I remember the first time I entered a college classroom to teach Art History. I was unsure of how and when to enter. Do I stand at the door and greet the students as they enter? Do I stand at the lectern nodding to them as they find their seats?
I was asked to teach the classes with only a few weeks notice. I worked late into the evening preparing my lectures literally one chapter ahead of the class. As this was before smart boards, the Internet, and computers in the classroom, I had to also hand-select slides for the lessons. I remember questioning what was I doing and who was I to do it? Eventually I found my rhythm, I had my lessons planned further in advance, and my confidence grew. I came to love teaching those classes. I developed my own style. I personalized the artists for the students. And I grew to become a very good teacher.
I remember the first time I sat at a desk to write a grant. I had been asked by my supervisor to jump into the process without any training. I came home from work each night and cried, doubting my skills. Eventually I taught myself the process. I broke the proposal into manageable chunks. I grew to become a very good grant writer, raising millions of dollars annually.
I remember the first time I held my child in my arms. I was unsure of why she was crying. I was afraid when she slept too long. I wanted to run away when she wouldn’t sleep at all. I grew to become a really good mother, despite my fear and the challenges that presented themselves on a daily basis.
Now I’m finishing up the cover and the final proof of my first book, Serendipity, Chance Pilgrimages. Doubts and fears are surfacing. I question who am I to write a memoir? Sometimes I compare myself to published authors. I wonder what people will think of my story. But – I move onward. The book literally came through me – and I feel that I am obligated to bring it to print.
I’ve come to see that I receive assistance in different forms to do the things I am meant to do. That’s not to say that those doubts and fears do not walk side by side with the assistance – they do. But the inner drive to do what I feel I need to be doing at various stages of my life outpaces the fears and doubts. Until what I am meant to do becomes second nature.
Things I tried to do that I didn’t feel called to do fell by the wayside. Things didn’t work out. I wasn’t supported. And walking away was not quitting; it was acknowledging that I was meant to be doing something else.
Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, writes about the differences between a job, a calling, and a vocation. We can have all three. And each sustains us in different ways.
What things were you called to do that initially scared you? It might have involved a job, entering into a relationship or moving a relationship to a different level. It might have had you walk away from a relationship that you lingered in out of fear. You might have up and moved across the city, state, or country – or even moved abroad temporarily. You might have agreed to co-parent children who were not your birth children. Eventually, I’m positive, that you mastered the thing that initially scared you – and you found tremendous joy at what you were doing – and probably even became a master at it.
Are you facing something now that scares you? How are you working through it? My advice is to ask deep down inside if what you are attempting to do brings you joy or feels more like a chore. If joy surfaces and outweighs the fear – continue on. Give yourself the permission to be a little scared and uncertain, but don’t let fear trump what you are called to do. If drudgery surfaces and begins to morph into anger and resentment – promise yourself to cast it aside when the time it right. I’ve known too many people who hide their gifts out of fear.
Remember, baby steps are how we learn and grow. It takes a while to master something, but if it’s your “thing” you will master it if you stick with it. No artist’s first painting or sculpture is their best. No author’s first book or poem is their masterpiece. A songwriter probably won’t want to sing to you their first composition. We try, we learn, and we master. And it’s all good; it’s all part of the process. It’s life.
Now with the book I’m being asked to describe myself. There’s a challenge. How do I sum up who I am in three or four sentences for the book cover? How do I want to present myself? Who am I and how do I define myself? Is it by my relationships (wife, mother)? Is it by my degrees and the universities I attended? Is it by my professional work experience? Is it by my measurable accomplishments? It is by the business I started? Is it by my interests? Do I want to come across as funny? As serious?
It’s been a real exercise for me to describe who I am. It feels as if I’ve labored with it longer than I took to write the book. And it’s hung me up on finalizing the cover and so has stalled the production.
And you? Who are you? How do you describe yourself? When we meet others we tend to describe ourselves by our profession but I want to learn more about the person other than how they earn their money.
Today a storm blew in. Rain fell hard and quick and then stopped. I sat on the porch as the most beautiful yellow light appeared and cloaked nature; cleansing ions filled the air. And I gave myself permission to not get the author bio exactly perfect on the first publication. So I wrote the lines and am ready to hand them over to the cover designer. Done. Maybe not perfect but I gave it my best.
If you won’t say it for yourself, I’ll say it for you. You have permission to be scared but not to let the fear stop you from sharing your gifts with the world. You have permission to sometimes want to run away but not to run from giving your best. You have permission to ask for help and you have the right to know that it will come to you– you just have to be open to the response. You have permission to cry, to be tired, and to be overwhelmed. But you don’t have permission to quit if you know deep down inside that these feelings are passing. You have an obligation to shine your light on the world and permission to rejoice in the wonderful being you are!
I read a wonderful quote by Lara Casey in her book Make it Happen: “Remember the good that could happen if your fear didn’t own you. You might finally do the things you were created to do. The things that could change the course of your life. The things that could inspire others and show them that they are deeply loved. Living on purpose is worth stepping into the hard stuff.”
I wish you love and peace as we enter the beginning of the harvest season. Enjoy the bounty that surrounds you.
I’d love to hear your stories. I’d especially love you to do the exercise of having to describe who you are – and it would make me feel less vulnerable sharing with you my blurb on the back of the book if you share yours with me. I’m going first and I’m doing it in print – now it’s your turn. Write on my Facebook page, Anne Greco, Writer.