I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the things I’ve “wished” I’d done. All the chances I “wish” I’d taken, all the roads I “wish” I had traveled. Every moment in our life there is some choice to be made. Sometimes we make the easy one, just because we don’t want to deal with a rough road. Sometimes we choose the path less traveled, and sometimes we choose the one that is well worn and paved so that the going might be smooth. Every moment of our life could be infinitely different, depending on any given choice. It’s mind boggling really, to think of how each and every choice we make plays a role in how our day, and life, is going to play out. It’s all one big Choose Your Own Adventure novel, only we can’t go back and read the book again and again, taking different paths each time. We only get one time with the novel of our lives.
The question rumbling around in my brain today, is not just about life choices big and small, but about the confidence that it takes to make each choice. Maybe we make some choices simply because we are not confident enough to choose something else. We stay with the “safe” job, stay close to home instead of moving across the country, we marry the man or woman we are “supposed” to, we study what comes “easiest” to us instead of what challenges us, we don’t test our limits or stray from our comfort zone. We live in a comfortable shell, safe and unassuming. That’s all well and good, if those things make you happy. We all know someone who seems to be positively fearless. A person that seems to live on the edge, putting themselves out there over and over again, with the confidence that they will succeed, and the confidence to not care if they fail. They try new things, go for the job, embrace the diversity of life and face it all with their head high and their jaw set. At the same time, we know the person who is afraid to try new things. They don’t like change, they live in the short range of their comfort zone, and they worry about what others think of them. They want to be liked. They care about other people’s opinions of them. Sometimes that fear keeps them from putting themselves out there. They have that little voice in their head that wonders, “What will people think?”
The world needs both kinds of people, I guess, and those that fall somewhere in between. But what makes the difference? What makes one person ready to take on any challenge with the confidence of one that doesn’t give a damn about what people think? What makes one person ready to fail, taking what they learned from the incident and moving on to the next, while the next person is wracked with insecurity and trepidation? Where does that self confidence come from? Are they born with it? Did they gain it from parents who taught them how to fly? Did they learn through trial and error, or that so called school of hard knocks? Where does confidence and the security to follow your own path and do the hard thing come from?
I like to think I’m one of those people in the middle. I lived a huge part of my life afraid of my own shadow. I lived in a world where I allowed other people to dictate what I did or did not do. I was without an ounce of confidence, and never trusted my own decisions. Thankfully I said goodby to that girl a long time ago. Still, I’m not a risk taker or someone who can throw caution to the wind with a shrug and a “How bad can it be?” That’s still not me. I worry about becoming the writer I want to be. I worry about following a new career path. I worry that I’m not good enough, or that I won’t be successful at it. And yet, I’m taking those steps, maybe with some trepidation, but I’m going. I worry about putting myself (and my words) out there for others to see and judge. Franky, it scares the hell out of me. Letting anyone in to the intimate corners of your soul is frightening. What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t like what I have to say? What if I want this new career, but I’m not good enough? Those are questions I ask myself all the time.
I spent many years stifling my desire to write. Once I uncapped the pen again, it felt foreign. I felt I had “lost” any talent I’d once possessed. I felt lost in the sea of publishing, social media, and business. Writing was a daunting task where once it was sheer joy. I kept writing. I captured the joy and remembered why I had first put pen to paper. I still feel lost at times, and sometimes I feel I am a talentless hack, but I know that I can’t stop writing. I know it is part of me and will always be. My hope is that with practice and patience and perseverance I will get better. I will find a way to get the images out of my head and onto the page, in a way that causes me to sit back and smile and shout “YES! That is EXACTLY what I was trying to say!” For now, I just keep on writing. Not everyone will love what I have to say, or the style in which I say it, but I can only be true to myself and keep going. Yes, it’s scary, and I still fear being judged, but it is something I just have to do. I’ve met some fantastic people because of writing. If I’d never started writing again, those people would have remained strangers to me – so for that I am thankful. Writing has brought me many ups and downs, but it has brought some people into my life that have changed it forever, or at least had an impact on the moment.
I fight with myself all the time over the “what do you want to do?” question. I had believed my life to be going in one direction, and I didn’t pick out the perfect career path. When I was young, I was afraid to study what I was interested in at the time, telling myself I wouldn’t be able to do it. I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t good enough, and my social anxiety kept me from being able to deal with the thought of what it would take to make a career. Years went by and suddenly I was a divorced mom with no “real” skills. I’d worked retail and in restaurants. While I’m not ashamed of the jobs I’ve had or the places I worked, making ends meet wasn’t easy. It was my comfort zone, though. I knew how to do those things. Plus, when my daughter needed me, I was able to be there. For a number of years that was all that mattered. Still, I dreamed of a day when I’d learn some useful skill, something to make a career out of so that things just didn’t have to be so hard all the time. Now I wouldn’t trade my experiences or my life for anything in the world, but do I want to be waiting tables when I’m eighty because I can’t retire? Not really. I’ve been studying for a bit for what I hope is going to be a new career for me. One that I’ll not only be good at, but one that will make paying the bills a bit easier too. I’m not going to go into details right now. I was a little scared at first, but then I jumped into the studies with enthusiasm. This seemed perfect for me. This seemed to be what I would be good at. Then it hit. The insecurity. The wondering if I’d be able to make a living at it. The fear that I’ll screw up in some monumental way and not be able to find work. It’s kind of ridiculous, really, how that insidious doubt creeps in and you start to follow that idea and see your confidence ravel. What if no one likes me? Sounds like high school all over again.
I might not be able to keep the doubt away, but I can keep it from manifesting. I can work through it. I can continue to write, even though I’m fearful of what people think, or of what I think myself, and I can keep traveling on the career path that I have set for myself and see it through. I just might fall on my ass. Gloriously. But so what? Will that mean anything in the grand scheme of things? How many people will truly care one bit if I fail? The world is not going to spin off its axis. The poles are not going to shift. Life is going to go on.
So I continue.