“Security does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~ Helen Keller
One of the best self-help/motivational books I ever read was If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat by John Ortberg. It’s a religious book. It has to do with a horrific storm at sea and Jesus walking on water. It tells the story of the disciples hanging out terrified for a while in the boat until Peter steps out in faith. Whether you’re religious or not, believe in that story or not, the fact remains that if you want miraculous, heart-pounding things to occur in your life, you’re gonna have to step out of your comfortable, safe boat and into the churning waters without a guarantee of what the outcome will be.
I’ve said this before in this blog & here I’m saying it again: That’s where people get stuck. They like to dream. They like to think about goals to achieve someday, which is some nebulous, undefined time in the future. They feel a calling in their lives & they ignore it or worse, flat out say no. They have talents & gifts that they keep hidden. They like to stay in the background & sometimes gripe about why their lives aren’t satisfying, exciting, what they want them to be. Why? Because it’s safer that way. There’s no risk involved. But there’s never really a sure thing, is there? You could do all the right things and still get in a car accident that paralyzes you. You could be the best parent in the world & still your kid gets tangled up in the wrong crowd and hooked on drugs. You could pay all your bills on time and have a fabulous credit rating & still get cancer.
I don’t like risk
Look, I’m not a fan of risk either. I never have been. Part of it is my personality. Part of it is my upbringing. Either way, I tend to order the same thing at restaurants. I like to vacation in the same spot every year. My hairstyle hasn’t changed in probably more than 5 years. I’m a fan of safe & steady. Really, I am. But there also came a time in my life when I just couldn’t live with myself anymore. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror & flat out ignore what my heart was telling me. I’ve wanted to be a writer, specifically a novelist, since I was 5 years old. No joke. Five years old. And I wasn’t doing it. I was doing things around it (writing news articles, feature pieces, press releases, notes & short stories in my journal) but I wasn’t writing novels.
So what was the problem? Answer, short and simple: I was afraid. If you wanna find out what your particular boat is, Ortberg says, then ask yourself what you’re most afraid of, especially when you imagine yourself having to let it go.
The biggest, number one fear was money. For me, it’s always been that. Where was the money coming from? Would there be enough? How am I going to support myself? That comes from my mother, God love her, growing up in poverty, her fears passed down. But the good thing that came out of my upbringing is that, for the most part, I tend to be a low-maintenance kind of gal. There’s almost nothing better to me than shopping the clearance rack at Macy’s and getting a pair of $80 Tommy Hilfiger jeans for $5.49 (after coupons, of course ~ true story!). Am I still scared about not having enough? Yes, but it’s less & keeps fading as time passes. What I’ve learned through all these years is that between bargain shopping, coupons, & not buying junk I don’t need, the money has always been there.
I thought I was afraid to leave my career because of the steady paycheck & the medical benefits. That was part of it, sure. But also, I realized later, I was afraid to leave because I was afraid of other people’s perceptions of me (that’s a whole other blog post) ~ what would they think of me quitting a decent-paying job to go be an artist, a broke & starving artist, which sadly is what I’d come to believe about making art. What I also came to understand after I left my full-time employment was that it had been a convenient excuse, a kind of crutch I guess, a way to wiggle out of what my heart was saying ~ no, I can’t go be a novelist because I have a career, doncha know? I’ve also come to understand that satisfying your soul & being able to look at yourself in the mirror is more important than your bank balance.
When I left my full-time job, I had to rely more on my husband’s salary ~ very tough on me because I’d lived alone for a long time before I met him and so I was used to taking care of myself. Having mostly only his income to live off of made me feel less independent & more like a mooch. It’s been years now & sometimes I work 16-hour days (but only get paid for a fraction of those hours) & I still feel like that. But the upside is I’ve gotten (& still get) to experience somebody loving me enough to want me to succeed & being willing to help me however he can. I tear up a bit writing that because how often do you truly get to experience that level of caring and nurturing? How often do you let yourself experience it?
I moved to Chicago to follow my dream. It was a new place. A BIG city for somebody coming from a small town. I didn’t know a single person except for my husband. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know anything about the area, the people, what to expect. And I hate change. Hate it. Sorry to say, I’m not a fan of adventure either. See my I don’t like risk paragraph above. But I packed all my stuff in a little U-Haul & moved. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Not only graduate school but also city living (read: anonymity) and meeting new friends and realizing that despite all my fears about money, there was always enough. There just was. Some of my best friends still live in Chicago, people I can call at 2 a.m. & who have my back no matter what. Now, Chicago feels like home to me & some days I find myself homesick to return there. I love that city & I go back every chance I get.
And the point is . . .
Take it from me, living based on your fears is not living. A lot of times, especially with new stuff, I’m still scared. But I keep moving forward despite it. Just hold my breath & go. If you want your life to be different, be what you want it to be, you have to make a change. Nobody will be at the end of your life handing out gold stars or blue ribbons because you played it safe rather than feeling fully alive. If you truly want to feel that exhilarating rush as you take a risk & trust the universe to catch you, then you have to take that first step. As Ortberg says, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
What about you? Have you stepped out in faith? If not, what’s holding you back? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.