A few years ago, after a particularly tough night — one of those nights where the weight of the world seems to come crashing down all at once — my mom wrote these words on a Post-it Note for me and left them on my bathroom counter.
“I love you, Em. You don’t always have to be so strong.”
I have that note saved in a box somewhere up in the U.S. And even though that note is not physically with me here in Argentina, my mom’s simple-yet-profound words are with me always.
You don’t always have to be so strong.
I’m realizing more and more that I tend to carry the weight of what can sometimes feel like the world on my shoulders and that no one is putting that pressure on me but me. I think this is human. I think we are all guilty of this to varying degrees.
In the days leading up to my 28th birthday, I wrote a letter from my future self to my current self. I stepped into my shoes at 29 and wrote a letter to myself at 28 — with the idea of capturing what I dreamt, and still dream, my reality will be as I turn 29 next year. (The exercise, which I’ve done for a few years now, is meant to help define my goals and actions for the year ahead.) Nine days after writing that letter, I was reminded that we don’t always get a choice in life.
“Who would’ve thought that when we met five years ago we’d be trekking in Torres del Paine together?” I say to Lindsay as we hike from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande in one of southern Patagonia’s most famous national parks.
Life, and the crossing of paths, is a seemingly strange and mind-blowing thing. Today, our second of five days in Torres del Paine, my mind traipses through my story with Lindsay.
She and I met in August 2012. I was fresh out of college and looking for marketing work in the social impact space. Lindsay was the national director of Right To Play – USA, an organization I was keen to work with. We initially connected through email, and then, when I was traveling through San Francisco, we met for coffee on a Friday afternoon at La Boulange. Our relationship, a mentorship and now a friendship, has grown from there.
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?
She was never quite ready.
But she was brave.
And the universe listens to brave. – Rebecca Ray
Life is a series of steps. Some big, some small. Some light, some heavy. Some easy, some challenging. Each step certainly carries its own personality. But at the end of the day, steps are steps. Simple as that.
To move forward and make progress, we have to be willing to let our feet leave the ground. We have to choose to pick our feet up, take a step forward and move. Thoughtfully. Intentionally. Purposefully. We have to give up our old footing to find new footing. Finding that new footing isn’t always safe and secure; it’s not always a “sure thing.” But when it comes to moving forward, it’s necessary.