A few weeks ago, I slid into a funk. I’m two months into full-time freelancing and contracting, and while I know I’m doing just fine, on a Sunday afternoon in March, feelings of fear and self-doubt started to sink in. I wasn’t surprised they turned up. To be honest, from the moment I made the decision to be my own boss, I was expecting them; I just didn’t know when they’d show up. But there they were, crashing the party.
I believe we all experience fear and self-doubt to varying degrees. I also believe that what sets us apart is how we choose to deal with those emotions. On this particular week, the silence of the in-between — a silence that came with wrapping stories and projects and waiting to receive feedback on other pitches, stories and projects — felt a bit paralyzing.
You see, life feels smoother when things are in motion. When there’s a lull in the action, we create time and space for fear and self-doubt to jump in, especially when rent, bills and overall living expenses are very real and present and we’re uncertain as to when our next paycheck will come.
So when those in-between moments come, what’s a dreamer to do to kick fear and self-doubt out of the picture? For me, it’s often a matter of breaking down my plans and dreams into actionable steps, typically one week at a time. Because dreams without action are nothing.
That week, I took a look at my plans and goals for the year — an intentional practice I went through leading up to my 28th birthday in February. I broke that list down into actionable steps for the week ahead and then spent the week working through the list. One step at a time. In continuing to push forward, I minimized opportunities for fear and self-doubt to show up. Which is not to say they haven’t shown up since. They have. But in those moments, I’m reminded to keep working hard and taking steps, to not create space for the naysayers.
Being my own boss is not easy, and it’s something I’m working on daily. But I believe in this moment, this moment of stepping into the unknown. As scary and troubling as it is at times, there have also been victories — big and little — to be celebrated throughout the past few months, moments in which I can’t help but do a little dance. Those are the moments and emotions that remind me to stick with this. I believe in this moment of pursuing plans and dreams, stories and projects and, quite frankly, a life that all matter to me, that make me feel free and alive in the best ways.
As that week unraveled, I got all kinds of signs that I’m moving in the right direction, little tidbits of encouragement to keep living courageously and working hard. Here are a few.
“Who are you when you turn the volume of Fear down?”
Writer and entrepreneur Hannah Brencher delivers up hearty words of truth weekly in her Monday emails. That week, the sign-off of Hannah’s pep talk struck a chord.
“So who are you when you turn the volume of Fear down?” she wrote. “What makes you excited and passionate? What are the causes you’ve always cared about and are you trying to make a dent in that space? What lights you up or fills you with so much anticipation you can hardly sleep just thinking about it? What is holding you back? Who is holding you back? … You get this one precious life and you get this chance to be who you really are. Are you living in your own skin? Are you in love with this life you’ve been given?”
Caring for my soul, finding my freedom
Tuesday morning, I received a unexpected-but-incredibly-welcomed call from Ashwini, an Unsettled Medellín friend. Our conversation was soup for the soul. We talked about work, travel, life, some dreams on the horizon and more. We spoke about the fact that last year at this time we were in Colombia. We talked about the blog post I’d written following a daylong adventure in Guatapé, about living in the moment to the point of not realizing it was St. Patrick’s Day.
As we chatted, Ashwini told me she could tell how at home I am in Bariloche, saying it was something that definitely had not come across when I spoke about my life in Buenos Aires. It gave me pause and gratitude for the steps I’ve taken to get to where I am now. For me, it’s crazy to think that was only a year ago. It feels like a testament to intentionally living into the things that feel right, to not be complacent when it comes to creating the life you want to live.
“A sentence that would have sounded like an unattainable dream to me a year ago.”
Mid-week, I saw this photo and caption from Nate Luebbe on Instagram.
“One year ago today I quit my day job to pursue photography full time,” Nate said. “If I’m being honest, I haven’t felt fully comfortable or stable since then. But, my life has been so wildly exciting and packed with adventure that I wouldn’t change that decision for anything. I’m writing this from a small cottage about an hour outside Tromsø, waiting to meet up with a film crew and go chase the Northern Lights; a sentence that would have sounded like an unattainable dream to me a year ago. I can’t imagine a better place to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this leap, and I’m eternally grateful for all of your support.”
In reading this, I can’t help but be reminded of Ephesians 3:20, a verse that’s shown up constantly throughout the past few months: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
“Nothing like chasing a dream.”
That week, these messages spoke to me loud and clear. They still do. They speak to the jitters and nerves and fear and tough times that come with the decision (and then action) to step out on your own. None of them say it’s easy stepping into the role of being your own boss; none of them promise success. But they do speak to the unforeseeable magic and freedom that comes with stepping into a life that matters to you.
They’re messages about the power of intentionally stepping into the unknown, buckling down and doing the work. There’s no recipe for success, and there’s no guarantee that with courage and hard work we’ll achieve our biggest, boldest dreams. But if we continue to put one foot in front of the other and give each step the thought, time, power and love it deserves, I believe we’re bound for some pretty great things — things we can imagine and things we can’t even begin to imagine.
So this post is a reminder to me, and perhaps you, to keep pushing through the fog (as my friend Laura’s grandma would say). The fog is thick and scary and lacking in clarity, but what lies on the other side is a magic beyond anything we can even imagine.
After reading Nate Luebbe’s post that week, I shared it with my family. My mom wrote back, “Very serendipitous. Love you. Nothing like chasing a dream.”
Ain’t that the truth.
April 10, 2018