At the time of writing this, I’m sitting on a bench overlooking the Brooklyn bridge as school buses, subway trains and cars cross above me, as ferries drift by in front of me, as friend groups brunch behind me, as families hop on and off the carousel catty-corner from me. The freedom tower rises above it all; the American flag billows near it.
I have just finished exploring powerful individual exhibits at Photoville, the nation’s largest photography exhibit, in DUMBO, Brooklyn.
The photos evoke a feeling I have been internalizing for quite some time: Restlessness.
I spent today resting and being alone. The hustle and bustle of the city can often leave me feeling exhausted and confused. But as I perused the photos, I couldn’t help but feel like I have to do something. There is so much injustice, unfairness, hopelessness, sadness, intensity, death, injury, poverty, confusion and voicelessness. How can I just stand there and look? I have to do something.
I feel this tugging on my heart that I am meant for so much more on this Earth, but I just can’t seem to figure out what it is.
I know I am meant to write, to make change, to let people’s voices be heard, to inspire, encourage and listen. I am meant to be a good friend, to be there for people—especially when others aren’t, to smile, to love God and love others, to spark joy and bring joy into dark rooms.
But is that all I am meant for? Maybe that’s not the right way to say it, because that is still soooo much. That is more than so many people are doing, or will ever do. And it’s not even about what we do. It’s about who we are. Plus, God has already overcome the world and has a plan to restore His goodness/wipe out darkness everywhere. But I feel like I am meant for something crazy—something bold, something daring, something risky and terrifying. Something that really, really scares me.
When my mind wanders, I am thinking about those daring things I am meant for.
I’ve been trying to figure out why — now — I’ve been feeling this way.
I feel so secure in New York that it feels… too secure. With a comfortable life, a comfortable job, comfortable and amazing friends, a comfortable boyfriend, things just feel too…. Okay.
Nothing about my day is scary.
Because my every day doesn’t feel scary anymore, I don’t feel like I’m growing. And when I don’t feel like I’m growing, I feel like I’m not living up to my potential.
As I walked through photo after photo of women incarcerated for life, their faces showed fear. Their letters to the exhibit goers said the same: I am scared. If I am completely honest with myself, I’m terrified.
When I sat on my friend’s futon and talked to him about how this might be the end of his serious relationship, he told me over and over again, “Hope, honestly, I’m just scared.”
When I talked to my friend about her going to therapy to address finally some family strife, she looked me in the eyes and said, “it’s scary to think about what else might arise from talking about things I never talk about.”
When I think critically about these ideas I have for doing more—doing something other than the every day—I feel scared.
Committing to comfort in 2019 has been really special. But how do I know if I should keep leaning into the comfort or take a risk?
I deeply desire for God to make something beautiful out of me, but how do I know what that is? And if I’m on the path to make that happen?
Risk is so different for everyone. For me, it’s more risky to be complacent, content, relaxed and slow-paced. That’s not my natural pace, so the thought of slowing down is really scary.
In fact, most of the terrifying things I want to do in 2020 include: sleeping more, spending time just with myself, and having a specific morning and evening routine.Gasp! The thought!
One of my biggest fears is routine. I hate doing the same thing twice because it feels mundane and not meaningful. The irony is that most meaningful and extraordinary things come from routine. My own fear has hindered me so much to believe a false narrative that I need to live this exciting and fast-paced life every second. I’m aware of it, but talking myself down and changing it is the hard part.
My friends across the board — from NC to Spain to NYC — have encouraged me to slow down, but actually doing it is a risk I am not sure I have the courage to take. How does one build courage? How do I tell myself that my “natural” pace (It’s not really natural – it’s the pace I’ve convinced myself I should uphold to run away from fear) might not be the best operating model for my life? How do I make a terrifying change for 2020?
What are you afraid of? How are you moving past it? How are you tricking yourself into a new normal? I’d love to hear about it.