I have a confession. I feel afraid most days.
Afraid of making the wrong decision. Afraid of losing, getting in trouble, making mistakes, being taken advantage of, not having enough, too many options, being caught out, missing out. Afraid of failure.
Worse still, I insist of doing stupid things that are not very safe, which takes the whole experience to FEAR³: heart racing, stomach churning stuff.
For example last month (May 2014), I achieved two significant goals which mean a lot to me: completing a draft of my manuscript to submit to a literary agent and starting a small business selling leather bags and purses. Oh yeah, it sounds so fun and rewarding, but the reality is that it’s months and years of preparation and small steps. Then one day you put it out there and you experience the briefest moment of pure joy as it comes out of your secret place and into the world.
But, after all that hard work, all that dreaming and planning and scheming you realise, you’re only getting started. All you’ve done is give birth, now the real work begins! These metaphorical babies, which take form as novels and small business ideas and community ideas and creative endeavours burst forth (sorry for the visual) and they scream for attention and coo sweetly and spew on us occasionally. At times we recognise they have a face only a mother could love, but love them we do. And all the while as we learn to nurture and develop them, we feel like – please God, don’t let anything bad happen to this thing on my watch!
Here’s a little insight into two of my babies.
Last August (2013), I went on a short trip to Manila, Philippines to do some volunteer work in a slum area. It was overwhelming and exhausting, but the people from this community are amazing. They are some of the most generous, lively and hilarious people I know. More than anyone, the children captivated me. In particular, four cheeky, resourceful siblings named Angelo, Jonjon, Daidai and Dodong. While we were there, my church Pastor joined our team for a few days and asked me in passing if I’d been writing a lot while we were there. I was dumbstruck by the question, because I hadn’t even thought about writing.
So that night I sat on my hotel bed, pulled out my journal and began to write. Three weeks after returning to Sydney, I’d written 40 chapter summaries and 20 000 words based on four little characters called Angelo, Jonjon, Daidai and Dodong. Somewhere around that time I was approached by a reputable literary agent, who’d read one of my published short stories and invited me to submit a novel. As you can imagine I took to the task of finishing my manuscript like a mad woman and by May 2014 (9 months later – how quaint) I had an 80 000 word second draft. It wasn’t polished and there is so much more I want to do with it, but I felt like it was the right time to submit the manuscript as is. So I did.
The zz+me business
I’d been thinking about doing something with leather pouches and purses for several years, but never really got around to doing anything with my abstract thoughts about a business. Then in January this year I sourced an excellent leather manufacturer, pulled together a few simple designs and kicked off the beginnings of a little leather online shopping business. It wasn’t any more complicated than that. I wouldn’t say that I had some big dream about starting a small business, which is probably why I didn’t overthink it. I just love leather products and could never find what I wanted for a reasonable price. So I figured if I could get what I like made, maybe a few of my friends might like them too and maybe I could work out how to run a business as I go?!
I’ve been fortunate in having these (and many other) opportunities come into my life – but I truly believe that opportunities are everywhere, available to everyone. I just think some of us are more open to them. There are some people who are so caught up in the junk of life, the dross and the drama that their eyes may as well be closed because their hearts and minds can’t perceive what’s right in front of them. Then there are also those who can clearly see opportunities, but are too afraid to grab them.
I fall into the second category, but lately I’ve been learning to ignore the fear and do it anyway. I used to think there’d be this magical moment when you started to feel like a competent adult, someone able to make responsible decisions and do really important things like parent a child. But what I’m learning from my own experience and from observing my brave friends caring for their beautiful healthy human babies is that none of us know what the heck we’re doing and we’re never EVER going to be ready when the baby, business, opportunity arrives.
So we do these stupid things which seemed like a great idea at some stage, maybe when the adrenaline and the euphoria of a new idea cuts into our world like a shard of light in a dark place. We take the leap of faith and then discover we must continue to do it afraid long after we thought we’d be past that. But I think there are worse things in life that having moments of intense fear. Worse things like wondering what if I HAD done it? Worse things like regret or seeing your good idea take off in someone else’s life. All I know is I’m closer to the life I want to live when I’m on that edge than when I’m playing it safe. Every day that I am afraid is a day that I am alive.