When I was a child, my mother worked a night job. I remember sneaking out of bed around the time she was expected home. I would sit quietly under the window sill that faced the driveway and wait to see her headlights, at which time I would scramble back into bed so as not to get caught. As I sat there, I would grow fearful with every passing minute that something dreadful had happened to my mother: a car accident, kidnapped, aliens. Every so often I would get caught. In those instances, I would tell my mother why I would wait for her and she would scoff at my fears and tell me that I was just being silly.
My entire life has been a series of fears. I have talked myself out of many things in life due to fear of death, pain, dismemberment, and/or disemboweling. I never surfed for fear that I be eaten by a shark, look like an idiot when I fell, or drown when I inevitably got knocked on the head by my surfboard. I never went out for auditions for dancers or actors because I feared failure. I never did stand up comedy or slam poetry because I worried that I was not good enough.
While I did not surf, audition, or perform, I did have a child while single, working as a waitress, living paycheck to paycheck, and driving a car that was always breaking down. While I did not become a famous dancer, actor, comedian, or poet, I did complete a bachelor’s degree while working full time and raising a family. While I did not get featured on the cover of TIME, Entertainment Weekly, or Rolling Stone, I did buy a home, complete a master’s degree, and renovate my home while also navigating a rough divorce.
It took a number of years for me to understand that, while I was not engaging in many activities in my life due to fear, I was actively engaging in life without fear. I never once stopped to consider not having my daughter just because I didn’t have money. I never once stopped to consider not pursuing my education just because I was older than the rest of the students. I never once stopped to consider giving up when my marriage ended and I was left a single mother of two with barely enough money to make ends meet.
I had spent so many years afraid to do these grand, bold things that I began to think of myself as a coward. Once you get that thought in your head, it inhibits you from doing even more. I was a coward. As a coward, I have amassed blank canvasses, empty journals, bolts of fabric, and many more trophies of fearful failed dreams.
Then I spent a weekend away from home with my loves: my two daughters and my boyfriend. As we moved through our activities, there were moments where I felt as though I were outside looking in at us. In those ephemeral moments, I saw my life for what it had truly been all along: an act of defiance. Many of my monumental choices in life were not made on conversations regarding what I should do or what was expected. No. They were made on instinct, gut feeling, intuition. Where many would have been scared, would have balked or backed away, I never hesitated.
The long drive home at the end of the weekend was quiet. Earbuds in, I looked out the window while listening to the music of my high school years: punk, goth, industrial…the music of rebellion and revolution. I thought about the girl I was when I listened to this music for the first time, the girl with the black leather jacket and Doc Martens, the girl who thought she was going to rule the world. It was then that I realized that I had been thinking on it backwards all along!
I thought of the fear of trying as the big thing: trying to write, to act, to perform, to whatever. These were the big things in my mind because these were the things that had preoccupied my teenage mind. They were the dreams. The truth was that the big things were the things that I had actually tackled and accomplished without even thinking about it: parenthood, single parenthood, college at an advanced age, home ownership. These are scary freaking things! Yet I went into them without a concern of how it would turn out. I had to flip the script. I had to make myself understand that, if I would walk into these huge life milestones with open eyes and a resting heart rate, then what in the hell was stopping me from doing something as trivial as publishing a piece of my writing for the world to see?
So I came home and I wrote.
Originally published at medium.com