Tag Archives: fear

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

This seems to be a disturbing trend of my twenties and even though those who are older and wiser have told me that being scared and confused is what your twenties is all about…I just can’t accept it. I need to be in control. I need my plans to pan out. I need to know myself and what I want. And I don’t. Not completely.

For the past five years I’ve been driven by dreams and by my relentless fear of having an ordinary life. I thought school was the answer. I thought writing was the answer. I thought money was the answer. But none of those things have given me the kind of success or security I’d hoped for. And for a long time I decided to just wait it out, to work in another job that didn’t fulfill me spiritually and didn’t pay me what I deserved, and to just write as much as I possibly could until one day something stuck. But I’m six novels in and I’m still not earning enough to make writing my full-time career. And I’m tired of waiting.

Maybe I’m not supposed to have all the answers in my twenties but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be proactive about finding them. My dream is to be a novelist but from now on I won’t allow that to be my only dream. I am smart and I am capable and I am ready for a new challenge. I’m ready for a new life. So, while I’ll still write every day, I’ve also decided to go back to school to get my master’s degree in education. I love books and there is so much more I can be doing in this world to contribute to the spread of literacy and love of reading. Great stories save and our young people need that now more than ever. They need righteous examples of faith and strong will. They need to be exposed to ideas that both inspire and challenge. They need to read. They need to write. To organize their thoughts and analyze their emotions and form opinions that can’t be easily swayed. Reading breeds empathy but writing breeds independence and teens in today’s world desperately need both.

I’ve always tried to write with these things in mind and to approach each story as a means of making my readers feel connected and acknowledged but there is only so much I can do from behind my keyboard. Even with access to the internet the reach of my novels is still limited. If I really want to make a difference then I’m going to have to step outside my comfort zone and join the fight for literacy on the front lines. I’m not sure if I’ll be a great teacher, or even a good one, but I know I’ve got the passion to try. I know I’m meant to make a difference in the lives of young people, and whether that’s through my novels or through teaching, that’s exactly what I plan to do.

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Answers

I used to think that answers always came in the form of a solution; that they brought clarity and finality and were always true. But answers are a kaleidoscope of emotions, sensations and opinions. Sometimes they’re loud and obvious and sometimes they’re a silent nudge. Sometimes they twist like a knife right in your gut and sometimes they shield you and make you safe. But the most mystifying of them all, the truest answers, never bring us to the end of something but thrust us toward a new beginning. “Real” answers don’t bind us, they set us free, releasing us into an even greater unknown that is sometimes scarier than asking the question in the first place.

It all depends on your perspective.

For the past few months my perspective has been cloudy and dark and I thought my destiny had abandoned me. As I walked through the world there were no signs or answers and I felt like every step I took was in the wrong direction. At first I wallowed in the fear of my own mistakes, living in that place until it started to feel like home. But somewhere along the way, that fear started to rise up and I rose with it. It didn’t engulf me and it didn’t break me. The moment I finally gave myself permission to give up…I didn’t want to anymore. I couldn’t.

Whatever dark current had me trapped, whatever wave had me pinned just below the surface, suddenly broke and all at once it let go of me. I wish I could say there was some dramatic moment of triumph involved, that it was a conscious choice on my part to overcome my fears. But all it took was waking up. All it took was realizing that every day is brand new and with that many fresh starts, with that many possibilities, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I’m doing my best. I’m doing what i love. That’s all that matters. Not who’s paying attention, not who’s listening, not how many mistakes I make along the way. There is no right way or wrong way to make art and there is no right way or wrong way to live life. As long as I’m doing and being and putting good out into the world I don’t need to know what’s coming. I don’t need to know anything at all. The truth is I already have all the answers I need. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? How are we all connected? How can I make a difference? What’s the meaning of life?

Love.

It’s the answer to everything. So give it, receive it, speak it over everyone you meet and soak it in when it’s shared with you. Remember that it’s the reason you create. Because you love yourself and because you love the world, it’s the reason that you write or paint or compose or draw or sing or laugh or cry. It’s the reason that you’re here.

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Questions

I thought this would be the year of answers but it’s turning out to be the year of questions. Big scary ones. I changed full-time jobs, hoping to feel less exhausted and more fulfilled but in all the chaos of the holidays and everything else that’s been going on, I haven’t written or revised or even thought about creating something in almost three months. It’s felt like an eternity and the more time that passes, the more I wonder whether I could actually exist this way.

Today was my first day off in the past eight and I should have spent it working on revisions but I just couldn’t get started. I didn’t want to. I was afraid of too many things–of spending another two years on the same emotional roller-coaster of being an indie author and of not. It would be so easy to stop, to just forget about this series mid-draft, to take my books off sale, to remove every bit of my social media identity. I actually considered it this week and not just because I got some shitty reviews or because I almost lost a friend because of them or because I’m tired and unhappy and unsure. But because I’m afraid.

I’ve faced my fears of failure before but this time is different because I’m not just questioning my path as a writer, I’m questioning everything about my life. I don’t want to be a bystander, a thin reed that bows whichever way the wind blows just because I’m afraid of making a mistake or of being alone. I don’t want to be afraid of the future but I am. Because for the first time in my life I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.

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The Optimist

*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

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I’ve always considered my unwavering optimism to be something of a superpower (along with my strangely perceptive sense of smell–not necessarily something to brag about, though it has saved my life in a dive bar or two) but the older I get the harder it is to maintain. The harder it is to believe, to hope, and even worse to dream. My dreams are everything to me. They’re not just desires but promises, promises I’ve made to myself and promises I always knew I’d keep because no one ever told me otherwise. I never doubted myself. I never had any reason to. But when you’re a teenager that feeling of “immortality” is sort of unshakeable. Fast forward a few years though and not only do you realize how very very wrong you’ve been about death and life and success and happiness and responsibility and fear and the future but you…

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Dealing With Anxiety

Millions of people suffer from anxiety and for creative types these chemical and emotional imbalances seem ever-present, so much so that it’s hard to say whether we were born with our artistic abilities or if those abilities were born later as coping mechanisms. We’re just more vulnerable to emotional stress because our emotions are our tools. Whether we paint or write or build, the very bricks, pigment and thoughts that make up our creations are really nothing more than feelings. We have an endless supply of them, all rushing like some wild stream while we tread water and try not to drown. If you’ve ever had a panic attack or just felt overwhelmed you know exactly what I mean. On a good day we can channel all of those emotions into our work but on a bad day we can’t live in the present moment long enough for an idea to even take hold.

I’ve suffered from anxiety all my life and even though the older I got, the easer it seemed to mentally cope with my stress, my body has always betrayed the truth. Over the past 23 years I’ve gotten the shingles, gained an excessive amount of weight, lost an excessive amount of weight, experienced migraines, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, ulcers, insomnia, anxious ticks, and mild panic attacks. As isolated incidents none of this was debilitating enough to hugely effect my daily life. Or maybe I was just really good at hiding it. It’s hard for me to say because at this point in my life I’m so used to my anxious thoughts that I feel like more of an observer of them than an actual participant. The truth is I’m just more mentally numb to it all. But my body isn’t, which is why all of my symptoms came to a head in recent months and I was forced to face the truth–that my anxiety isn’t mild or manageable or something I’ve grown out of, my anxiety is real and evolved and more potent than ever. And it’s scary.

It’s scary because as painful and uncomfortable as all of those feelings are, I need them. Because I’m a writer. Because I’m human. When I was in my teens I tried all kinds of medications to help with my anxiety but synthetic remedies only hid the issue rather than healed it and each one stripped away my ability to empathize bit by bit until I wasn’t afraid of anything while everyone around me was afraid of me. My feelings were muted and one-note, sometimes non-existent, and that’s no way to live, especially when you’re called to be an artist, or more specifically, when you’re called to use art to facilitate connection. Because you can’t connect if you can’t feel and even more painfully, you can’t create. Or at least, not anything good. Not anything real. And that’s the point of all of this–the human experience, connection, destiny, all of these damn feelings. Sometimes just being alive and all of the emotions that come with that can be overwhelming but the point isn’t to drown in them, to suffer, and feel isolated. The point is to channel them.

I’m no expert at it, this confession about my battle with anxiety is evidence of that. But I have come to the conclusion that it’s better to feel everything than to feel nothing at all. Not only that, but my fears and anxieties can be just as purposeful as my hopes and dreams. One day I will find a healthy way to manage the stress in my life but I will never be the kind of person who can maintain a state of bliss. I will never be the kind of person who is bold and totally care free. Why? Because I’m not meant to be. I’m meant to be slightly cautious and incredibly thoughtful. I’m meant to be the kind of person who loves the people around me so deeply and so desperately that I’m afraid to death of losing them. I’m meant to empathize with others on such an intimate level that I absorb everything they’re feeling, including their pain. I truly believe that is my super power–empathy–and that even though I’ve yet to learn how to control it and its power sometimes overwhelms me, I will someday use it to make the world a better place. And one day, in the latter half of this spiritual journey, I will look back on the first part of my life and realize that the anxiety was not a symptom or an illness, it was not a curse or some kind of karmic punishment, but it was a divine call to action.

 

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