Friday, June 10, 2011

Standing Up to Fear

I saw an old friend recently, someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  (I miss him terribly, as we’ve grown apart for reasons unknown, but that’s another post for another time.) We got talking about work and careers, and I unloaded without hesitation about how unhappy I am in my current job, how I need to get out of it, detailing all the downsides to it, describing the stress I was under…

Then he asked me, “Well, do you know what you want to do instead?” And I froze – not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I was too afraid to say it.

I find this interesting for a couple of reasons – first, it just goes to show how easy it is to be negative and spew that negativity out towards others. I couldn’t get my complaints out fast enough when he asked me about my current job!  :)

But second, because it highlights my biggest impediment to living out my dreams: FEAR.

For years, I have secretly dreamt of being a singer. I’ve always maintained that if I could choose just one talent to have, it would be singing, because it’s something that I love doing, something that makes me happy. But I honestly never thought I had any talent for it. Sure, I could carry a tune and had a decent sense of rhythm – 12 years of violin lessons will help with that that  – but my sister was the singer in the family, not me.

Now that I’m taking voice lessons and gaining new awareness of my abilities, I have been considering a career in music as a real, viable option in my life. But admitting this out loud has been very slow in coming – I had to skirt around the issue and sort of sidle my way into it over multiple conversations with my own husband before I could finally spit out the words. Admitting I want to be a singer makes me feel like a foolish young girl who knows nothing about making it in the real word – like a kid voicing a silly dream that will never come true.

Fear is what has kept me in a job that, at its best, has not fulfilled me, and at its worst, has made me miserable. Fear is what caused me to start seeing a career coach to map out a conventional career path in a reliable career field. Fear is what has made me practice my singing lessons in the car on my commute every day, rather than sing at home where my husband and daughter might hear me. And fear is what made me tell my voice teacher during our introductory meeting when she asked me why I wanted lessons, “Look, let’s be clear – I have no delusions of being a professional singer. I’m not doing this as a career move. I just love to sing and I cantor for my church, so I want to learn how to do it the right way.”

But something changed that night with my old friend at the bar. When he asked me if I knew what I wanted to do, I stammered, stumbled, told him yes, thought about it, and decided to make the leap.

“Yes, I do know what I want to do. I want to be a singer.”

It might seem to be a small, even tiny, step, but for me it was a turning point. By voicing this desire – and having him take me seriously, and not laugh or tell me I was being ridiculous – I realized how much better it felt to stand up to my fear, and stand in the truth of who I am and what I want. It’s a small but important step on this path that I’ve just started walking.

And I’m happy that I’ve been continuing to stand up to my fears and finally start getting past them. For example, it’s fear that has kept me from ever confronting my old friend about why exactly we’re not friends anymore. So as I type this blog post, I’m in the car waiting to meet up with him for dinner and a chat, where I’ll finally open up that difficult, scary, but necessary conversation.

Oh, and I’ve been practicing at home within earshot of my husband all week.