have said, much like — I love Alfred Hitchcock. I was like, “We should just have a Hitchcock moment. We should be a random extra or a random neighbor. We should put ourselves in this for a second.” We have some ideas. It’s a timeline. Just like this book that I thought would be done in a year, these projects take time. They take finding the right people and the right collaborators. We’ve been working on it for about a year and a half. We’re finally now in the new phase of, we have a finished screenplay, and we’re shopping it out there and seeing what feedback we get. Fingers crossed the feedback is good.

Zibby: That’s amazing. You can tell them, at least, you’ve had decades of rehearsal for this role.

Anna: I look the part. I’m writing it. I know all the lines. I wrote the lines. I think I could do this.

Zibby: They’re going to be like, sorry, we need someone younger who’s nineteen years old.

Anna: We think you might have the right look, but .

Zibby: How did you get around the legal issues of writing about your ex-husband? He’s okay with this? How did that go down?

Anna: I did actually send the entire book to him to look at. The point of this book, and I hope is no one’s takeaway, it’s not to say anything bad about anyone. It’s my story. There are other people who have to be in it because they were there. It’s impossible to not talk about a person who ends up being the reason that a lot of these moments happened to me or the reason that I have a lot of these discoveries. It’s not, in any means, about him. It’s about me. That is what the story is. It was not ever the intent to make anyone look bad. I don’t think of him in that way at all. Like I said, I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I think we both gave everything we possibly could to make our marriage work. I really don’t have any negative feelings at all. It’s a very neutral thing in my head. I look back and really am just grateful that it happened, that the positive takeaways happened, that the lessons were learned, and that I’m where I am now.

Zibby: Amazing. Anything else on your wish list of things you want to accomplish before you’re fifty or something?

Anna: I have no exact “before I’m this.” I’m constantly making bucket lists. They’re almost like vision boards, actually, but they’re written ones. I love traveling, as I’m sure you can tell. I love history. I started — it’s on my bucket list for this year. I must do. I would love to have a travel show. I would love to have something where I’m traveling and telling people why these places are amazing and special and simplifying history and making it easier to digest and more relatable and helping people experience things that they might otherwise never even think were interesting. That was my life. So many of these places I went, I either didn’t know existed, like when I went to Albania and I had to look where that was on a map because I didn’t know, or there were places I just never would’ve thought that I would enjoy. We have such a massive world out there. There’s so many incredible things to see. To be able to share that would be my absolute dream.

Zibby: I’m sure you could pull that off. I have total faith. I have total faith in you.

Anna: And to get a dog. That’s far easier to achieve.

Zibby: I feel like those are not compatible, those two.

Anna: No. I’m holding off the dog while I’m trying to do all these other things to never be at home.

Zibby: Exactly. Anna, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for really sharing all of these emotions in My Own Magic. I think it’ll be very useful to younger women as well as women like me in their forties, fifties, up, whatever. I think it’s great to know that at any point in our lives, we can always change course and reclaim who we are and live fully.

Anna: That’s exactly what I hope the takeaway is, so beautifully said.

Zibby: Thanks so much. Good luck with your event.

Anna: Thank you. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.

Anna Kloots, MY OWN MAGIC: A Reappearing Act

MY OWN MAGIC: A Reappearing Act by Anna Kloots

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