Quitting your job, moving to the Tanzanian bush, falling in love and becoming a freelance writer, has a way of messing with your writing schedule. Despite hundreds of drafts, I haven’t really posted anything for a while.
I kept looking at my list, searching for fears I’d recently overcome, or at least encountered, and despite having more than my fair share of material, I just couldn’t bring myself to write about any of it.
Although I’ve been writing every day, I started to worry I’d made a terrible mistake in quitting my job. Suddenly, paying my mortgage, buying groceries and paying for my health insurance dominated my financial concerns—things I barely thought about a year ago. The book I started writing had little more than a page or two added over the past several months, and my attempts to break into the luxury travel industry have proven much harder than I anticipated.
While my personal life has become blissfully amazing and fulfilling, my professional life has morphed into a cautionary tale conservative parents tell their creatively ambitious children: Don’t quit your day job. At least, that’s how it feels.
After enjoying over 14 years of success in my career, and being a financially independent woman, I’d always been proud of what I’d accomplished—even if it meant I’d done it at the expense of my youth and dreams. Although fear of failure is always right below the surface, I knew it was a real possibility. Yet, I never truly believed it would happen to me. And maybe it hasn’t.
The fears and barriers that once stood in my way have changed. I’ve changed.
I first realized this when I was sitting atop a table drinking sparkling wine out of a tin can at a salon in San Francisco. I was about to tackle item #24 on my list, and get a wax before vacation. While I was understandably a bit anxious, and unsure of what to expect (there’s only so much obsessive Googling can reveal), this “fear” I’d held on to so dearly for so many years, just didn’t seem that important anymore.
Watching my esthetician pour the warm wax over my legs, I was mesmerized by the transformation. The wax went on, and in an instant, it was off again, with a new surface revealed underneath.
Wax on, wax off.
It was that easy. Sure, it stung for a moment, but by the time I finished another sip of bubbly, I’d forgotten all about it.
I realized at that moment, that many of the fears I’ve held on to for so long—ones I thought were a permanent fixture in my life—could disappear, just as easily as they appeared. Or faster, even.
For example, I’d forgotten that living abroad was even on my list until I perused the list sitting in my hut, with a shitty internet connection, in the dark, in the middle of the Serengeti.
Wax on, wax off.
In fact, nearly everything on that list no longer scares me—with the notable exception still being #2; sing karaoke. So, what does this mean, exactly? Am I no longer afraid of anything? Uh, no. But, I’m pretty sure it does mean that I’ve realized my fears don’t own me. I own them, and they’ll only hold power over me if I want them to.
I get it now. My fears were (and still are) there for a purpose. They’re meant to protect me from venturing into uncertain waters until I’m ready. They challenge me to question myself constantly. They keep me in check. Having these fears doesn’t mean I shouldn’t face them, just that I’ve built them up in my mind as a defense mechanism until I no longer need them to feel safe.
Every day will bring new challenges and delights, and every day is just as fleeting as those moments on the waxing table. I can focus on the pain or enjoy the champagne.
Right now, I’m enjoying the champagne.