A few weeks ago I shared a post from my friend Lauree to kick off my personal series on being fearless, taking inspiration from my organization’s commitment to the movement. You’ll be seeing more from my friends in coming months, but for now, I wanted to share my own thoughts on what it has meant to Be Fearless for me in the past, what it means now, and what it could mean in the future.
As a little girl, I jumped into the swamps of Louisiana without a care for the alligators and snakes that could bite or kill me. I wanted to ride the boat or the jet ski or the bumper cars or four wheeler faster and farther. I loved playing hide and seek in the dark with my cousins in the old barns and sugarcane fields.
Today I had one of those come-to-insert-higher-power-of-choice moments. It started as a slight scolding from someone who is looking out for me in more than one way (which I deserved), twisted and turned into “I’ve been where you are” stories, and ended on a positive, action-oriented note.
“Help me help you” isn’t just a memorable line from Jerry Maguire — it’s something we have each heard at least once in our lives, maybe more often when we feel like we’re at a crossing in the woods, in the road, or whatever your path is in life. And in order to to help someone help you, you have to listen, and you have to be willing to take small steps to get to your grand plan – your “grander version of you.”
For much of my life, I’ve tried to live up to what I think other people want from me. I’ve tried to please them, make them love me more, like me more, want me more, and need me more.
And I mean everyone — my biological father, teachers, friends, boyfriends, crushes, my dad, my boss … the list goes on.
Much of my four years in DC have been focused on what was next for me as it related to my now ex-boyfriend. We were in love, we were best friends, and we were going to get married. It was as set as it could be, without a ring.
But when push came to shove on next steps, what we wanted for ourselves didn’t quite line up the way that it should for a couple planning to spend their lives together — and I took a big leap into a seemingly dark and deep unknown and ended the relationship.
Nearly eight months later, I’ve thought a lot about who I am and what is next for me. And the most magical and refreshing part of it is that I don’t have to know right now, and that’s okay.
For years I have planned out every step of my life, and coordinated how each person fits into it. But now, as much as I still love using them, I realize that lists and calendars and deadlines don’t make a life, and they don’t create happiness.
And now, I realize that one of the best things about living your life for you – and living it for the NOW — is accepting that not everything will fit together the way you imagine it, and certainly not every person.
That relationship with my ex is only one of the turning points in the last year that has led me to focusing on a happier me.
Some friendships have gone by the wayside, and others have strengthened. Changes at work have forced me to consider what’s important in a job, and my empty-nesting parents’ new beginning across the country have pushed me to dial into my goals and dreams more than ever.
My next leap could be to move, or to stay. It could be to fall in love again this year, or maybe a few years from now. It could be to return to school, start a new job, or start my own business.
My next leap is unknown, uncertain, unplanned, and undetermined.
But I do know that my next leap will be exactly right for me.
One of my recent posts discussed how the path to self-discovery and healing doesn’t have the traditional timelines, deadlines, to-do lists or goals that the rest of life’s projects do, whether it’s building a new website at work, or cleaning your apartment. With that idea comes the tendency, at least for me, to not recognize or praise myself for the progress I have made- because it is harder to see personally how I’ve changed.
Sometimes it takes talking to someone else to figure that out; asking directly – have I changed? Do you think I’ve improved on x, y, z? And this goes for everything, I think. At work, maybe you’ve been trying for months to build your skills, show more leadership and project management skills, and show capacity for more responsibility. But maybe because you’ve been doing so much WORK, it’s hard to know if you really are growing and improving, so you have to ask your colleagues, or your supervisor – how I am doing? It’s like those bumper stickers on the back of 18-wheelers that ask “How is my driving?” with a number to call. The driver can’t tell crap about his driving because the truck is so big and his view is terrible from the cab. In life, sometimes our view of ourselves is so skewed, and we’re so judgmental about it that we can’t see how we’re doing, and we need a hotline of our own.
Sometimes it takes someone asking you, “Well, how do YOU think you’re doing?” “Umm…welll…” I stumbled over that one, and then started finding examples of things that I noticed I was doing differently – and what’s more, I found examples of things that I thought I was doing differently, but wasn’t quite there yet. (Thanks Dad, really)
When you’re working on the Me Project – the project to be a better you, you might find yourself setting little rules for yourself. “Next time, don’t react this way, but do this instead.” “Don’t cry.” “Don’t get upset.” “Do communicate more clearly.” “Do realize you are not alone.” Funny enough, one of my struggles is that I have too many rules, and always have. I grew up with lots of rules, and I’ve continued to stick with rules, and make up rules until my head explodes. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project reminds me that some rules can be about breaking the old rules. I read her “don’ts” and chuckle, and then I get all serious and say, ok, my rule is “No more rules!”
Progress is…feeling happy at the end of a day.
Progress is…feeling productive and satisfied about the work you did.
Progress is…feeling content with what you’ve got.
Progress is…not worrying about the stages of progress so much, and just BEING.
I began sitting on the proverbial and literal couch, spilling my life story, my innermost thoughts and feelings, my fears and demons, in February of this year. When I started, I figured I would do this for about 6-8 months and then see where things were and either continue or cut back, knowing that it’s not something you can put a definitive timeline on. Because how can you put a timeline on self-discovery and resolution of everything that’s ever challenged you? It’s not like, “Get laundry done by Tuesday. Pay bills by Oct. 31. Call Grandma on Sunday.” Figuring out what’s “wrong” isn’t an item on the checklist, and neither is fixing the wrong.
Why? Because it’s not really about what’s wrong or right. And nor is there usually an easy solution to the things that actually bring you to a therapist/shrink/counselor/insert your medicine of choice here. It’s not a math problem that always has an answer, and it’s not a maze that has an opening and an exit. Well, it may be a maze, but there’s not always an exit.