Walking the Road Afraid

Fear can be as crippling as it can be motivating! Ask me how I know? Well, I first came to this country with two suitcases and money I had saved from my job and from selling everything I owned–everything, that is, except for what was in those two suitcases. But then again, I did own more than this. What I owned was a dream and a passion to do what no one in my immediate family had yet done –pursue higher education! What I owned was a faith that if I stepped out in the direction of my purpose, my God would take care of me. However, I confess that it was a flickering faith, burning brightly one minute and then almost about to go out the next when challenges presented themselves–when the amount I owed on my student account was more than I could pay, when eating rice and beans everyday got tiring, when I stopped to think about the long road ahead and my dwindling bank account, I was afraid—afraid that I would not be able to make it. And although I have stood at quite a few crossroads of major decisions in my life since then, I recognize that fear remained within arms length.

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So, what would you do if you were not afraid? I have heard this question asked by some, but I would suggest a more pertinent question is: What should you do EVEN if you are afraid? For as I reflect on my own life journey, I recognize that fear is like the friend who no matter how you try to shake her loose refuses to leave your side. From the first day I stood before a class of college students some of whom were much older than me, through leaving the shores of my beloved homeland–Trinidad and Tobago, through the pursuit of my Bachelor’s degree, to Master’s degree, and Doctoral degree, through walking down the aisle to say “I do” to this man, to holding a newborn baby in my arms—I was shaking down to my cotton underwear! BUT I kept on walking the road even when I was afraid.

If you are waiting to be less afraid to make that big move to high tail it out of your current situation with a confident “See ya! Don’t want to be ya!” in pursuit of your passion and calling, then my friend you are allowing fear to do its work as a crippling agent. In an inspiring video, entitled How to get over your fear of failure, motivational guru and coach Tony Robbins urges us instead to train our minds to think: “I can be fearful, but I can do it anyway”. Similarly, in the book Act like a Leader, Think like a Leader, the author present a paradoxical truth that no amount of thinking will allow us to get past the nettlesome companion of fear. Ironically, the only way to shake fear loose is to take him along the journey.

Yet, not to be too cavalier about the whole thing, I will say that fear is useful in curbing foolhardy enterprises that are not well thought out. Hence, the question is not about what you could do but what you should do. By should, I am suggesting what I believe to a fundamental truth of life, that each person is called to walk paths that are custom designed for them. It is your path to walk, whether is to write that book, marry that person, leave that dead-end relationship, move to a different city or country, take that new job or even the alternative,  turn down that dream job in favor of a passionate calling. Whatever it is! It is YOUR path to take given who you are and the gifts with which you have been blessed. Yet, it is often at these junctures that we are most fearful of failure and of going against the grain, turning off the well-trodden path taken by so many others rather than doing what Robert Frost suggested: “ Two roads diverged in the wood, and I–I took the one less travelled by.”

Reversed view of the Fork In The Road

A few years ago, my husband Mark and I faced a difficult decision. Should he continue with the world’s largest consulting firm which paid mucho dinero, but which came with an attached puppet string that pulled him on planes, trains and automobiles here, there and everywhere? Or should he say “Hasta la vista, baby!” and launch out on his own–chart a course towards having his own business? There was a moment of great pause. Actually, who am I kidding? There were MOMENTS of great pauses. Are we crazy to even be considering this? What about the risks? We have kids to put through college! So many fears!!! The lure of a stable paycheck to which we had set our GPS was tempting. Yet, as a financial consultant to others, he realized that staying in the firm’s safety zone in these uncertain economic times would lock him out of his future earning potential on his own terms. But more importantly, he was driven by a desire for a better quality of life–more time with the kids and me, and to do more than his parents had done—to work towards a richer legacy than a stable pension plan. The fear of what could be lost if we did not make this move outweighed the fears we had about the loss of that paycheck—fear was a motivating agent.

I confess, that even now, after making that decision, there are still moments of uncertainty and lingering questions. Did we do the right thing? Can we really make it? Yet, it is in the presence of this troublesome companion–fear–but armed with a growing faith that we are determined to continue to walk on courageously in the direction of our purpose and calling. And I’ve got to tell you that the great fulfillment and sense of inner peace that has come to us in taking this path is SO totally worth it.

So what should you do even if you are afraid? I know you’ve thought about it. Well? What are you going to do? My advice: Go ahead and DO it! Prepare yourself to begin walking that road even if you are afraid!

 

 

 

The Blessing and Burden of Writing

 

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It’s a strange business this writing thing.

I am always writing… writing in my mind as I roll out of bed, and change into my exercise clothes. I put my shorts on, and a sports bra and top and socks; then I spend more than a few minutes looking for my i-pod and finally put my shoes on as I make it out the door for my 7 mile morning bike ride.

I am always writing in my mind, writing stories about the people I encounter along my route.

Well, not really encounter, for seldom do we stop to chat, and yet we do acknowledge each other with a smile, a nod, or morning greeting. We are a community of sorts, connected by this morning ritual of walking, running or biking. And though, I will confess that I don’t even know their names, I have stories about them all—well-constructed mind scripts of who they are and what they do.

I expect to see the four ladies who have been walking together for many years. I would guess that they are in their mid seventies or early eighties—who, in familial conversation, can spread out across the entire path—a fitting metaphor, I think, for the breadth of their friendship. And though I am often a bit annoyed in trying to figure out how to get around them without yelling – “Bicycle on the left!”— their consistent presence is comforting.

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Then there is the man who I am convinced spends the day walking the trails. No matter the season, he is dressed all in black, with well-defined calves that label him No-nonsense- Serious Walker. First he takes his dog for an early morning walk and then walks the dog back home. Then he goes for his own walk, and repeats this ritual at noon and before the sun goes down. Mark and I have often said to each other teasingly: “If only we spoke dog, I am sure we would hear the dog saying to us beseechingly: ‘Woof! Woof! Help me!!’”

I often see one of my neighbors who I have stopped and talked to for quite a while. She lives on the street down from us. One morning, we got so busy talking about this and that, that I forgot to ask her name after she had asked mine. Hmmph! Now I cringe each morning when she greets me with a sunny and triumphant: “Good morning Kathy!” and I can only muster a paltry: “Good morning!” in return–too ashamed to ask: “What’s your name again?”

I am always writing in my mind, these vignettes of serendipitous encounters, and yet to me, they are the real substance of what makes a life meaty, delicious and sweet. But like a painter, my canvas is instead a blank screen and my brushes and paint palette are words and punctuations. I long to capture these moments in a piece that gives them a permanent place to rest– to share with you whomever you are and wherever you are a glimpse into the happenings in my world, my day, and ultimately the time I would have spent on this beautiful earth. But more than giving them permanency, I am attempting to share with you a glimpse into my mind.

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Fora as is often the case with artists, to come to know me is to know me through my work. And I hope you won’t think me too bold in saying this, and it does not come across as if I am too full of myself. But I have come to think that my experiences are not too different from yours—though the details may differ —that in an attempt to capture my lived experiences you can come to see yourself in these encounters, these remembrances, and dare I say, learn something from them. This is my contribution as a writer.

And though my contributions are expressed through the blessing and burden of writing, your contributions are expressed through your own gifts and abilities. Yet, in these expressions, we may somehow recognize the commonality of our struggle: the quest to know each other more fully, the quest to be known by others, the quest to walk intentionally into our life purpose and in doing so bless and inspire others with the gifts we have been given.

I am always writing in my mind…. However, on too many days, these writings stay only in my mind—victims to the tyranny of things to do that are urgent, and these words and thoughts can find no resting place. Yes, this is often the case.

Yet, it’s not the case today.  And on days like today, when I am able to capture just a bit of these mind pieces, I feel such a release and sense of accomplishment that ironically, I am at a loss to find the words to fully describe it.