Eight years ago I did a really brave thing. After waiting and waiting to hear back from a big-time music manager about becoming his receptionist, I showed up to his office unannounced, and said:
“I didn’t move to New York to become a receptionist. I came here to be an artist and I want you to help me.”
I had never felt that kind of fear before. My body was tingling and pulsing from the inside out. I felt on FIRE. I felt on PURPOSE. I felt ALIVE. I also felt like I had to pee in my pants and throw up at the same time!
The courage it took to get me to that moment was a culmination of years of struggle; of settling into jobs that were nothing more than a paycheck; of taking what was given instead of asking for what I was worth. That moment was so much bigger than me. It was a promise to God/Universe…I will never give up on my dreams. I’ll do whatever it takes.
It also happened to be days after I had just gotten mugged. I was shaken, vulnerable, and angry. Mostly at myself. The the voice inside my head wasn’t “How could this happen to me?” It was, ”What do you really want from your life? Stop playing small. GO GET IT!”
The real epiphany came after re-telling that story to a friend.
“Don’t you think that was my big Behind-the-Music special moment?” His response, “No, that’s after the TENTH time you do it.” You mean I gotta do it another nine more times!! (and for the record, I did go back another time).
So, as I was thinking about my final act of fearlessness, I wondered: What would it feel like to go back and do some of my most scariest acts…again? How would it feel differently? Easier? Better? Worse? And would the outcome change?
In the next few weeks before my 41st birthday (Can you believe it’s been a year??) I will share what happened when I went back and….sorry, you’ll just have to wait and see which ones I did again!
I’ve learned so much during my Fearless journey, but perhaps the most pressing lesson has been about compassion. Deep compassion. The stories we tell ourselves that cripple us into not going for what we really want…are really just “stories.” We all have them. The details of your stories may not look like the details of mine, but they still feel just as real.
The courage it took me to pose nude in an art class or hand-deliver love notes to strangers… is the same courage it took you to…(fill in the blank). It’s all courageous when you’re acting in spite of feeling the fear, shame, guilt, or embarrassment. No one is better or greater than the other.
I realize that now as most of my scariest acts were often a surprise to me. The fear seemed to uncover a deep, unhealed wound or shameful story about myself. And midway through my challenge, I started to feel different. Vulnerable. Exposed. Humbled.
I discovered a whole lot I didn’t know about myself. I discovered judgment where I didn’t think there was any. I discovered shame where I didn’t think there was any. And I discovered love…a deep capacity to love and be loved. For everyone. For the people in my life that hurt me, for the people I’ve held judgment towards and especially, for the deepest part of myself that felt unworthy.
I look at a fellow busker on the subway and think, how brave. I think of someone going to an AA meeting or a Cuddle party and think, how brave. I look at a homeless person sleeping on the side of the street and think, how brave. I wanted to understand my fear and by doing so, I’ve become more understanding of people that seemed “different” than me.
I will say one more thing about the above-mentioned story. At the time, I didn’t share that story with my parents or some of my friends because it didn’t produce the “outcome” that I wanted. But, what needs to be celebrated is the action itself. I’m sure there are a million stories of courage that are never talked about or shared because of some story or rather, society telling us since they didn’t produce the results we wanted, they aren’t worth celebrating.
Who we are and who we become are a collection of these stories. These acts of bravery. These moments of choosing to act in spite of feeling fear. We do it all the time. We just don’t think much of them. And that needs to change.
In the comments below, please share what courageous action you are presently taking, or have taken that forced you to act in spite of feeling fear.Let us all celebrate these stories in each other. That’s what I hope this journey will inspire. Compassion for all and the courage to share our brave stories.