I know this post is about two weeks (okay, maybe a little more) late, but I’m finally ready to talk about what I want in 2015, so it’s right on schedule for me. You’ve probably seen it going around on social media. People picking one single word to help them shape and define their new year. One little word that helps provide them direction in every decision they make in 2015.
I had absolutely no intention of doing this.
It seemed like a cool idea, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m more of a concrete goal maker—do this thing by this date and get this reward—so something as abstract as letting a single word float around and define my year seemed a little too wishy-washy for my tastes. How am I going to keep track of my progress? Or make a plan? Or know when I’ve succeeded? I’ll pass on the whole one word trend, thankyouverymuch. Give me a good ole S.M.A.R.T. goal any day.
But then, on New Year’s Day, I took a yoga class taught by a dear, wonderful, beautiful (in more ways than just one) friend, who is always a fantastically inspiring step or two ahead of me when it comes to personal enlightenment. During the practice, she suggested we leave behind the fear we carried with us in 2014. And with that one sentence, tears started streaming down my cheeks, and my one word appeared to me without me even wanting one—fearless.
I don’t think I realized how much fear had been running my life until that very moment. Nearly every decision I had made in recent years had been driven by fear—and, holy crap, what a terrible way to live!
Without a doubt, 2014 was the best year of my life both personally and professionally, and I’m entering 2015 happier than I’ve ever been. I know it seems like a disconnect to say it’s a “terrible way to live” and “the best year of my life” within a heartbeat of each other, but here’s why it makes sense—the fact is, 2014 was so unbelievably wonderful because it was the first year I got up the courage to begin to leave some of my fears behind (fear of becoming a mother, fear of failing at business, etc.). And as I overcame each of those fears, I began to realize just how much joy I’ve missed out on so far in my life because I’ve been dictated by fear. Fear that is usually unfounded.
An example . . .
I stayed in a job I loathed because of fear (fear I’d be broke, fear I wouldn’t succeed on my own, fear I could never do better, fear my parents would be disappointed in me, fear I’d let my husband down, fear my bosses at my job would be mad at me for leaving, fear my co-workers would be mad at me for leaving, fear my professors would be mad that they put so much time and energy into someone who was giving up, fear that I’d be mad at myself for leaving). I stayed in that job entirely too long. I stayed in that job way past the discomfort stage. I stayed in that job until I was crying in the bathroom stalls and throwing up before my morning commute. All because I was afraid.
And then I did it. I quit. (Notably, I didn’t ever work up the courage myself, my husband basically said, “You are quitting because you are depressed, and I want my wife back, we’ll figure it out.”) And guess what? Some of those things I was afraid of happened, but most didn’t. And the ones that did happen didn’t end up being that big of a deal. The world kept turning. And, more remarkably, when I actually did put myself out there, the opportunities that opened up for me were way more than I could have ever dreamed of.
So basically, I was keeping myself from a life that was better than I could have ever dreamed of because I was afraid of things that didn’t actually happen. How silly does that sound?
I lost years to fear. Years. And that’s just one example of dozens that I can think of throughout my life. Dozens and dozens of ways fear has kept me from living the life I deserve. I think being cautious and prepared for bad times is an important life skill, but I think, for the longest time, I haven’t been cautious, I’ve just been downright scared. And that’s lamesauce.
So, my 2015 is all about being fearless. There are a million ways this little word applies to my world, but here are some specific examples:
- I refuse to parent with fear. Like most new parents, I think I spent the entire first three month’s of JuneBug’s life googling every single sound she made. I would dig deep into the recesses of parenting forums, and always find one (or two) sad stories of someone’s cousin’s friend with a baby who made that sound and had a misdiagnosed major illness. Yes, bad things happen. But I can’t live my life banking on bad luck. I’m a good mom (dare I say, even an excellent one some days), and my instincts so far have gotten me a superbly healthy and supremely happy kid. I have no reason to be so afraid.
- I will stop accepting work out of fear. Fear that I’ll make someone mad by saying no, or fear I won’t have enough money, or fear that I’ll never get another opportunity. Yes, I gotta pay a mortgage like everyone else, but I don’t have to accept every rinky-dink gig that comes across my inbox because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. Related to this, I will also stop being afraid of asking for the kind of compensation I’m worth. It’s okay if someone says, “Nope, that’s too expensive for me.” and we don’t work together. It’s not okay to do work for less than I am worth.
- I will no longer fear what people think of me. This applies to pretty much every arena of my life, but this, in particular, is applicable to my online presence. I have to be honest, I’m constantly worried I’ll wake up in the morning to 300 nasty comments on a blog post because I offended someone—which is absurd, because, last time I checked chia pudding isn’t really a hot button topic. I refuse to waste my energy on that fear anymore. I believe I’m a good person, with good instincts, and if you disagree with that (or, even worse, won’t allow me the space to make and make-up-for mistakes), then you are kindly invited to click the little “x” in the top corner of your browser. No hard feelings.
- I will not be afraid to make mistakes. One thing monetizing my blog has taught me is that some of the best successes in life come after a series of failures. That’s how you learn and grow and develop. If you’re fortunate enough to be blessed with the skill to only do things once and get them right the first time every single time, you’re an (awesome) freak of nature. I am not that way. I have to massage my process to get it right—and that means I might make mistakes along the way. Nothing to be afraid of it. I’ll just own up to it, try to rectify it, and move on. No need to simmer in embarrassment over it for the next decade and a half.
- I will not live in fear of missing out. I think this is a problem unique to digital native generations (which, I suppose, is most of us on this planet now). The fear of missing out. Fear of being the last to know that big celebrity died. Fear of missing your friend’s engagement post on Facebook. Fear of not seeing that awesome picture your sister posted of your niece. But the problem is, by fearing missing out in a digital space, I’ve been actually missing out in reality. So, I apologize if I didn’t see your blog post announcing your pregnancy, I really am thrilled for you, but I’ve been busy watching my kid learn how to crawl, listening to my husband sing along to the radio, and enjoying the beautiful birds outside my living room window. And I’m no longer afraid of offending you by not being the first person to like the Instagram pic of your engagement ring.
- I will not be afraid to love hard. This is something I’m not sure I realized I did until I had Juniper—I hold back my love and compassion for fear of overwhelming people. I’m a loud talker. I laugh a lot (at even the stupidest of jokes). I’m a hugger. I’m generous with my time and money. I’m an excellent gift giver. I do big gestures. If I love you, I really love you. And hard. And for the longest time, I’ve been afraid of how people feel about that. Afraid of being too boisterous, too overwhelming, just too much. Afraid of embarrassing them with my love. This year, I will not hold back. The world needs more people who love with wild abandon, not people who are afraid of loving hard. If you’re uncomfortable with that kind of love, maybe you just need a little bit more of it.
- I will not be afraid to dream big. Like I mentioned above, I think there is value in preparing for a rainy day, but I also think there is value in preparing for the sunniest, most beautiful Spring day you’ve ever seen. I’ve been really afraid of dreaming big recently, for fear of disappointment. I haven’t wanted to write down or tell anyone what I really want to accomplish with my life and career—because what if I fail? Well, I fail. And that’s cool. How can I teach my daughter that she can do anything she wants to do and dream the biggest, most outlandish dreams she’d like, if I don’t model that behavior for her myself? I want to be a big dreamer for myself and for her.
Now that I’ve been living fearlessly for a few weeks now, I can tell you, that I’m in awe of how many places fear has been running my life. Big things, like what I wrote above, but also a ton of little things that seem like they don’t make a difference, but when all added together, really dock my confidence. Like fear of answering the phone when someone calls because I’m afraid I’ll sound like an idiot (I hate talking on the phone). Or fear of starting a design project because I’m not exactly sure what the client is looking for. Or fear of calling a utility company to get an error in a bill fixed because I’m afraid of confrontation.
I’m starting to realize that a large portion of my procrastination problem (another post for another time) is because I’ve been so fear-driven. I put off things that I associate with fear. It’s not that I’m lazy or unmotivated, I’m just friggin’ afraid! See my above statement about it being a terrible way to live.
I’m really jazzed to have given myself permission to be fearless in 2015. I’m dreaming of big, huge, giant goals (the actual accountable, trackable kind) for this year, and I can’t wait to tackle them without fear. I have never felt this sure and confident in myself before—I hear that’s what the 30s are all about—and man, it is awesome.
To an extraordinarily happy and fearless 2015 for all of us!