Growing up, I had a serious fear of missing out.
Here I was a little seven years old, enjoying a doughnut hole during Sunday school when our teacher introduced me and my classmates to the concept of Judgement Day. Excuse me, I thought, my little second grade heart racing. How have I been alive for seven, or eight, whole years and I haven’t heard about this…event? I had a dozen questions. My hand shot up into the air. I didn’t wait for my name to be called because my concerns were urgent. Urgent! In my little world, I was scared of being left behind in the bathroom. I was sure that come Judgement Day, I would be at the wrong place at the wrong time. My teacher thought I was being silly but my fear of missing out was real. So real, that I was kicked out of Sunday school for “causing others to panic.”
My fear of missing out only intensified over the years. I was the roommate who was always game for a late night workout, a late night popcorn break, a late night search for flights to Japan. Yes, most of my housemates were night owls and had unrealistic Spring Break expectations. I said yes to everything and in doing so, I overextended myself and filled my calendar. A decade later when my family and I moved into our first home, I listened to myself and the needs of our family and got comfortable saying no. Missing out is bound to happen. It’s a fact of life that we can’t do it all, at least not all at once.
Once I stopped overextending myself, I was left with some alone time. Why was I so afraid of being alone? Being alone is a glorious treat. Before my daughter arrived, I loved background noise. Giada’s Everyday Italian kept me company while I cleaned and cooked. Now, I love the silence of an empty house.
Fast-forward to today and I now have a fear of failure. When “older people” talked about failure, I envisioned life-altering events (or worse, a personal mistake) that lead to a lost job or failed marriage.
Now that I’m no longer checking the “20-29” box on surveys, I understand that the fear of failing isn’t about failure at all. It’s failing to not start.
My fear of failure is so real it cripples my ability to start. To start anything – a complicated recipe or a complex house project. It’s the reason I have a dusty sewing machine, a vintage doctor’s bag full of yarn and a handful of calligraphy pens. It’s the reason I’m drawn to books featuring underdogs and do-it-yourselfers. It’s the reason I’m inspired by friends – my husband included – who pursue their dreams over a well-paying job. It’s the reason I love people who chart their own course. It’s the reason I love Shark Tank and roll my eyes at people who brag about their parents’ accomplishments.
When I left my first ad agency job, my coworker gave me a really touching card with the following, edited, quote from Marianne Williamson:
“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? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I took a leap and trusted my gut when I decided to leave that job. This quote validated my decision and that little piece of paper remains tacked on my cube walls. It’s a daily reminder to be myself and remain confident (even if I have no idea what I’m doing).
To me, this year feels like a lot of baby steps in the right direction. This blog is a baby step in the right direction – to encourage consistency, practice writing and create connections. Ragnar was a series of physical and mental failures that added up to an overwhelming feeling of success.When I discovered that other women were in my boat and felt like a fraud at work, I somehow gained (a little) confidence.
Small baby steps (infant steps? crawls? scoots?) take energy. It takes a lot to put yourself out there and take that leap (or carefully calculated step) into the unknown. But, I want to be successful and happy. There, I said it! I want to feel like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone when he shouts:
“Hey, I’m not afraid any more! I said I’m not afraid any more! Do you hear me? I’m not afraid any more!”
Successful, happy and not afraid. Oh, and I also want to be cool with making mistakes while practicing calligraphy because for fucks sake – they are swirly letters!