"You're afraid of making mistakes. Don't be." Ray Bradbury
I discovered this quote a couple years ago, and it kind of soaked into my skin and stayed with me. I remember it now and again, usually right when I'm about to let fear make a decision for me. "Don't."
Fear and I have a stubborn relationship.
When I feel it, I want to defy it. I hate when fear wins. I hate when I shrink because it's the safe or comfortable thing to do. There's big things, like moving to California or jumping out of a plane at age 18 because my friend Mariah and I made a pact three years earlier that we would do it. And there's small things, like last weekend when I was invited to go on a river trip with a few people I'd just met. Right before falling asleep the night before, I suddenly thought, "This is going to be awkward. I don't even have anyone's number, just a meeting spot at 7am. What if they leave me? What if no one talks to me? What if it's four awful hours trapped on a river with people who don't like me?"
I had those thoughts because I am human. And then I told them to leave-me-the-*ell-alone because I am me, and because of Ray Bradbury and "Don't be." And that river trip, just like every other time I've gone to a social activity as "the new girl" and thought about backing out at the last second, is something I'm glad I was brave enough to do.
I'm not afraid of mistakes. I'm not afraid of them because I make them all. the. freak. time.
I say dumb things. I write dumb things. I drop things and break them. I don't go running when I should. I don't relax when I should. I like the wrong boys. I let the right boys get away. Or I just like them at the wrong time. Or something. I spill my dinner on myself. I forget to call people when I say I will. I wear outfits that a week later I'm like, "What was that....?" And so on.
I listened to an audio speech this morning about mistakes and failure. My favorite part was when he told a story about his daughters taking ice skating lessons, and how they could barely stay upright even when holding on to the wall. When they officially started their lessons, they were surprised when the instructor said no more hanging on to anything. If they could barely keep their feet under them even while holding on, how would they possibly manage it without holding on at all?
The reason, he said, is that they needed to learn how to fall. Just let go, and let yourself fall down.
My life is ice skating. (And while I'm actually pretty good at real life ice skating, we're speaking metaphorically right now.) And life is about learning how to fall. I quit my job in the last couple months, left my family and friends and my everything behind, secured a new temporary job that turned out to be muuuuch more temporary than it was supposed to be, applied to a bazillion jobs and haven't had much of a response to all those careful cover letters yet. Fall, fall, fall.
Falling, but not failing.
Throughout this whole California shenanigan, I've repeatedly been asked a lot of "what if" questions. "What if you don't find a job?" "What if you run out of money?" "What if you get homesick?" What if, what if, what if. I'm not naturally the "what if" type, so my response to those questions is usually, "Then I'll figure it out." Life goes on. I gave it a go, and life goes on. I don't believe in playing small because of an ominous, lurking, nasty "what if."
I'm fine with missed shots and almost-theres and you'll-get-it-next-times. I'm fine with bruised knees and scraped palms and frustration and delayed success. I'm learning how to fall, so I can learn how to skate. Falling, but not failing. Just being brave, letting go, and letting myself fall down a little. And you know, I think I recommend it.