Yeah, me too.
I was in my last semester of grad school in the Bay Area. Those cities are a maze (though you might find them amazing).
I got lost several times, thinking I was on one street going this way, but I was really on another road going that way.
But, I digress. This story isn’t really about the tangled web of streets in Oakland, CA. If you’ve read my first post, then you know where I’m really going.
I was in my last semester of grad school, also known as the crossroads of “get a job or get a PhD.” All I knew was that I wanted to be a writer, so I applied for a couple of teaching programs back home in Louisiana. Looking back, I know that’s exactly where I made my wrong turn.
It’s one thing to get off track, and then find my way back. But realizing how I got off track in the first place might save some trouble going forward. So, let me clarify.
Teaching in Louisiana is not itself a wrong turn. It was a wrong turn for me because it’s not what I really wanted to do with my life.
The issue is not where I went; it’s why I went there. Are you ready for it?
Just writing the word gives me goose bumps. But it’s true. That’s the reason I made a wrong turn and went down a path that led me away from my dreams.
Though I intellectually knew that being a writer was a realistic goal, I lacked genuine faith and belief that I could live the life I envisioned.
So I played it safe. I went the route that was paved.
I knew I could easily get a teaching job of some kind. I knew it was predictable–you go to work, you get paid. You know how much you’re going to make each half, and can quote your salary 10 years in advance.
But becoming a writer? I was too overwhelmed to even take a step in that direction, partly because I didn’t know exactly what direction to go? I needed to know exactly how to get from point A to point B before I would even attempt to get there.
Little did I know that the sure way was the wrong way. My dreams were over the mountains. Not only did I not know how to get there, I wasn’t sure I could make it even if I did know.
The irony? By being afraid to get lost, I got lost.
Some people rarely admit to having that problem, but most of us can think of a time when we psyched ourselves out of something we really wanted. And many of us have psyched ourselves out of the really big things that we desire. Like me and my writing career.
Getting rid of fear is an ongoing work. Fear has many layers. The great news is that fear is a manifestation of our thoughts. We can’t always alter the outside world, but we can always alter our thoughts.
I really began to interrogate fear as an undergrad when I heard Mumia Abu-Jamal on Goapele’sChange it All album.
I would like to see people become more rebellious, more outspoken, and see an abolition, really, of the fear that covers this country like a blanket, because I think that when people fight against that fear they become themselves and they find themselves, they find the best part of themselves. -Mumia Abu-Jamal
Since then, I’ve gotten better at recognizing fear in all its infinite manifestations. When I get lost, it’s because I’ve navigated in fear. I invite you to take up the challenge with me to trust a more courageous compass.