Have you ever had the feeling that you were at a crossroads in your life? That you are about to dive off and take a plunge into the great unknown, but at the same time you are also holding yourself back?
This is how I have been feeling these past few weeks. Perhaps it’s because there is a change in the air as Spring is beginning to reveal itself or perhaps because I’m feeling more confident in myself that the time has actually come to take a new step when it comes to writing. And yet there is that niggling doubt – fear, uncertainly and a lack of confidence. Once I step forward into that new sphere, what I’ve left behind will stay there. Where I am now will be gone; there is no turning back.
The reality is I’ve been in this current state for quite some time now. I’ve become too comfortable and therefore I’ve become scared of changing the status quo. When we are faced with this situation, and we sit on that fence for too long then all our efforts to get this far will be wasted. You will feel that you’ve become a failure and live the rest of your life with regrets, which only makes you unhappy. You won’t be living up to your true potential and you’ll begin to feel that you have let others down as well as yourself.
It’s a big step, an awkward step, one that you should be prepared to take, however tentatively. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent years practising and learning your craft; all it takes now is to face the great unknown. That is the biggest challenge.
I know that I have people around me who are urging me forward and a husband prepared to support me every step of the way throughout that new journey. I hope that you too have found that support, even if it is only with one person; that can make all the difference in a writer’s life.
A few short months ago, I put in for some casual work at my old employer, only to be knocked back. Upon seeing some of the people I used to work with, one of them asked what I was going to do now. Instead of simply telling them I was going to write, I kept quiet.
On this blog and on other forms of social media, I call myself a writer, yet I find it difficult to tell anyone outside of that. Social media is safer; you can ‘hide’ behind your keyboard and nobody really knows you anyway. When you’re taking that big step from being a hobbyist to professional it can be very daunting. Self-doubt begins to creep in; calling yourself a writer with nothing or very little to show for it makes you feel a fake, a phoney, a fraud. Telling others you’re a writer in the pre-published stages can either result in a lack of interest once they realise you haven’t published a book or lack of interest because they feel you’re wasting your time.
The good news is that by telling people you’re a writer during the early stages not only holds you accountable, it also means that you’re committed to give it your best. I’m gradually coming to the realisation that it really doesn’t matter what other people think. For a long time I’ve gone along with what is considered ‘acceptable’ in our society when it comes to employment. Not everyone has dreams, but for those of us who do, we are entitled to at least try. Fear can hold many people back and we admire those who succeed in reaching their dreams. If you write, then yes, you are a writer. Calling yourself a writer begins with you – name it and claim it.
Do you have trouble telling others you’re a writer? Do you find it easier to be yourself behind the keyboard? Are you a hobby writer aiming at being professional? What have you done or are currently doing to reach your dreams?
Every once in a while, when my family and I visit Canberra, we go to Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre. One of the exhibits is a slide where you are required to let go of a metal bar, allowing yourself to freefall down the slide. Every time I position myself for that drop, sitting on the edge and looking down what is ahead of me, fear tightens its grip. It’s a similar situation when change occurs in your life.
In October 2013, I completed several years of University study; a change was in the air. Then only a few short weeks ago, I received notification that I was unsuccessful in obtaining casual work at my previous employer. As I typed up a couple of emails, making my referees aware of this situation, there were tears in my eyes. Feeling foolish, I could not understand why that was happening. I had come to realise that that particular phase in my life had come to an end. It wasn’t until a few short days later that I compared it to a rejection letter – something I was going to have to get used to in the writing world. Yet, I also began to see the bigger picture. That letter also signified another push for change. Two significant parts of my life were now over and slowly giving me the gentle nudge I needed to begin my writing journey. The message was now clear; the dream of writing for a living – a dream I have had since I was ten years old – could now become a reality.
Letting go of the bar to go down the slide at Questacon is an exhilarating experience. Like being in the front carriage of a roller coaster, it’s a lot of fun. Change can be like that too, but we won’t know unless we allow ourselves to freefall and take a leap of faith.
Have you ever felt circumstances conspired to give you the push you needed for change? Do you allow fear to stop you from reaching your goals? How do you react to change?
With the end of my University studies, it brings about a wind of change. While one door closes, another door opens. Finally escaping those shackles may see a new freedom, but it also brings with it a lot of responsibility. As I’ve always wanted to write, and my husband telling me that now is the time to do so, I’m not only feeling a bit lost, but also alone.
I’ve never been good at change. When I was a kid I would get extremely nervous whenever I was placed in new situations. I would have great plans to undertake something different with my life, but then I would think about it for too long; weigh the pros and cons, and then abandon the idea altogether. I was afraid of doing something that was different with my life and as a result I would fail to make any real progress.
Late last year saw a dramatic change in my life; my husband got a job in a town about 95 kilometres (59 miles) away from home. Rather than travel the distance every day, he decided to stay there during the week and come home for the weekends. I had not anticipated seeing myself as a single mother or weekend wife. This was going to be a real challenge; a change in my life that I didn’t dare think about, and yet, strangely that is exactly what got me through the whole ordeal during those early months. I refused to think about the situation and just got on with what needed to be done. There is an element of truth in Nike’s tagline of ‘Just Do It’; you just do what you have to do. I found the resolve to keep on going, and now over twelve months later in the same situation, I’m still using it.
Since then, I’ve come to learn that:-
We’re stronger than we think we are.
Being alone is not always a bad thing – in fact, it makes us more independent.
If we’re not changing, we’re not growing.
There’s no point in worrying, especially regarding those things that are out of our control. What we can control is our attitude and our approach, one day at a time.
Are you afraid of change? Did you ever find yourself having to rely upon your inner strength? What situation have you been in that made you feel alone? Did you find yourself in a situation where you’re now glad you’ve gained your independence?
It has taken seven years of hard work, headaches, and sometimes almost complete abandonment, but I have finally completed my University studies. Some weeks after I finished my last assignment, my elation was hampered by doubts and confusion. Not used to being idle, I felt lost.
I can be pretty hopeless when it comes to a sense of direction. I can’t venture into unknown territory without a map, which is why I always need my husband to read the maps while I drive.
Some years back, I drove home alone after visiting my sister’s place in a suburb in southern Sydney. After a few visits, I knew the route home, but on this particular day I must have been overly confident, for I had taken a wrong turn. I had detoured into unfamiliar territory and felt instant panic. I tried to keep as close to the highway as possible, knowing this was the only way I could get back home. I pulled over to the side of the road and consulted the street directory, but this didn’t help as I could not locate any street signs, let alone read them. Now I knew how Dorothy felt in the Wizard of Oz; being lost can be a frightening experience. I saw some people walking on the path nearby and was faced with a dilemma. Which fear was greater – being lost or talking to strangers? I chose the former and asked these people directions that would see me safely on my way home again.
From this experience, I came to realise three important things:-
The future is full of uncertainties.
Have a plan.
It’s alright to ask for help.
So now, after finishing my studies, my husband asked me what I was going to do. I reverted back to my favourite childhood saying: ‘I don’t know’. Without hesitation, my husband calmly replied ‘You’ve always wanted to write; now’s your time to do it’.
Sometimes we may stray off course once in a while, but it’s good to know that someone always has our best interests at heart – even complete strangers.
Have you ever been lost and needed help? What scares you the most – being lost or talking to strangers? Are you afraid of the unknown? Do you see uncertainties as opportunities? Do you believe strangers are friends we haven’t met yet?
Image of Frederick McCubbin’s ‘Lost’ by Debbie Johansson.