On Fear & Authenticity

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” –Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Let’s face it. For many of us, fear is a real and far too constant reality in our daily lives, and it can motivate us to do (or not to do) a whole host of things. How many times have you decided not to try something new because of that tiny voice in your head that reminded you of the fifty different things that could go wrong? It happens all the time. I think many of us are prompted by fear more often than we’d like to think, and it can become a regular part of our decision-making process before we even realize we’ve let it in.

Admittedly, fear is the narrative my mind falls back on more often than not. I cannot count the number of times I’ve started up a new job, relationship, project, etc. and been greeted by a chorus of voices in my head telling me why it’s clearly a bad idea.

“Sarah, you’re not actually good enough to do something like this.”

“You’ll probably mess up and then everyone will know you’re a failure.”

“Isn’t it just easier to stick with what you already know?”

I’m an expert at holding myself to unreasonably high standards. I do it every. single. day. And it’s this fear rhetoric I continue to use that keeps me from accomplishing a lot of things that make life worth living.

So how on earth are we supposed to take back our power and change that story? It is not enough for me to sit contentedly in the boxes I’ve built myself into. Training the mind to think differently, however, entails a whole lot of willpower and an equal dose of grace. We have to be willing to embrace imperfection in order to allow anything new to enter into the mix. Real, unfiltered authenticity is tough. It’s scary. And it’s not glamorous. But it is part of being human and ultimately one of the most rewarding things we can allow ourselves to feel. We are all flawed and so far from perfect that it’s a wonder we ever tried to have it all together in the first place.

(I write this as I scroll through my Instagram feed of edited photos that make it look like I have the world’s most exciting life. Reality? I spent today avoiding thoughts of moving away because it terrifies me, and I missed an appointment because I can’t get my life together enough to get out the door at any decent hour. I’m craving routine and without it I feel like a certifiable mess.)

This process of embracing my mess is a gradual and somewhat unsettling endeavor, but it’s also more empowering than just about anything I’ve ever tried to do. Here I am in the midst of one of life’s most confusing seasons, and I’m forging ahead into the unknown because–well, honestly, because that’s the best I can do at this point. We’re making it, folks.

How are YOU choosing to tell yourself a different story? Today’s the day to start, and I want to hear all about it. Welcome your own chaos because goodness knows, life is full of it.

Here’s to new narratives!

Sarah

 

 

Displacement & Changing Seasons

Displacement (n) — the act of moving something from its usual place or position

Wow. Sometimes we fail to realize how comfortable we’ve become in a certain set of circumstances until they are pulled like a rug out from under our feet. I’ve been struggling these past few months with the feeling of displacement and what it means to immerse yourself in a season of transition, when everything feels transient, impermanent and uncertain.

A month and a half ago, I packed up my college apartment and left the city I’ve called home for four years to move to Clarksville until I start my new job at the end of June. I’ve been spending my time nearly equally between my Toyota Camry, Green Hills Starbucks, and friends’ couches (Shoutout to everyone who has been letting me crash with you these past few weeks–I’m forever grateful!), and while it has been a grand adventure in learning to adapt to changing circumstances, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel strange not to have my own space anymore. I don’t think I gave much thought to the meaning of a home until I was without one of my own, and the realization that I will be traveling for the next year with nothing more than a few suitcases is thrilling and deeply frightening all at the same time.

How can we conquer the feeling of displacement without having a physical place to claim as ours? I think the most meaningful lesson I’m learning here is that place is a complex idea that encompasses more than a “You Are Here” dot on a map. It has to do with our entire set of surroundings and perspectives, and whenever those are shifted, it leaves us reeling without a sense of direction. Transitions make life richer but also profoundly uncomfortable and unsettling.

When I share news of my post-grad plans with people, I’m typically met with responses such as, “What an exciting time. You must be thrilled!” or “How fun it must be to have the freedom to see the country while you’re young!” While these statements are both absolutely true, sometimes I also want to add that traveling alone without a home can leave one feeling unsteady and confused. I want to say, “Thank you, but here’s another crucial part of my reality: I’m feeling utterly lost in this season of changes.”

I think it’s important to acknowledge that displacement brings about its own unique set of challenges, but it also holds promises of growth and contentment if we allow ourselves to settle into the discomfort of the present moment. I’ve been asking myself to be fully present in this time of transition without immersing my thoughts too deeply in the past or future. It can be far too easy to fall into the trap of “what if” and “I wish,” trying to plan or change circumstances that are altogether outside of our control. This month of couch-surfing and eating burritos out of my car is teaching me a powerful lesson about letting go of expectation and allowing life to run its course. I am sitting here (at Starbucks–who’s surprised?) without a home, without a concrete plan, and without a semblance of control over what the next year holds. And most of all, I’m rejoicing in the uncertainty that comes along with this changing season.

Bring on June 28! Well, not until I pack my suitcases and clean out my car, but you get the picture. I am so excited for all this new chapter of life has to teach!

Sarah