No, this isn't a blog about how amazing I am. (Well, technically it is but aren't all blogs about that?) This is a post about fear. If we let it, it will decide everything around us. Fear is what keeps us in an unhealthy relationship or prevents one from starting. It keeps us in communities where we feel unattached. It keeps us in jobs we could care less about and it keeps us from testing the waters of our life over and over again. To be sure, if your decision to stay in your hometown, not travel or to be a Zumba master instead of a trail runner came with reflection and great courage, you need not continue reading.
I'm not sure why I feel like I need to change things up occasionally. (Actually it's every four years, like clockwork.) When I was in my early 20's, I remembered it coming from a place of "I need to know I can count on myself" which was really just a way of saying "I'm afraid I can't be alone". But over the last ten years or so, I find it is coming from a place of reward. Because the funny thing about fear is that when you try it out and it goes well (or relatively well) suddenly you have a bit more confidence to try it again.
The night before I left for Australia, I predictably couldn't sleep. What if I don't make friends? (I did.) What if I hate it? (I cried the first ten days.) What if I have to drop out and come home? (I didn't.) As I was working myself into a tizzy, a good friend called who had just weeks prior returned from the same program. Without knowing it, she talked me off a ledge and a few hours later, I was on that plane. When I met some of the best friends of my life and created memories that still make me laugh out loud, my first thought when I got home was, "what's next?".
Fast forward a few years and the night before I left for Africa, I predictably couldn't sleep. What if I can't actually speak French? (I couldn't.) What if I'm a burden on the other volunteers because I can't understand them? (I was for about three weeks.) What if I die? (I didn't but the close calls make for great party lines. "The veterinarian can treat you for malaria." True story.) But there was a little voice inside saying, "You've done this before and you'll be fine. In fact, you'll be more than fine."
|I may not have understood all of their words but I was fluent in "birthday cake".|
The most interesting thing I've learned about taking risks is over time they don't feel risky anymore. They feel like life. In the end, I want to take risks on my terms so I can be better prepared for the things I have absolutely no control over. Hypocritically this is out of fear. Good thing the risks I take are a pretty good time.
People probably get sick of my answer to all of their logistical questions which are as follows:
- It'll be fine
- I haven't died yet.
- If things don't go well, it'll make a good story.
- Did I mention it will be fine?
|Assume things will be fine until told otherwise.|
And while it all might look like a Nicholas Spark's movie from the outside, I've had my share of rollercoaster emotions. What you don't know is I flipped a coin to decide where to go to college. Heads UMass. Tails UConn. You don't know that I experienced 9/11 at midnight with too many drinks in me while at a party in Australia. (not the way you want to absorb that news) You don't know that when I got the call about Africa, I was two weeks out from moving to Boston for a new job. ("Uhh, thanks for the offer but I must go to Africa now.") You don't know that when I got my first job offer in New Hampshire I had a simultaneous one from Washington state. Life, if you're lucky, has all kinds of choices. At some point, you just have to believe it will work out. And if it doesn't work out the way you thought it would, you have to believe it'll still work out.
And if you don't have a hundred choices before you, well, you just have to wait it out. It was July when I started reflecting on what I wanted in a career when I returned. Not in a stressed "what the heck will I do when I get back" way; more in a "if I had my choice what would I want" way. The list was created pretty quickly (as lists typically are when high on mountaintops). They included:
- Return to animal welfare
- Return to New Hampshire
- Minimal if no travel
- Work for a national organization
- Try something new
- Be paid what I'm worth, with benefits and plenty of vacation time
- Find a culture where boundaries are attempted
- Maybe, just maybe, work from home
And there it was. The job. The job that didn't exist before. The job my colleague decided to create to shed some of her responsibilities and work on other goals. And with it were three emails from other colleagues - "Did you see this post?" "This is what you have to do." So I applied and after many months of processes and uncertainty (hello national agency), I was offered the job.
A return to animal welfare and NH, minimal travel, national level work, something new, good pay, benefits and vacation time, a culture that supports boundaries and oh, how I love to say the following words...my office is my home. Accepting my introvertedness at it's core, I will have energy at the end of my work weeks to be...me. I will be at home to take care of our growing homestead and to pursue new things.
So in the end, my advice is to let the fear go. I am not lazy in my own fate. I conspire, I plan, I imagine. But sometimes, it just happens. That's what creates the "things just seem to work out for you" syndrome. It's not magic; it's just optimism.