“In any great narrative, there is a moment when a character must decide to become more than a bystander. This choice, though, is always preceded by something deeper, a nagging feeling that there must be more.”
– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work
That nagging feeling is where I am right now.
It’s the loud ringing in my ears, but it’s also the soft whisper straight from my heart that refuses to subside, day in and day out.
If I’m honest, though, this nagging feeling isn’t new to me. I’ve lived with it for years now, if not decades. It’s become a part of me, like an extension of my soul.
Up until now, I’ve been able to ignore it (well, sort of).
Yes, it’s been there — but I haven’t always felt so strongly that I need to act on it — that I need to finally become more than a bystander.
Until now, that is.
The reason is simple: not even attempting to create a remarkable life is painful for me.
Not going after any of my crazy dreams just to see what can happen because I’m afraid is a sure way to live unhappily.
Living my life according to the way others see the world, out of fear of what they’ll think of me or how they’ll react if I deviate from the “norm” is not freedom to me.
And freedom — true freedom — is what I crave more than anything else.
For me, that means freedom to be who I am and live how I want. It means expressing myself authentically, free of shame and the fear of judgement. It means living with clarity and peace of mind (free from the mental prison that our beliefs create and sustain).
There are so many things I want to do, people I want to help, places I want to explore, and changes I want to see in this world — and I only have one lifetime in which to go for it.
As Goins says:
“You don’t need some big plan. You just need to be a little dissatisfied. You need to have some vague premonition that the world is not completely right. That’s what awareness is: a sense that something more is possible.”
Well, there is no question that I sense, deep down, that something more is possible.
I know in my heart that a lot more is possible — but it doesn’t stop my head from battling with it.
At the same time that I feel compelled to become the writer I’ve always dreamed of being, I’m also terrified.
As much as I want to change my current situation, I’m also afraid of what that change might look like.
If I really let myself go for this, and people start reading and loving my writing, life as I know it could become totally different.
Instead of staying at a job because I need the money, and feeling dependent and stuck there in order to survive, I could be doing something I love, from the comfort of my own home. Instead of just scraping by financially, like I’ve done most of my life, I could become financially free.
It’s exciting to know that a few years from now, my life may look nothing like it does right now — but it’s also scary.
What will happen to my relationships with the people I love and value most?
Will they come on this journey with me? Will they see my story as proof that their dreams are possible, too?
Or will they push me away and put up walls I can’t climb, barring me from all the entry points back into their hearts?
Worse yet, will they pretend that everything’s fine and normal to my face, and that they’re happy for me and proud of me — and then talk about how I’ve become a “stuck-up rich person who thinks she’s better than everybody else” behind my back?
I think that, right there, is my worst fear of all.
Having strangers assume that about me is one thing. But having the people closest to me, who’ve known me all my life, or who I thought were my best friends thinking that about me just because I finally decided to go for my dreams?
That’s what would kill me.
I’ve seen the power of a belief, and what it can do to friendships and relationships.
I’ve witnessed for myself how believing a thought about somebody else (“She thinks she’s better than me,” for example) can make people withdraw from someone to the point of no return.
I know from experience that when a thought like that is left to fester over time, the distance that forms between two souls sometimes becomes so vast that they become unrecognizable to each other.
I never want this to happen.
I’m afraid to follow my heart and take action on my dreams because of the way others may perceive me. I don’t want them to see me differently, treat me differently, or believe anything about me that would keep them from me.
Of course, I know I cannot control how others perceive me, what they think of me, or what they believe about me.
All I can do is decide that following my heart and going on a wild adventure is worth it — and then trust that the people I am meant to help will find their way back to me.
Lisa Nichols describes it like this:
“The doorway is for you to fit through. You’re trying to carry everybody else through because you’re trying to be Rescue 911, but you gotta rescue you first.”
I can’t take everybody with me. I can’t save them.
I can’t make everyone I care about most live the life of their dreams; but I can decide to live mine.
I can believe in my own dreams and go after them. The only way to show others what’s possible is to be the example.
“I am much more valuable to my family and my community because I was willing to let them go, go through the door myself, teach myself, learn myself, condition myself — and then come back and get them.” — Lisa Nichols
So, I have to leave them behind.
And I have to trust that it’s not forever.
It’s terrifying, but it’s the only way.
I love people too much to see them live so small.