Just before I graduated with my journalism diploma, I got an amazing internship. This was, on paper, a dream job for someone like me. I emailed publishers and got books sent to me for free. I interviewed authors. My job was to read and talk and think about stories. In my world, this is perfection.
Except it wasn’t.
There was a tiny, gnawing voice in the back of my mind the whole time I was working there. It was very annoying because it was saying something problematic:
This isn’t it.
I knew this deep in my heart. You have probably felt it as well. It is the instinct that things look right but everything feels wrong. Something, internally, is telling you to make a change because there is a different, better path for you. However, a subtle but powerful fear usually underpins this instinct. The fear is that you don’t know what that change will look like. This is why a lot of people don’t listen to this inner nudge telling them to pursue something new. They stay because it is safe and, honestly, if this is you, I don’t blame you. Safety is very sparkly and it makes a great argument for staying.
When the potential opportunity to extend that internship into a contract position plopped into my hands, I decided against it. In my heart I felt, viscerally, that I might be making an incredibly stupid choice. I also knew, though, that I was doing this to save my joy.
You see, I was interviewing authors and thinking about books and the whole time tiny tendrils of jealousy were squeezing around my heart. I felt like I was in the wrong chair, on the wrong side of the phone call, on the wrong end of the book. I said no because something in me, like a giant red light, was flashing incessantly NO. STOP.
Fear looms overhead like an ominous shadow in these moments. There is an element of security in knowing. The familiarity of your landscape is a powerful force to stay. However, the tension of staying while your heart says go, or of moving forward when your heart says stop is like standing in a pile of autumn leaves while they decay. Once, they were alive on the tree. Once, they were green and lush and thriving. On the ground, though, they are dead. The season is over. Of course they are still beautiful, because old seasons can be very beautiful. But they aren’t your season anymore.
After that dream internship I took a different path and went back to school instead of into the workforce, which was the right choice for me. However, I still didn’t write. Although I took half of the jump, the leaving, fear kept me from the other half of what was tugging at my heart: pulling my writing from the notebooks and sharing it. I didn’t listen. I contracted instead, staying in an old season of hiding and substituting distractions in place of actually writing. I feared the way people would perceive me. I didn’t want to regret saying something wrong, so I said nothing at all. The fear of regret made me hide, which ironically resulted in the regret of hiding in fear. Listening to fear didn’t protect me the way I thought it would.
Change and fear go together, but they don’t have to be negative. Overcoming fear means stepping into the change, adjusting your perspective, and widening your understanding of what home is. This is what I mean: overcoming fear is a process of welcoming something new into your life and making space for the unfamiliar to become familiar. That’s what I’m doing here as I share this writing that would otherwise be collecting dust in a notebook. That’s what you’re doing in your life too, somewhere. You may be thinking about quitting your job or saying yes to a new opportunity or stepping out of your comfort zone in some way.
I can say that every time I have had the courage to leave an old season behind and embrace the change before me, I have never regretted it. Although navigating a new season is challenging and sometimes terrifying, it has the ability to inject new life and energy into wilted spaces of your life. I encourage you to listen seriously to both your fear and your desire as you shift seasons, but don’t let fear have the final say. Instead, allow the fear and the change to teach you in their difficult, unexpected ways. I can’t tell you where they will lead, but I promise that you will be surprised by their beauty.