Once, I was fearless, like this little girl. Delighting in adventure. Living in my imagination. Soaring. But then as I grew older, I became afraid…of pain, of tumbling to earth, falling short of my dreams, my goals, and losing those I love.
I started seeing the world in black and white. Success. (Getting my novels published.) Failure. (Never getting them published.) Winning. (Best Seller List. Accolades. Applause. ) Losing. (Anonymity. Oblivion. Darkness. ) I measured my life in “teaspoons” as the poet T.S. Eliot said. I was afraid of falling short, failure, having no tangible proof of my “success” after 40+ years of living on this earth. I forgot to take pleasure in simple things–like tending a beautiful garden, setting a table for friends and family and sharing a meal full of laughter and stories that make the years melt away. I forgot to take pleasure in my closest relationships–friends who count on me, who share their hopes and fears, who know my quirks and still love me anyway; my son who has grown into a wonderful young man on the cusp of adulthood and my husband whose love has been a enduring surprise and a delight through dozens of years together.
And so, when a series of editors turned my book down, I was crushed. I could barely read their emails and letters, which struck the same pompous chord. (“I just didn’t quite feel passionate enough about your work.” And, “In this current publishing climate, alas it would be quite difficult to sell your work…”) I had lost the will to write. My heart was broken. And so, I stopped writing. What was the point? The publishing world was radically changing. Like the music industry, it was becoming decentralized. Instead of being controlled by agent and editor gatekeepers, publishing was in the hands of ordinary people who could upload their own stories, articles, and news in blogs, on FaceBook, and YouTube. The industry was evolving at a rapid clip and I was being left behind.
What could I do? Some writer friends who had already published still persisted, following the traditional agent-editor route. Others, who weren’t writers, alluded to the fact that I should stop complaining and count my blessings. They left me with the unspoken message that the sun will still rise and set and life will still go on with one less writer in the world. All that is true, but imagine this. Imagine you are a dancer who can’t dance, a runner who can’t run, a chef who lost his sense of taste. It was creative suicide.
Like many of you, I have stood at a crossroads, wondering which direction to take, which career path to follow in this age of great transition. Like many you, I am standing here on legs that are a little shaky. Like many of you, I have faced the question of how to begin again, how to find a place in a world that is radically different from the world I grew up in. Perhaps you are looking for a new career or a new relationship; Perhaps you are healing from a life-threatening illness. Perhaps you are newly single and struggling to take care of your children as well as yourself. I am here to help, to offer resources, and insights.
Let’s go back to that little girl in the picture, taken on a recent trip to the Navy Pier in Chicago. I was charmed by her acquamarine flip flops. I put myself in her place, and felt her father’s solid presence and love behind me. They are her comfort, her strength until she is old enough to recognize that she can soar on her own. With his love and encouragement, she is confident that she’ll find her way, confident of herself, confident that if she stumbles, she will learn from the experience. She reminds me that it’s time to stop thinking in blacks and whites, in terms of winning and losing, in terms of success and failure. Those polarities fall short of explaining the true purpose of change…which is to embrace the unknown, the unpredictable, and to take a step forward. No doubt, you are like me, feeling pretty uncomfortable sitting on the fence, wavering between doing nothing and doing something. It feels safe. But, I’m here to tell you that “safe” is an illusion. It is also a luxury. It is not a place where you can grow.
And so, I invite you to join me on a journey to the unknown. I invite you to take a deep breath and gather your resolve. It’s time to take that first step. It’s time to explore the challenges and opportunities of change.
Categories: Personal Change