Contrary to popular belief, most of the people you know with a “thing”—you know, that one special activity they’re really good at—weren’t born being awesome at that thing. Whether it’s biking, painting, climbing, snowboarding, swimming, fishing, sketching, yoga, cooking, etc. chances are they just decided to try one day.
I think we see stellar athletes, inspiring wordsmiths, incredible artists, successful businesspeople, and we automatically think nature brought something “extra” to their table. This false thinking can be a scapegoat for not doing what you truly want to do because you expect that it won’t work out. You expect to fail, so you don’t try.
I’ve experienced firsthand how destructive this thinking can be. I used to be afraid to try things because I’d look at how good at that thing someone else was and already feel defeated. Or incorrectly assume that because I didn’t grow up doing it, there was no room in it for adult me. Or that because I’d always been one way, I couldn’t suddenly decide to be someone or something else…that it wasn’t authentic to change so drastically.
Then one day, I just decided. I decided to be the person I saw myself as. I stopped doing some things and started doing others. I finally tried things I’d wanted to try. And I sucked at them. But I decided to stop allowing fear to rule my actions. It’s still a learning process and I often revert to old comfortable habits, but I’m choosing every day to be the person I wanted for so long to be. One of my favorite quotes comes from screenwriter Eric Roth who created the screen-adapted version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – Eric Roth (screenwriter)
The day I realized there were no “rules” tethering me to being the person I was, I had the courage to let her go. To shed a faux persona in favor of something that finally felt real. I had to sacrifice friendships, relationships, experiences, hobbies…and that was petrifying. The unfamiliar was dim. It was murky water and seasickness. I second-guessed myself a lot. I chose a lot of pain, a boatload of discomfort. But I chose it again and again, and it was the first thing that really felt like mine.
I decided to allow nature to heal me. I decided to get outside as much as I could. I was going to be a part of it all…of the cacophony of life beneath the surface, bubbling at the brim. If it meant I had to weather it all alone, I was going to be that person. I was going to try new things, to get to “yes”. I was going to learn to be alone, to be scared, to get where I wanted to go for no other reason than I wanted to go there. I’m still nervous all the time, walking into the shadows alone. I’m still afraid of trying new things or asking someone to teach me. I’m still learning to put myself out there, but I try despite the fear. I go with the fear.
Still, the most terrifying “thing” I try is writing this blog. I decided I wasn’t just going to write internet lists lists and how-to articles on the outdoors. I wasn’t going to write for the masses. I wasn’t going to sacrifice my voice for a cloak of sarcasm and humor (though I still hide behind it daily). I was going to write for that girl—that woman—I wanted to be…even if sometimes my blog sounds like a self-aggrandizing diary. I’m terrified every time I hit the “publish” button, heart splayed open on a table for all to see. But I choose to do it, I decide to do it because I want to write the rules, I want to write my character in this book, and I hope you do too.
I wasn’t once this woman, I chose her. Frankly, most of the time it’s very clear I have no idea what I’m doing…like my first time snowboarding on an old rented snowboard, or the first time I backpacked and couldn’t start a fire, or each time I play photographer and pretend to know all the buttons. Sometimes it feels more like punishment than fun. Sometimes I still sit on the couch and watch TV until my brain turns off. Sometimes I’m a
selfish person jerk. Sometimes I lean too much on people. Sometimes I’m sad for no reason other than I want to be. It’s messy, it’s frustrating, but it’s mine.
So that’s it, one day I just decided to start trying. And something miraculous happened: by trying over and over again, I learned to fail. I learned that I don’t have to be the best at something. I learned that simply trying can be fun. I learned to harness the fear and embrace the shake. By making a conscious decision to keep trying, every day, I’ve taken some of the fear out of failure. I’m still scared to death of failure, of being bad at something, of looking dumb. But I know that each failure is mine to keep because I chose it. And now the scariest thing is simply not trying.
So, tell me, what’s something you’ve always wanted to try but are afraid? What’s something I should try? Mountain biking? Sculpting? Ice climbing? Feel free to leave me a note in the comments or send me an email–I’m always eager to hear from you guys!