I have been afraid of so many things, mostly of failing, of letting people down, of letting myself down. Or, perhaps more precisely, afraid of discovering a limit I didn’t want to believe I had, afraid of having to confront a reality that says my opportunities aren’t endless, because there are some things I genuinely can’t do.
I’ve spent a lot of time in imaginary worlds where I don’t ever test what could actually happen, because it lets me believe that anything is possible.
It makes me feel powerful, this notion that I actually could do anything, if I’d just set my mind to it. Never mind that I haven’t, or that I don’t. As long as it remains entirely in my head, I always could, and that makes me feel safe.
But can I actually? Does it matter if I believe I can if I never do? Why do I feel safer and more protected in a world where I’ve never proven myself? Why does that allow me to continue to believe that I can, rather than looking at the evidence and recognizing that it suggests I can’t, since I’ve never even begun?
Or is that the tension I’ve been living in these last several years, where one side of my mind soothes itself by imagining anything is possible, while the other stews under the realization that nothing is possible if I never move beyond imagining?
What if I do test things, and find out? Things change either way. Either I discover I can do the things, and I do do the things, and my life becomes a life full of the things, or I determine that I can’t do the things, and maybe I try trying really hard, just to make sure, and if I really can’t, I decide whether they still need to be done, and if so, what else I can do to help the people who can do them. And if not, I recalibrate my expectations.
This isn’t only true on the career front. It’s true on all the fronts. For the last probably 10 years, I’ve been telling myself I don’t want big things, because I’ve been scared to death to dream of big things. I’ve been scared to stand out, scared to be different, scared to excel, because I don’t want the pressure or the attention or the scrutiny that comes with all of that. So I’ve tried to tell myself that my desires are actually quite small, that the things I want don’t require striving.
But fuck that.
If I’m only going to get one ride on this roller coaster, I don’t want to spend it like that. I don’t want to spend it running from myself, and that’s exactly what it’s been.
I’ve been afraid to be me, because I’m afraid there’s something fundamentally objectionable about my me-ness, even though I’m the one who knows me best and I’m actually pretty fond of me.
What if I dared to admit the things I actually want? Some of them are simple, and obvious, like that I want to work on projects and with people who inspire me, and who are really trying to change the world in fundamental ways, who are really working on things that can make life better for real people, and are doing so passionately.
I want to solve interesting problems by connecting interesting people, and I want to learn as much as possible about their interesting ideas.
I also want to be in robust health. I’m so tired of this constant achiness and digestive issues and lethargy. I want to do the work to figure out what it is that makes my body thrive, and I want to do it, consistently, always.
I want to earn the kind of money that lets me change the trajectory of things I believe in, to help them accomplish goals they couldn’t without my help.
And I want to feel at ease in my own skin. I want to be able to meet people and have the impression they get of me from the outset be a reasonably accurate one. I want to look in the mirror, and see myself.
I want the people I love to know how much I love them, not because I tell them, but because I show them in the ways that make sense to them.
I want to use more than words to communicate, or maybe just use more than the literal senses of words to communicate. I want to convey ideas from my head to someone (or everyone) else’s head in ways that are clear, and resonant.
And I don’t have a good reason I can’t do these things. Other people have done them. Other people I know have done them. And while I don’t think they’d tell me it’s been easy, I don’t doubt it’s been worth it.
The people I know who have most fully stepped into themselves, have taken ownership of the people they are and the ways they feel and the things that matter to them–they’re the ones who seem most alive, and most integrated. I want to be like that, alive and integrated, even if the particulars of being fully myself are completely different from the particulars of being fully themselves.
Ten years ago, I was, unequivocally, someone else. I was trying to be what other people wanted me to be, and I wasn’t happy doing it.
Ten years from now, I want to be recognizable at a glance. I want people to see things and think, “Oh, that’s so Link,” and have them be things I love having associated with me.
I want to own myself, in the sense that I know who I am, and have a peaceful relationship with myself.
And I think if I can keep asking myself, with each decision I make, which option makes me more myself, I just might be able to get there.