Our dreams don’t work unless we do, or so the saying goes.
As much as I love a good quote, I tend to cringe at such clichés, filing them away like a bad Hallmark card. But last week I missed a personal goal-setting deadline.
And then I did it again.
Now I find this cliché ringing oh so true. So in a night of flurried frustration (followed by binging on UnREAL followed by promptly canceling my Hulu account so I could force myself to use time wisely, then scrolling through Instagram for an hour… ya feel me? anyone?) I decided to reevaluate what it means to set goals and chase dreams.
Here’s what I am wrestling with now…
At the beginning of September I set a goal to get my writing published.
Sure I’ve contributed articles to various sites before, launched an online magazine (Founded I will be back for you someday!), and posted hundreds of pieces here. But now I want more–to get serious about my fiction and my biggest dream: to pen a book.
To see it published. To pick it up with my hands, open the hard cover, crack the spine and breathe in deep as I slip my fingertips over the pages.
Fueled by the fire leftover from my summer fiction writing course at SF Writer’s Grotto, I selected fall writing contests to submit my work to. I scribbled rules and deadlines on sticky notes, adhering them to my computer monitors in the hopes they would prompt me to write write write because I had so much time! Months ahead to create my best work! Foggy, dreary days to spark inspiration!
And the weather warmed in September and the leaves changed in October and then I was planning my birthday party in November and traveling home for Thanksgiving and then suddenly I woke up and it was December.
One deadline passed and I had nothing to show. I set my sights on the other. It too slipped away. I peeled the crinkling, now out-of-date sticky note from my computer, tossed it in the trash, and vowed to try again later.
I still haven’t.
Why does this happen? How?
It feels good to goal-set. To plan and to prepare. To write out the reminders, the timeline. To tell your friends over glasses filled with red wine, to excitedly spill when you’re snuggled up with your man, to whisper into the dark when you’re alone.
It feels good to have something I am looking forward to. To have a purpose.
But many times I’ve found myself faltering after the general grand announcement.
I think sometimes I set goals with the knowledge I won’t actually achieve it, heavy with the doubt I actually can. I’m temporarily inflated with excitement and hope, only to have it all snuffed out when life gets in the way (or Netflix or parties or work or weekend trips…)
Just me? No?
Why does doing the very thing we love, the very thing that sets our soul on fire, often take so. much. effort? Why do I drag my heels instead of just digging in.
Fear. I’m afraid.
Oh, Fear. It clothes itself in clever disguises: anxiety, laziness, exhaustion. It wears the masks of lies and excuses telling me I can’t really, I don’t actually want it, I don’t care, maybe tomorrow.
It makes me question my abilities. My worth.
During my pondering, I kept coming back to this quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. – Marianne Williamson
Our light frightens us. We can serve the world. Playing safe, playing small, helps no one.
If Marianne did not choose to write that quote and instead sat around watching How I Met Your Mother all night, she would have not touched what I’m sure is tens of thousands of lives with that one line. If you do not practice your gifts, talents, skills, passions and give them the light of day and the energy of the sun to breathe in, they will be rendered useless.
Maybe it is words on a page, a stroke of paint on a canvas, a scribble on a piece of paper. Maybe it is a swath of frosting on a cake, a smile at a stranger, a class on 3D printing, a new language for a faraway place. It could be a group of young high schoolers starving for a role model, a coworker in need of lunch and encouragement, a broken piece of code on a website.
Whatever it is, we were created–fearfully and wonderfully made–with unique interests and gifts waiting to be unwrapped. To be used to brighten this world around us, one bulb at a time.
When I really think about it, I realize I am afraid of what I may actually be capable of accomplishing.
I am afraid of its power, of where it may lead. I am afraid it may launch me from my place of comfort, of complacency. That it may require me to move, or make hard decisions, or step away from the carefully laid path I am already on or my parents want me on or my friends see me on in exchange for a more wild and uncertain, ever-changing future.
Or maybe it will keep me here a while longer, warm in my fuzzy socks and buried under blankets as Christmas lights wink lazily at me from my neighbor’s window.
Maybe tonight I will finally pick up my pen again, dust off the cover of my beloved leather journal, crack the binding– and write.
Or maybe I’ll fall asleep to another episode of The Office.
In the end, I decide. Fear? or light.
**Disclaimer– I am in full support of self-care nights that involve Netflix marathons and Instagram inspirational-scrolling sessions. Sometimes you just need some Michael Scott sayings to keep on keepin’ on. The challenge lies in deciphering when you actually need it, and when you need to give yourself the kick in the booty to CREATE, LEARN, AND GROW during your down time instead.