Do you know your answer? Immediately, without even thinking about it? Something your heart tells you, something you’ve always wanted to do, something that you will regret not attempting? Something you feel like you were just born to do?
I know my answer.
I saw this quote on a magnet in Barnes and Noble right before Christmas. It jumped out at me from a rack – I read nearly instantaneously if it’s in large print – and quite literally stopped me in my tracks. If a person had asked me this question, I would have told them it was none of their damn business. At the time, the thoughts the question provoked made me feel bitter, angry, and fearful all at once. Weeks later I was and am still thinking about it, but with rather different emotions. Yes, I knew my answer without even thinking twice. And the fact that I didn’t have to think twice made me realize that I should rethink what exactly I’m doing with my life.
Maybe you’re one of those people who has been fortunate enough to recognize and pursue your dreams. Or maybe fear of failure keeps you from trying, or fear of rejection (which can feel like failure), or fear of change. I could make a lengthy list of all the reasons I haven’t pursued my own dream, for why I tried to bury it, stomp it out, forget about it. Some of them are things that, if my 24-year-old self could advise my 18-year-old self on, I could have changed. Some of them are things that were out of my control and that no matter what I could or should have done, wouldn’t have changed. For myself now, the biggest reason is fear of failure. Because what then? But what if? If I knew I wouldn’t fail, it wouldn’t matter how long it would take to get there. It wouldn’t matter how much it costs. It wouldn’t matter what sacrifices I would have to make. Nothing would be too hard. Nothing would matter but the journey. And nothing would stop me.
So why should it? I’ve always been an optimist. Probably of the sort very annoying to my friends and family, the person who always insists that where there is no door, there’s bound to be a window even if one must blast it into the wall oneself. Maybe if I stopped saying “if,” and changed it to “when.” When I’m old and decrepit I don’t want to look back on life and regret settling for less than a life that is full of passion and energy and ultimately fulfillment.
My 24th birthday present to myself is permission to chase my dream. Permission to ignore the voices of negativity and fear. Permission to follow my heart, regardless of what the safest or easiest path might be. Failure not an option.