remember your dreams and fight for them. you must know what you want from life. there is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.
— paulo coelho —
i was standing very still, too still. my toes were curled over the edge of a 27 foot cliff. as i looked down at the water below, fear suddenly took over. i was shaking and i could feel my heart rapidly beating in my chest. i looked around with wide, scared eyes and quickly backed away from the cliff. there is no way i can do this. i’m afraid. what if something bad happens? a million excuses ran through my head as i weighed my options. it felt like an eternity had passed as i stood there scared out of my mind, but in reality only a minute or so had gone by. i collected myself and walked back up to the edge of the cliff, it all looked the same, nothing had changed. i still haven’t changed. i am still afraid, my heart is still beating as quickly as it was before. it’s now or never, kid. that’s when i took a deep breath and jumped. no looking back, no time for regrets. i was flying, and then i was quickly falling. i splashed into the water, swam to the side of the cliff, up the ladder and laughed. i did it. i survived. what was the big deal again? i had already forgotten.
have you ever been completely paralyzed by fear, by the possibility of making the wrong decision that could set your life on a course that you may no longer be able to control or be able to predict the outcome of? have you been too scared to take a chance, to take a leap of faith, to speak up, to live your dreams? yea, me too. fear and uncertainty are as powerful of emotions as they come. i’m constantly afraid of failing, of disappointing myself, my family and my friends. i’m scared of not fulfilling my potential, of getting my heart broken, of not living the life that makes me truly happy. irrational thoughts constantly cross my mind, try to weigh me down and control my life, but at some point you have to just let go. i don’t want to live a life where i am too fearful to actually live. i don’t want to miss out on something amazing because i was too scared to make a decision. to take a chance. to fly.
in my most recent relationship i put myself out there, completely naked and vulnerable only to be left there standing alone, multiple times. i don’t hate him for that, i’m not even mad about it. i have learned a valuable lesson from what happened and it’s that i am no competition for someone else’s fears. i can give my love in the most unconditional, honest way possible because that’s who i am, but it doesn’t mean someone is brave enough to accept it or to accept what that love means and how it could possibly change their life forever. fear is a powerful thing, my friends, and what i have decided is that the only thing i can do is embrace my own fears and lead by example. i was scared shitless to be so open and honest with how i felt, but i did it because i don’t want to let fear of something control my life or my decisions. if not now, then when? when is it ever right or wrong to take a chance, to ensure you don’t have any regrets? if i didn’t take those chances and put myself out there then i would have always wondered what if, and i’m most definitely not a what if person. i’d rather be left with a broken heart then a heart that would always be left wondering what would have happened if i did not do whatever was in my power to make something work. the proverbial crossroad does exist and everyone has these moments where you have to make a choice, do you risk it all for a chance at something amazing or do you walk away because you are scared and afraid of the unknown? as i said, these emotions are a powerful thing and if you don’t face your fears then you’ll be standing at that crossroad collecting dust forever as people and life pass you by.
relationships aside, this holds true with my newest endeavor of solo traveling. you have to realize that until last november, i had never actually traveled alone before. of course i had flown here and there alone, but never a full out trip just by myself. eating dinner alone? i had never done that before. staying in a hotel room in a foreign country alone? nope, never did that either. i waited and waited for someone to give me permission to do what i wanted to do in my life because i was scared and afraid to make those choices myself. i needed validation from someone to believe it was okay to do the things that i enjoyed doing, the very things that not only make me who i am as a person, but that make me happy and make me feel alive. why was i so afraid of making decisions and choices that i knew would make me feel complete? why was i letting fear take control of my life when the only person that should have that control is myself. in reality, i didn’t need permission from anyone to live my life, all i needed to do was to bitch slap fear in the face and keep on movin’ on without looking back, with no regrets and with no excuses.
i’m not a person who has it all figured out, by the way. i still half compose texts to my ex-boyfriend only to delete them because i am scared of what he might say back. i still get that little pocket of fear when i walk into a restaurant abroad and ask, in english, for a table for one. i’m a little nervous about going to russia on a ferry from finland alone next month. i’m worried that taking this time off to travel, write and be creative is a costly (literally and figuratively) mistake. i’m concerned that i am not spending enough time with my family and friends. i’m scared of so many things, but i’ve made the decision to not let those irrational fears define me. living your happiest life means that you trust yourself enough to leap. maybe you fly and you soar or maybe you crash and you burn, but you’ll never know unless you face your fears, let go and jump.
not everything is perfect and not everything will go the way you want it to even if you take that risk or take that chance, but i am me because i did take those chances and i know i’d rather crash and burn than never know how good something could have been because fear held me back from taking that path. you become who you are because of the ups and downs you have lived in your life. there are days when i feel like my life sucks, when i cry, when i desperately miss people no longer in my life, when i scream and yell, and when i just feel utterly lost and alone. those bad days are there to remind me of how good it can be when things click, when things fall into place in just the right way, and when you feel like everything you did to get you to where you are now was so worth it.
being vulnerable and putting everything on the line is a friendly reminder that you’re still alive, that you’re doing what it takes to live the life you want to live. understandably so, when you face your fears, take risks, and make yourself vulnerable it means there is a chance things won’t work out the way you want it to. life is full of risks, though. the second we wake up in the morning there is a chance that will be the last second of your life, but that doesn’t stop you from getting up, going out the door and experiencing the day ahead of you. you never know what tomorrow will bring and that is the best part about writing your own narrative. a good friend of mine sent me this quote today by the late heath ledger, “everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married or own a house, as if life was some kind of grocery list. but no one ever asks if you are happy.” wise, truthful words.
so, do you want to know what makes me happy? new experiences, old standbys, a glass of wine with a best friend who readjusted her life to meet you in paris when you needed her the most, soaring above the air in a cessna with someone who just radiates joy when he’s behind the controls, spending time with my dog who has been with me for 6.5 years, driving 21 hours to visit my family at the last minute and having them pleased as punch to see me, meeting new people and hearing the stories of why they are where they are and what else they want to do with their lives. i love end of the world natural disaster movies, harry potter everything, young adult novels, watching people cook, gardens, blue notebooks and amazing pens, watching funny irish tv shows recommended by a friend of mine, making lists, europe at christmas time, camping equipment, mussels, oysters and champagne. i love going to a sports bar on sundays to watch football, i love day drinking, cooking dinner at home, listening to music in the morning, the mountains, hiking, making someone laugh, and watching a beautiful sunset.
all of those things are my own little perfections that don’t require a lot of planning, effort, or money. my life is far from perfect, but in those moments i am at my happiest and i am in my element. life doesn’t wait around for absolute perfection or for you to decide that finally everything is just as it should be before you act. life is fluid, life changes at the drop of a hat and if you want to live your happiest life you need to roll with it and you need to do whatever it takes to ensure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity you’re given. this is important so i’ll say it again, YOU need to take advantage of those opportunities, DO NOT let fear stop you from taking advantage of those opportunities. months later after i jumped off that cliff in jamaica i can still remember how it felt when i landed safe and sound. i remember feeling proud of myself for facing my fear head on. if i didn’t jump, i’d remember how scared i was and how i let fear stop me from doing something that gave me the ability to fly, even if it was just for a few seconds. nothing can replace those memories, but fear can ensure they never happen in the first place.
with a new month ahead of us, it’s time to take charge of your life, face your fears and start living. don’t remain stagnant because you are afraid to take a chance. don’t turn your back on love because you are scared or have been hurt in the past. don’t say no to new opportunities and new adventures because you cannot see the end result right away. what if the greatest love of your life is standing right in front of you and you’re too scared to accept it? what if you talk yourself out of traveling alone because you are afraid something bad will happen? there is always going to be what ifs. always. but as i said before, i don’t do what ifs and you shouldn’t either. i went on my first ever solo trip nine months ago and it changed my life forever. i went on another one and fell hopelessly in love. i went on six more after that and have been to places some people have only seen on a map. i did it because i faced my fears. i decided i’m not going to live with regrets, that i’m going to live for today and if that means i get my heart broken, that i don’t live a conventional life, that i jump off cliffs, then that’s good enough for me because at least i know i am the one that is in control of my own life. fear is powerful, but so is taking control and you have the ability to write your own story. is it going to be one of overcoming your fears on your path to finding your happiest life or is it going to be one riddled with what ifs? the decision is yours and yours alone. choose it wisely.