So, remember that time I bought eight copies of Shauna Niequist’s new book Bread & Wine? And gushed about it to everyone I knew? And found a way to reference it in every conversation? And had my husband convinced I’d gone insane?
Well, two weeks ago it all paid off.
Since I picked up Cold Tangerines in college, I’ve always thought Shauna would be really fun to hang out with. If you’ve read any of her books, you know what I mean. She just sounds so down-to-earth; like she’s your best friend and mentor and small group leader and mom all at the same time. Whenever I would daydream, a version of this thought would play out in my mind:
If I ever make it to Chicago, I’m just going to email her and see if she wants to hang out. I’m just going to do it. And then hopefully she’ll invite me to her house for dinner.. or maybe to her favorite coffee shop.. and then we’ll be BEST FRIENDS. [cut to mental images of us collaborating on writing projects, cooking together, me babysitting her children.. you get the idea].
Back to reality on April 22, 2013. As I’m doing my daily reading of a few favorite blogs, I check Shauna’s to see if anything new has been posted. Lo and behold, there is something new, something very exciting. Shauna is offering the chance to Skype with her for 30 minutes with proof of purchasing five or more copies of Bread & Wine. I quickly do math in my head, realize that she’s talking about me (8 > 5) and immediately start jumping up and down, squealing and pumping my fists in the air like I’m Rocky Balboa (not really.. I was sitting at my desk at work.. but you better believe that’s what was happening internally).
And then I did something crazy.
I hesitated. If I email her, then I might actually get to talk to her, I thought. What would I even say? Would she think I was dumb? What if she’s not as nice as she seems in her writing? What if my dreams are crushed?
Hello, fear. It’s nice to see you again.
I do this all the time, and I’m going to believe I’m not the only one. Too often, I am my own worst enemy. Shooting ideas down in my head before they even have a chance to grow and take shape. I don’t wait around long enough to give it a chance, to let circumstances play out. I simply write myself off and attempt to move on. I believe that I’m not good/cool/talented/smart enough, and it paralyzes me. Instead of chasing after things I’m passionate about, I sit still, crushing under the weight of fear.
But this was something I had dreamed about for years, and in a moment of grace I fought back. I got home from work, stacked five copies of Bread & Wine neatly on my coffee table, snapped a picture, and hit send. There. Done. It was a small thing, yes. But I was proud of myself. Proud that I didn’t let fear rule me. That I took a risk, however small. Even if I didn’t get chosen, at least I took the chance. Victory.
Two weeks ago, five of my closest friends and I skyped with Shauna (yes, we got chosen!). Our slotted time was later in the evening, so we met beforehand to cook dinner. The menu consisted of fish tacos, chips and guacamole, and an incredible salad made with vegetables my friend Katie earned while volunteering at an organic farm here in Austin. As the time grew nearer for our Skype date, I could feel myself getting antsy. I was checking the clock nervously, positioning the computer with sweaty palms.. I mean seriously. Who am I?
When Shauna called in, you would’ve thought we all just saw Ryan Gosling (OK, maybe it was just me). There was a collective gasp… then silence… then we were connected and it was giddy, high-pitched hellos and excitement. We told her we were from Austin, and she said she loves Austin and asked if we ever get drinks at the San Jose. We asked her how she met her husband, and how she started writing. She entertained us with stories, while we’re all sitting there trying to soak up her wisdom and life. Let’s be clear: she is just as delightful and hilarious and real in person as she is in her writing.
With a few minutes left in the call, we asked her what advice she would give a bunch of twenty-somethings who had no idea what to do with their lives. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her response. She told us to pursue our dreams. To not wait. And to help each other get there. We are our own worst critic, but the people close to us can see our gifts so clearly. Speak strengths to each other. Hold each other accountable in taking real action towards what we say we want. So simple, and so game changing.
And then she said,
If your thing is writing, and I don’t know if any of you are writers, but if you are… you have to start a blog.
My stomach twisted around itself approximately 400 times, and my heart clenched like a fist. A blog. That’s what I had known all along, and had been so afraid to do. It’s what I’d been saying I would do… someday… for years. It’s what I knew I had to do, and had talked myself out of so many times. But that night, hearing Shauna say it, made it real. Real enough to take another small step, to fight back against fear, to risk a little more.
So, here I am.
Oh, and Shauna, if I’m ever in the Chicago area I’ll most likely email you. And if you’re ever in Austin, let’s get drinks at the San Jose.
Are you your own worst critic?
What helps you fight fear?
What do you say is important to you? What’s holding you back from taking action towards it?