When I was back home last Christmas, I climbed up into my parents’ attic to look through boxes of my old stuff. I found some cute things, some sad things, and inexplicably several pairs of terribly outdated shoes. But I also found a pseudo journal I would write in whenever I felt confused, sad or just the need to wallow in self-pity. As it happens, I did this quite often in my angsty teenaged years.
The last entry into this journal, however, struck a chord. The essence of the entry was my trepidation in leaving my home for San Francisco. At the time I scratched out my fears and questions into the little book, I hadn’t officially decided to make the move, though the idea had been on my mind for years.
It’s interesting how we respond to opportunity and change. Sometimes we embrace it, other times (most times?) we shy away out of fear. This has been a recurring theme in my life; to change or to stay the course?
Looking back, I can remember well the worries that kept me awake at night the months before I packed all my belongings into my little car and took off. Afterall, I had spent 16 years of my life in Nashville. I had friends, family, job opportunities, connections and familiarity. It was home. San Francisco represented the things I wanted out of life, but being the pragmatic person I am, I also realized there was no guarantee of success or happiness there. It was just an idea, a fantasy, an escape.
I suppose exploring new opportunities is scary not just because failure always lurks behind the corner, but because there’s also the possibility of ruining the fantasy, of realizing your goals are unattainable. To me, this is heart-breakingly terrifying. Enough to keep me from trying, even, for fear of losing my most precious dreams. How do you tell the little girl giving fake interviews to the mirror that her dreams may fail? Well if you’re me, you just keep living in that fantasy without ever trying to make them reality.
Yes, I realize this sounds terribly wishy-washy, but I know I’m not alone in these fears. Familiarity is comforting and most people prefer to be comfortable. Change is the great unknown and that’s scary. But ultimately, the what-ifs can keep you from pursuing goals, experiences and, well, life.
These were questions my 22-year-old self wrestled with and – very bravely – I decided to take the plunge and move to an unfamiliar city where I had no friends, no housing, and no career opportunities. I’m still proud of myself for taking that step, especially since I don’t feel I have embraced too many other big changes since then.
Sure, I’ve taken little steps here and there, but I keep shying away from opportunities, even really promising ones. I think I need to take a cue from my younger self and just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and let come what may.