The big rule for creativity and life in general is “Do what scares you.” I know the value of it as a principle, because I spent a good portion of my life not following it. I played it safe, in every cliché way you can think of. I was the good child, the careful one, the non-risk-taker. For a time, I seriously thought that was my calling. To be some kind of cosmic balance against the wild ones and the gamblers and the people who didn’t follow the rules, the ones that I resented.
Then something changed. It started, like most things, in small ways, with one choice, and then another and another. Step-by-step, I started to change, and, almost without realizing it, I became someone who regularly takes risk. Who looks the unknown in the face and takes a step forward anyways.
And as much as I’d like to say I’ve embraced it, most of the time it still scares the living daylights out of me. But that’s the point, isn’t it? To do what scares you. And, in any case, I’m familiar with the alternative. Doing what scares you is scary, of course, and you don’t always know what’ll happen if you do, but I can tell what’ll happen if you don’t.
Nevertheless, the rule doesn’t stand by itself. It can’t. If the only thing we ever needed to worry about in life was doing what scared us, we’d be doing a lot of stupid stuff. Because fear serves a purpose. It keeps us from putting ourselves in unnecessary danger. It’s an early warning system.
Sometimes we’re afraid of something for a reason.
I started my #100DayProject this week, and it wasn’t long, 3 days in fact, before I hit my first real challenge. I was expecting it, actually. I’ve seen it before. Whenever you make this kind of commitment, even if it’s as simple as a daily practice, something will always pop up in your life that suddenly makes that commitment impossible. It has to show up, in a way, to test your resolve. And, it’s rarely to do with the project either. It’s usually something else in your life that looks way more important than some silly, fanfic novel.
It never fails, but it still managed to lay me out flat for a bit. And while I’ve hit walls like this before, this one showed up in a surprising way.
I got a job offer.
For those of you following along, you’ll know that I also recently made the commitment to move to Minneapolis. There are a lot of reasons and a lot of stuff tied up in that, but the first step, the one I’ve been focused on for a while, is getting employment before I go. The job hunt, of course, is not something I have ever or likely will ever look forward to, but it is still a vital step and one I was committed to.
Thus, on the surface at least, this might have seemed like a good turn of events. Only, I wasn’t feeling it. There were a lot of reasons I wasn’t feeling it. Most of them involved the numbers, which I couldn’t make work. The job was a sure thing, but it wouldn’t cover all my bills. It’d get me out there, but as far as keeping me there, I’d have to find something else.
And, while I was excited for any kind of progress towards MN, I found myself utterly terrified at what would happen if I took it. I had flashbacks to Atlanta, wrestling with unemployment and trying to find the money to stay and generally making myself sick at night wondering when it would all fall apart, only for it to eventually. I didn’t want to take the job. I didn’t want to take on all that anxiety, all the insecurity.
And I hated myself for thinking that way. Here was an open door and I was willfully pulling back. Why? Because I was scared. So I reminded myself that was the point. That was the risk I was taking. Nothing was set in stone. Who did I think I was to turn down a sure thing?
The more I thought about it, the worse it got. I knew the “yes” was coming, and I dreaded it. I would rather not be given the offer, because then it would be out of my hands. Could I really say “no” to this? What would people say? Wouldn’t I be letting myself and them and maybe even God down because I couldn’t build up the courage to take the leap? Wasn’t it more important that I get there than how?
And yet I was reminded of everything I’ve learned and read and written about on this blog. Core Desired Feelings, and Sparking Joy, and Should vs. Must. I knew it felt like Should not Must, and none of it was anything I wanted to feel. It was fear, yes, but that’s all it was. And the more I thought about the more I realized it wasn’t really fear at the back of it all; it was something else. Something that I’m all too familiar with.
Because the biggest question in my mind was: what if this is the only chance I get?
That fear? That’s scarcity telling you there’s only one chance and if you screw it up that’s it. That’s why I think we need more than just do what scares you. Because sometimes there’s a worse fear, the fear that says we have to go now, that if we wait nothing will show. The fear that tells us all our faith is nothing.
I ended up saying “no.” It was scary, but I did it anyway. And, for once in my life, I have no regrets. In fact, once I did it, I felt lighter than I had in weeks. It’s hard to say “no” to a “yes”, but if it feels like scarcity and the fear of failing, then it might as well be a “no.” Because not every opportunity that comes our way is for us, and it would be easy if all the doors we weren’t supposed to enter were closed to us, but then how would we learn? It takes courage to say “no” too, to close the door yourself and believe that another will be open further down.
I’m reminded of a quote from the incomparable Kayla Hollatz: “You are worthy of your purpose even when your doubts and fears try to convince you otherwise. Choose your heart's work. Choose you.”
Choose you. It’s something I’m trying to keep near me right now. It’s not always easy. There’s an unknown element to it, a risk. It can be scary to embrace it, to trust that staying authentic to yourself is the best road. You have to be brave. A better kind of brave. But I can tell you that it’s the way we have to go. The way of faith.
But when we take it, something amazing happens, we grow braver.