I haven’t written a blog post in quite some time. I feel like this is how I always preface these now: “Sorry, it’s been awhile. I’m going to try to write some more!” It never seems to work out that way though. Life tends to get in the way, along with my internal battle with perfection, and the fear that resides within me. They conspire against me and convince me that my words aren’t reaching anyone. That I’m not original enough. That what I’m sharing is just variations of the same thoughts and feelings over and over again. That my repetitive outlook on life is becoming worn out and I have lost every drop of creativity I once had. It feels like I’m wrapped up in this vicious cycle.
When I was little I was afraid of the ocean (still am). I remember one time in particular, I was with cousins from out of state. They love the beach because they don’t have any where they live. My family aren’t the beach going type, but we always went when they visited. So I was standing on the sand next to my Uncle and great Aunt. We weren’t in very far, just enough so our legs felt the gentle touch of the tide as the waves rolled in and out. I’m not exactly sure how it happened but one minute I’m standing there in between them and the next a wave sucks me beneath it’s clutches and I’m fully underwater. I was completely thrown off guard. The salty water tousled me and pushed me around as if I was meant to be there. To this day I don’t know how it happened but I do remember them grabbing me by the hands and pulling me out.
The unpredictability of the ocean is paralyzing. The way it can suck you under with the sand and the shells before you have a chance to realize what’s happening. One minute you’re enjoying the way in which the cool, salt and sandy mixture water lowers your body temperature and the next you’re tumbling underneath it all as if you’re a part of it. When you finally break through the surface you’ve got water up your nose and sand in your bottoms. You’re coughing and gasping for breath remembering how terrified you were not knowing which way was up. The thought of going back for more makes your head pound and your knees give out from under you. How does anyone find that enjoyable? You could have DROWNED.
But, the thing is...you didn’t. You didn’t drown. You found the surface and you defied the will of the ocean. You could have let it toss you this way and that. You could have let it fill your lungs with water and spit you back out when it felt good and ready. And then you could say “That’s it. I’m never going back in the ocean EVER again.” The ocean would win. The fear would win. But that’s not what happened. Since that fateful day of my childhood I have returned to the ocean. I’ve learned to swim with the current not against it. I’ve learned how to find the surface and try again.
When I started writing this I thought it was about my fear of failure. My struggle with perfection and the need to be on top of my game at all times. But, the more I reflect on this childhood memory the more I see how it translates to a fear I’ve had since before I graduated. When I was a junior I wrote a note to someone I admire and I told her I was worried of becoming stuck. Stuck in a job and a life I wasn’t meant for. For the past three years this is how I’ve felt: stuck. It’s as if I’ve swam into the ocean and let it repeatedly spit me out and pull me back under. I’m reliving that childhood memory over and over except now I’m the adult and I need to find a way to the surface on my own. And that is what scares me the most.
Finding the surface. Pulling myself out from underneath the current and finding a way to work with it rather than against it. My fear of failure and the ideals I hold for myself are the ocean and I am letting them drown me. Just as I have literally let the ocean try and keep me from finding my way to the surface, I am keeping myself from finding my way. The current is often too much and I find myself being tossed around by my insecurities, my doubts and the reinforcement of negative thoughts feeding off of each other. It’s a never ending cycle like the push and pull of the ocean’s current.
I was recently reading Hannah Brencher’s latest book “Come Matter Here,” on a journey home from Cape Cod. Hannah’s words have always resonated with me, she talks a lot about fear, something we know I’m familiar with, but this time something in me clicked. I had written Hannah a year ago expressing my concerns for my career, current lack of a future, and the fears that keep me at a standstill. She responded beautifully, as I knew she would, Detailing the work I would have to put in and not sugar coating it in the least. Expressing her belief in me lifted my spirits and gave me encouragement. However, I am stubborn. So, I haven’t quite gotten to where I want to be--yet. As I was reading her words in the chapter “Do What Dot Did” it became clear to me: I needed to make a change. I couldn’t live like this anymore. “At some point, you decide to get over the fear. You say it’s time to not be afraid of whatever decisions you have to make or direction you need to take,” and that’s kind of what I did. I was looking back on the exchange I had with Hannah in the past and where I was now and I hadn’t progressed since then, not really. So what was I doing? If I wanted to figure it out, whatever “it” was, then I needed to do something. Even if that something didn’t pan out, at least I can say I tried.
So what did I do? Well, I made the decision to return to the classroom. Even before I graduated, going back to school just seemed like a waste of time. Why waste more money when I don’t even know what I want? I graduated with friends who got a degree and decided it wasn’t for them. I have friends who are still trying to figure out what they want to do, even after going back to school.I don’t know if this is the right choice. I don’t know if it’s what I want. What I do know is it’s a choice that I made on my own, no matter how long it took, I decided it was the right thing for me.
If I want to “figure it out” then I have to actively take the steps towards doing just that. And who knows maybe this time it will help, maybe I’ve just been avoiding what I know might propel me towards a career I never expected. I have to try, the best I can do is try. So this is me, diving head first into the ocean knowing that this time, I will find my way to surface.