Every society tells stories, but I’m afraid to tell mine…

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I wanted to be two things when I was growing up. A dance teacher and an author. Both these dreams got shot down pretty quickly by family members because apparently those aren’t ‘proper jobs’. However, while I know deep down that becoming a dance teacher is out of the question now, being an author is never out of the question. But I get scared of being rubbish, scared of being rejected. Like I know incredible authors got a ton of rejection letters before they got published…but it doesn’t make me feel any less anxious about the whole thing. And it stops me from finishing the stories I have in my head.

More specifically I’ve wanted to write children’s books. I still love children’s books which my friends think is an amusing quirk – though they’ve given me credit on occasion for finding books that their kids/nephews/nieces love. ūüôā

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Discovering some children’s books at a vintage fair.

But oh the fear! I went to an incredible conference at my university a couple of years ago which one of my Germany roommates invited me to (she was doing a Masters in Children’s Literature and Literacy). It was all about picturebooks, and it fuelled that fire even more. Through going to different conferences mainly aimed at children’s librarians (another job I would love, love, love…and another job that our government is cut, cut, cutting) I met the head of Children’s library services for our city, and he invited me to become a judge for this incredible writing competition we have each year for primary school children aged between 7-11 years old. It has become my favourite weekend of the year when I go to the central children’s library to pick up 100s of entries and take them home to read to whittle it down to 10 entries for the final judging panel. Their creativity (when teachers have allowed it) just makes my heart more full, and I often annoy the snot out of everyone around me by bursting in a room or calling on the phone exclaiming “oh my gosh, this is amazing!” before proceeding read them a poem or short story I’ve discovered that has made me smile or laugh.

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Distracted by books at a market stall in Paris. I’d found the French translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

And stories are important. Not just the life stories, but the imagination stories. I do believe that fairy tales were often the ways in which morals and life lessons were taught to children by their families back in the day. A few friends continually tell me that I need to share my own story, but I worry that there’s no point because no one would want to read it.

But worst would be if the characters in my head never get to be loved and read. There are my reindeer and there are my superhero wannabe brother and sister duo, Mattie and Zander. I worry they’ll never make it from my imagination to paper. But somehow I worry more that they will and people will just go “Pffffftttt”.

Yep. I still haven’t been able to combat my fear of failure!! (Clearly).

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Quote of the Week 31 – gaining victory over fear

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Last week I chose a quote on fear. This week I’m doing the same, because I think fear is something all of us struggle with.

Fear is not always a bad thing. Fear can keep us safe, because there are things that it is healthy to be afraid of or decide not to do for fear of what may happen.

For example, I like to stay away from the edge when I’m walking on things that have a long drop down. Years ago I went on a Geography Field Trip to Morocco. I was hiking with some of my classmates on Toubkal. At one point I was on a donkey along an ar√™te, when the donkey tried to overtake a Dutch woman on foot as the path widened slightly. The guide had disappeared for a second and as I tried to warn the woman and somehow stop the donkey that I had no control over (there were no reins like there are on a horse) the donkey pushed passed her and she fell. The next thing I knew I was holding onto her as she was almost hanging off the side of the highest mountain in North Africa yelling for a guide. Had I let go, she likely would have died or been severely injured.

However, I generally have no issue rock climbing. There are ropes and harnesses and I’m generally not afraid of falling – the rope and harness will catch my fall. I won’t lie and say that I enjoy the coming down part, that moment when you lean back to be at a 90 degree angle to the rockface is a trust exercise. ¬†There’s a moment of fear that crosses your mind ‘if the rope doesn’t catch me – I could fall and die’ and then somehow you push through because you know the likelihood is low.

I don’t think we should be ashamed of fear.

I do think we need to practise choosing to face fears when we know there is going to be a potential positive outcome if we do. That is what breeds courage….when we triumph over fear.

Every time I get on a plane, I’m having courage over fear. It may not look like it when I’m jumping at every noise made by a fellow passenger fearing they are going to be ill. But I am. Usually when I get on a plane, it’s with the knowledge that at the end of the journey I don’t want to take there’s a destination that is going to be worth facing my fear for.

I find that how I find courage, is knowing that there are people who have my back.

I was afraid to go to Morocco all those years ago. I was quite as afraid of being on planes as I am now, but it was a factor. There was also a 12 hour minibus journey. And I was afraid of people getting sick from the food or water. The difference was that we weren’t going on a coach, and four of my good friends were going too. They knew me, they knew my fears and they had my back. All of those things I was afraid of happened. Someone was sick on one of the planes – but thankfully I was seated at the back with our friend who kept me distracted through the flight and I didn’t know about it until after. One of our teachers got food poisoning during the 12 hour minibus journey. My friends covered my ears, hid my face and hugged me close so I wouldn’t be able to see or hear anything each time our bus had to stop.

I’m sure there are other things people have found helpful to help them gain courage in the face of fear. I’d love to hear how you find courage…maybe we can all find some tips for facing our fears so we can triumph over them.

Quote of the week 30 – Being tricked out of life by fear

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Fear.

Fear so often stops me in my tracks when I have a gut instinct to do something that sounds potentially awesome but unconventional. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. Fear of being judged by others. Fear that it’s the wrong thing to be doing.

How often do we come up with an idea, and talk ourselves out of it? Maybe we share about it with a friend and then list all of the reasons why it can’t possibly happen right now?

Maybe it’s just me that does that.

I have loads of ideas that I’ve never had the courage to pursue. Some of it is the fear of having to become self-employed and do those tax forms (maths ¬†terrifies me, especially when making a mistake might mean that I accidentally break the law). Some of it is fear that no one would ever take me seriously. Some of it is fear that no one would get behind the idea and it would simply fail.

There are a few key times that I’ve managed to face my fears.

1. Ditching my Geography degree – I got on well with the majority of the tutors, had a great group of friends in my class who I was looking forward to graduating with that I studied with, lunched with, went to the pub with. I was not welcomed by the smaller all-female class when I switched over to the medical school to study a degree in Public Health. I was far more suited to my new degree, but it did come at a price. I loved learning Health Sciences, still smile when I see my Honours Project dissertation. But there is sometimes a little bit of me that wonders if I should be a Geography teacher still!

2. Going to Australia РTravelling to the other side of the world alone, and digging into my lifelong savings to do it. Yep. I had to be pushed into the travel agent by one of my friends because doing something so spontaneous like moving home and flying to Australia with only 3 weeks to plan and accomplish that task is not generally part of my personality. Then I ran up the aisle of the plane screaming when a young girl got travel sick on my way back to the UK.

which brings me to…

3. Going to South Africa – suffice to say that after the return journey from Australia, I vowed to never get on a plane again. My worst fear had been realised, and the idea of getting on another 6 planes to get to Durban and back terrified me (ie six opportunities to be stuck in a metal container where someone might get sick). Not to mention my hours had been reduced since getting a promotion at work…so that meant less pay. Where to find a spare ¬£2000?

4. Turning down a job – In 2007, I was up for two jobs. The first was a perfectly reasonable job but not something I particularly wanted to do. The other was a job I really felt a calling to, however I got the impression that the employers felt I was too young for it. The week I had an interview for the latter job, I got a call from the first one offering me a position. I turned it down. I had been looking for a job for three months, and my Mum thought I was nuts. But I really believed that I was meant to be doing the second job. Thankfully it all worked out and I did get the second job in the end. Phew. However, since then I’ve wondered if I made the right decision.

5. Going to Winter School – Two weeks off work (precious annual leave), missing one of my university classes, extra work in the two months before I went, living with strangers, fear of being seen as stupid and lacking in knowledge, not to mention¬†having to get on a plane again. Yep, suffice to say I was not sure about signing up for Winter School! Had I not done that I wouldn’t have made a great friend, not to mention met all the awesome folks who were also there. Yes, it was exhausting, and I came home to find that disaster had struck at work while I was at university in Germany, but I am so glad that I got that learning experience and the friendships that came with it.

So I can only conclude that Don Miller is correct. If I’d listened to fear I would have missed out on a great deal of experiences that have made my life experience richer and more exciting. And I think I need to stop listening to my fears as much as I do…because it tricks me out of doing things that will bring me joy.

 

Quote of the Week 24 – Do I have something to share?

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I’ve been having a lack of confidence issue since last summer. Constantly¬†being told you’re not quite good enough takes its toll. All the times you see an opportunity that sounds so much fun and you discover you’re not allowed to do it because you’re too old.

And then recently, I’ve been reminded of how we don’t know how much time we have. My friend and ex-work colleague keeps telling me I’m a writer. I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve wanted to write books for children, and I’ve wanted to write my own story. I was obnoxious enough to start writing my autobiography when I was 16.

Yes.

That’s right.

Sixteen.

Granted, a lot of things had happened to me by the time I was sixteen, there was a lot of awakenings between the age of 15-16 that made that year quite a poignant one. When I was standing over a river ready to jump into it when I was 15, I heard a voice that told me I had to live so I could help other people who have been through similar situations to me.

I walked home that day shaken and changed.

That was before I’d even learned the half of it.

I think when I was a teenager I just thought I had all the time in the world, but the other part of me just assumed that one day I’d be a grown up and have it all sorted.

I’m 31 now, and I have my life less sorted now than I did when I was a teenager!

That quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes scares the poop out of me.

Am I going to die with my music still in me?

And then the bigger question – what is it that I have to share?

Then the scary part Р does anyone want to hear it?

The fear that the answer to that last question is ‘not really’, is what stops me from sharing. But I think that’s probably wrong and silly. I think way too much about all the things that people might be thinking and I over-analyse way too much and it definitely stops me from putting myself out there.

And when I finally do and I get rejected, it makes it that little bit tougher to build up the courage to try again.

But I should.

I think.

Maybe.