Brave Enough to Keep Trying

Brave Enough to Keep Trying

Since I was in elementary school, I have fantasized about performing in a Broadway musical. It doesn’t matter that I have the vocal giftedness of a robot—a dream is a dream, and it was mine.

Blame my parents for taking me to see The Phantom of the Opera when I was ten. Everything about the performance was magical, inspiring me to spend hours locked in my bedroom pretending to be Christine Daaé. I played the soundtrack on repeat, singing along and memorizing every lyric—if a casting director ever knocked on my door, I would be ready.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t sing on key to save my life. I was brave enough then to hold fiercely to a dream that stirred my heart, no matter what odds were stacked against me.

I tried out for our town’s production of Annie, singing my little heart out in the group audition and using my best falsetto to sound just like the professionals. I didn’t get a call back; it was the last time I tried out for a show of any kind. One rejection was all it took to squelch the shaky confidence that had given me the courage even to try.

If we let it, fear of failure will keep us from doing anything that matters. 

Rejection is devastating, even if it’s just perceived. As a kid, anticipating that I might not have what it took to get a part was enough to keep me from trying out again. Even though I’m all grown up now, insecurity still squelches my courage more often than I’d like to admit.

It’s been months since I’ve written anything here after losing my confidence as a writer when my world imploded last year. A series of events outside of my control led to a season of debilitating anxiety and depression, forcing our family to focus all our energy on recovery and healing. It has been excruciating and grace-filled and painful and beautiful—a year we would have never chosen, but one God has used to build greater freedom and deeper love than ever before.

Writing again now makes me wonder if my heart has really recovered enough to be vulnerable with my words again. It feels brave to offer my story back out to the world, unprotected from potential criticism, misunderstanding, or judgment.

I’m not a professional blogger. I’ve never been formally trained in creative non-fiction. I don’t know what I’m doing when my fingers start flying across the keyboard, but I know it makes me feel alive to put my heart into words.

More often than not, I read other writers’ work and feel inadequate in comparison. I talk myself out of the unique voice I bring to the world because it’s not as witty/deep/well-written/insightful/funny/inspiring/fill-in-the-blank as those I admire.

Even though I know better, I still catch myself using others as my measuring stick of enough-ness. I forget I’m not supposed to be them, I am designed to be me—imperfect, honest, insecure, passionate, dorky, hopeful—fully myself, just as I am.

Comparison steals the joy of discovering the irreplaceable beauty only we can offer the world.

I tell myself I shouldn’t even try to write because it’s not like I’m going to publish a book or make a living on my blog or do anything substantial with my words. It’s like I’m asking, “What’s the point of singing show tunes if I’m never going to perform on Broadway?”

Because I love it, that’s why.

Just like listening to Elphaba belt out “Defying Gravity” gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes (Wicked fans, am I right?!), writing awakens my soul and brings it to life like nothing else. And even though I may not be Idina Menzel, I can still sing the song I’ve been given at the top of my lungs with all the passion my heart can muster.

What matters most isn’t the performance I deliver but the bravery of offering my unique voice, no matter the response.

So I’m starting here, choosing to do one brave thing at a time, feeling vulnerable because it requires me to step out of the safety of my comfort zone. I may not be the best writer in the blogosphere, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write anyway. I’ll never grow into who I was meant to be unless I try and try and try again.

Neither will you.

Your brave thing will likely look completely different than mine. It might be inviting someone over for dinner or applying for a new job or setting boundaries in a relationship or taking that class you’ve always thought about. But if you never attempt the thing lingering in the back of your mind, you’ll never experience the fullness of who you were meant to be.

Building courage takes practice, so let’s just keep trying. You will be braver for showing up, even if you don’t get chosen for the part. The world needs more people like you.

Since vocal performance is not in my gift set, I decided to audition for a new role last week. After months of training, preparing, and convincing myself not to quit, I gathered enough courage to do something new and scary: I became certified as a group fitness instructor. And get this: I will dance on a stage wearing a microphone!

It may not be Broadway, but it feels like the next best thing. And you know what? That’s good enough for me.

Deciding to Chase a Dream

Deciding to Chase a Dream

My heart is beating a little faster as I type these words. I’m sitting here at my dining room table, candle burning for ambiance, fresh flowers to inspire me with their beauty, and holding my breath a bit as I decide today to begin a new chapter of my writing journey.

I’ve come to realize through the encouragement of my man, belief of my friends, and burning within my own heart that I can’t just wonder anymore what it would be like to become a writer. I’ve got to actually put my heart on paper, risking the possibility of failure for the sake of chasing after this dream. As my dear husband told me last week, it’s time to give my writing the attention it deserves.

But I have no idea what I’m doing.

Following these nudges to write feels simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Success is not guaranteed. I don’t even know what steps to take. If I’m honest, I don’t even know the final goal. A book? Sure, I’d love that. More? Dare I even hope? Even if I don’t know exactly where I’m going, I know I have to move forward.

Even just saying the words out loud, “I want to be a writer,” almost makes me tear up at the sheer exhilaration of embracing a dream that has felt too impossible to ever pursue. Who am I to think I have something worth saying? Who am I to assume people actually care about what I write? Who am I to attempt what thousands of others are already doing so well?

As those questions have bounced around my mind over the past year and a half that I’ve dabbled in blogging, a deeper question echoes within my heart in a response that feels truer than any of my doubt: “Who am I NOT to give life to the dream growing inside me?”

As Marianne Williamson so beautifully expressed in A Return to Love,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?…We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

We were made to let our light shine.

And every life shines differently, in diverse beauty. Every one of us has been crafted with a unique set of passions, gifts, experiences and perspectives that is not replicated by another human being. There has never existed another living person with your unique make up in all of history—another you will never be repeated for all eternity. No one else can reveal the glory of God in the way you can.

Vulnerable as it feels to share my heart with the world through writing, I don’t want fear of failure/rejection/criticism to keep me from doing the thing I was created for. I want to be brave enough to let my light shine.

Trying new things, especially in the creative realm, can be daunting. My parents are both inspiring me right now with their courage to explore untapped musical passions. They work full time and have plenty of demands on their evenings and weekends, yet they are both choosing to invest time, money, and energy into fulfilling dreams they have each carried as long as I can remember.

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A couple years ago, my mom surprised my dad with a music lesson for his birthday. His lifelong obsession with classic rock was the inspiration for his desire to play bass. After the birthday lesson, he started taking lessons regularly; a couple months later he coaxed a neighbor to join him in weekly jam sessions. Now my dad’s pursuit of his dream is giving both him and his friend, who had previously refused to play in front of anyone, the chance to shine their musical light.

When we pursue our own best stories, others are brought along for the ride. Living our own best life gives others permission to live theirs.

 

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My mom has always wanted to learn to play the cello, so a few months ago she signed up for cello lessons. Who does that at 58? Only someone willing risk the discomfort of a steep learning curve for the satisfaction of doing the thing that fills her heart.

So I’m following my parents’ example and venturing into the unknown world of creative arts. Even though the prospect of writing more seriously feels completely overwhelming, I’m committed to taking the next step.

Today I watched a webinar on how to write a book.

Tomorrow I’m going to research writing conferences.

I don’t know what it will be after that (suggestions, anyone?), but I’m committed to taking whatever step arises next.

Consider this post my public declaration of my intention to pursue writing more seriously. Don’t ask me what that means, because I honestly don’t know. I only know that I can’t ignore this growing sense of responsibility to use the gifts God has given me for his purpose and plans.

And I’ll tell you this, even the ability to admit that I have a gift with words—a passion for expressing my thoughts, feelings, and observations through written and spoken language—feels like a brave first step. Recognizing that I have light to shine—and so do you—may be the most important part of living a courageous life.

What is the dream stirring deep inside your heart, waiting to be released? (I’d actually love to hear–it inspires me to know how you’re living fully!) You’re light is waiting to shine. Just take the next step.