When I was younger, I was afraid of everything.
The dark, because monsters. Being home alone, because burglars. Driving, because car crashes. Flying, because plane crashes. Eating out, going to movies, or doing most anything alone…because embarrassing. Being caught without make-up, because ugly. Shopping with a newborn, because crying. I could keep going. The list is long. Ask my parents, they’ll tell you.
But somewhere in the past decade, that fear went away. Literally…figuratively…whichever word is grammatically correct in this instance—overnight. I went to bed one New Year’s Eve several years ago and woke up with a new mindset. I’m not sure if I had a dream that I haven’t been able to recall, or if maybe God whispered, “enough of your ridiculousness” in my ear in the middle of the night, or if something just clicked inside my slumbering mind when all the turning wheels that normally make up my erratic brain just had time to rest for a bit. Whatever the case, I was over it.
I woke up, and for the first time I started writing a novel, telling myself that I was sick of my own self-sabotage…telling myself that if Stephanie Meyer could write that little Twilight book of hers, I could finally write a book of my own.
A couple months later, I scheduled a solo trip to New York City to learn about this new writing craft that I had finally decided to devote myself to. And I was going to fly. And I was going to stay there by myself. And I was going to fly there by myself. And when I was planning that trip I kept remembering the year I turned twenty and had a crying panicking meltdown in the middle of my parent’s kitchen floor because I was going to fly by myself for the first time and I was convinced the plane would crash.
My parents had to force me onto that plane all those years ago. It didn’t crash. But it didn’t stop my fear. I still had a long way to go before that happened.
Fast forward to a couple months after that New York City trip wrapped up, and I booked another flight to Cincinnati for the same reason. I had decided was fully devoted to this writing thing, and it was time to get serious. So I figured I might as well suck up my pride and concerns and apprehensions and doubts once and for all and throw myself into learning about it.
Nowadays, I’m not afraid of much anymore.
If I want to travel now, I travel. By myself, with a friend, with my family—I’ll do any and all of it.
When I’m home alone, I sleep fine. If burglars make their way inside, I figure I’ll just do my best to beat them up.
When I’m out to dinner by myself, I just bring a novel. I love to read anyway.
And as for movies…when you’re alone, you get all the popcorn to yourself and what could be better than that?
Why am I telling you this? It’s certainly not to pat myself on the back. Where I’m concerned, there’s a lot more to make fun of than applaud. It’s also not to sound selfish. I have four kids; throughout their lives they have and will forever remain ahead of any dream or plan I have. It’s also not to encourage anyone to shirk responsibilities. We all have them. Important ones. It would be incredibly immature to pretend otherwise.
I’m telling you this because about a decade ago, I realized something that would have made my first three decades a lot easier if I’d just dealt with it sooner. And this is it:
Life is short. Really short. I’ve known too many people whose lives have ended abruptly, watched too many people deal with being left behind, witnessed the grief that accompanies that kind of trauma.
And because of that, fear is stupid. The criticisms of others are pointless. And self-doubt—even though it’s still something I struggle with more often than not—is a waste of time.
So do yourself a favor.
Live. Dream. Love. Work. Travel. And above all, listen to that voice inside your heart that keeps whispering, “Enough of your ridiculousness.” And after you acknowledge it, figure out what you’re supposed to do with the rest of your time. God didn’t put any of us here to simply exist. He put us here to live hard and fully, to throw fear aside and forge ahead in the best possible ways we can. He put us here to fulfill our own unique purposes, and no one—no one at all—can tell any one of us what that purpose is.
Your life. Only yours. So live it.
As for me, now I have only one real fear: That I will get to the end of my life and wonder, “What if I had tried that?” About dreams. About goals. About people.
So for now, I’m trying as hard as I can to resolve the what ifs when they creep up. I know there’s no way to kill them all, but in the time I have left…I’m sure going to try.
Take right now. I’m on a plane to Maine. By myself. And no one had to drag me here. And I didn’t have a meltdown.
Although I was just informed they cancelled my connecting flight.
So you never know what will happen in the next few minutes.
But the time this trip is over, a few people might just be afraid of me.
Update: I wrote this blog last night. I’m now in Maine. My trip getting here was terrible. But I neither cussed at nor threatened anyone. Sometimes I just pretend to be tough.