ON PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE

I’ve said this before. I feel perfectly comfortable being really, really vulnerable with complete strangers. Maybe because it feels so low consequence— they don’t know your people, they don’t have any attachments or stories about you, and they can’t use personal information as power. And being vulnerable with the closest in my circle is what forges family-like friendships. My people know my ugly and I know theirs, and we love one another just the same.

But sharing with people that I’m friendly with but not calling when I’m crying? That’s fucking terrifying. Most of my writing so far is personal essay and narrative (hello, no research!), so it’s about real things that happen in my life— talking about my imperfect romantic relationship, my imperfect self esteem/self worth, my imperfect path forward. Sharing that with folks in my community can feel quite scary. I don’t want to feign perfection or that I have everything together all of the time, and I also want to acknowledge that my stomach turns when I hit submit on my newsletter.

And yet, I continue to be reminded that putting myself out there is the only way. The. Only. Way. I heard Brene Brown quote Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I keep reminding myself to get into the arena. This week, I shared on social media and Mailchimp a piece about femininity. The outpouring of love and support from total strangers and friends alike was unprecedented for me. Between e-mail, texts, and Instagram, over 100 women (and a few men) reached out to share their gratitude, validation, and appreciation.

I got rejected about 3084 more times from different publications. My ego is definitely crushed when I first read the e-mail. Sometimes if I see an e-mail from an editor in my inbox I’ll avoid opening it for half of a day because I’m scared of what it’ll say. Once I decide to act like an adult again, I move on or I fight back. The more times I get my hopes up and then get let down, the stronger I feel. My sister-in-law suggested watching this video about rejection. It’s awesome.

I also finally asked people about a part time job I’d been drooling over for months. I spent hours talking to Jake about this dream. Our conversations usually ended with my saying “but I’m too scared to ask!” and him making chicken noises. I did it and they said yes!

All healthy reminders that being in the arena is the only way to live. I couldn’t feel luckier to get to try.

ON SELF EMPLOYMENT

Here I am four full weeks into self employment. Some musings so far:

  1. I’m (more or less) alone riding the highs and lows. When I have successes or break throughs, I can only celebrate and congratulate myself. When I am rejected and dejected, again I’m alone. I have a lot of people in the bleachers cheering for me, but I’m the only one on the court.

  2. It’s not so lonely. I love and need people. And I was really, really concerned about going from the most social job in the universe— either in the field living in a group of humans 24 hours a day or in the office where I worked with all of my friends and then spent after work hours— to running my own show. So far, I’ve loved seeking out social time instead of being overwhelmed by it. I’m so lucky to live in a community with people I love surrounding me. I’m remembering that I create my world— if I want it to be full of wonderful people, it will be.

  3. Dealing with 9238 checks is annoying. Introducing SQUARE . I was on the fence about spending the $49.95, but after trying to keep track of checks for the past month, it’s worth it.

  4. High schoolers are so sweet (one on one). I am loving getting to know juniors in my town. It feels like the perfect change of pace from the NOLS course—I really enjoy still being connected to students, while simultaneously sleeping in my own bed, eating vegetables, and exercising.

  5. ACT tutoring’s not so different from a NOLS course. I never would have guessed this one. It’s my job to create opportunities for people— teach skills, guide them through the appropriate progression for them, assign homework. But more than anything, I think it’s my job to see the good in them and build it up. If someone does the work, is confident in who they are, and believes in themself, they’ll do well on this silly test.

the timing is never right

I’m studying for the ACT, a standardized test used for college admission. Yes, I am turning 29 in just a few weeks. Yes, I matriculated a four year college when I was 18. No, I don’t plan on getting another bachelor’s degree.

I’ve now convinced multiple people that I’m dissatisfied with my score from high school and have decided to take it again. It’s awesome. I’m met with scrunched eyebrows and fake smiles (does she need to talk to someone?!), and I sense a new distrust in my judgment.

But I’m not studying for the ACT to take it myself. I’m studying for it to tutor high schoolers. It’s scary. What do I charge? How can they trust me? I was an SAT kid who never even took the ACT… how am I an authority? Can I guarantee an improvement in score? Can I guarantee anything?

The timing’s not right— we now have a mortgage, I want to save money to have a family (in twelve years), I am getting all of the NOLS work that I want for the first time in my career. But will the timing ever be right? I don’t think so. I don’t believe there will be a time when I feel less scared— scared of failure, scared to move on from life as I know it. The heaviness I feel in my belly will always be there. And I’ll always be able to come up with reasons to avoid taking a chance.

Here I go! And I got my first client today. If a woman I’ve never met trusts me to help her daughter, I can trust myself too.

ON BRAVERY

Yesterday I told my boss that I’m not coming back next summer. I told her that I’m starting a business and that I’m going to write. I explained that I didn’t have the discipline or energy to work the 8-5 job and write in the evening. She expressed excitement for me and my next steps and gratitude for my contributions over the past couple of years. I felt so brave saying the hard thing out loud to her.

The moment I left her office, I saw the hallway through heavy, nostalgic eyes. I was still in the building, but already I missed each smiling face, the hallway banter, spending ten hours a day in the same building as my sister, the warmth of the laminator. At night I went to a co-worker’s house and watched a movie with others from the office. The warmth, familiarity, and comfort felt so good. I love these people. I love my work.

Am I making a huge mistake? I’m lucky enough to have found a job that I’m good at and that I believe in. No one finds that. Or at least not many. Why am I messing it up by leaving?

Conversation after the film moved to a work topic that we’ve talked about hundreds of times. One of the most frustrating things about our jobs— entitelement. The other four in the room started to escalate, building off of one another’s irritation.

There’s the reassurance I needed. I didn’t care. Not in a flippant way, but in a time to move on and try something new way.

So here I go. Feeling scared, which means it’s likely the right move.

On Rejection

Writing is good life practice.

You work really, really hard on something, put your heart on the page, and get rejected. You think you have an original idea and find out not only are there 20 others with the same idea, but they're more qualified to carry out the vision. Or you get really attached and excited about an idea of the next week/month/year and find out that so-and-so doesn't want to partner with you or thinks your work is meh or can't see you as a good fit. 

Again and again and again.

Love, friendship, school, and my career thus far have all flowed into my life joyously. It sounds corny but I can't think of any other way to describe it. I've wanted something, worked hard for it, and boom, it's happened. There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but what's right for me has always prevailed and not much rejection has stumped me. When I've followed my intuition, the path has been one of ease. 

And now I'm writing. Which means now I'm facing rejection. Lots of it. It comes with the job, and I'm learning to love it. I'm getting shut down time after time and I need to find the strength and will within myself to want to keep going. It's a call to resilience louder than running an ultra-marathon or finishing a rock climb. It's a way less comfortable resilience for me to lean into and know that I have deep down. It's forcing me to build a loving shield around myself and be more neutral and unaffected by my surroundings. 

In other words, writing is giving me thick skin, and I feel good in this new skin. 

Bring it on. I can take it. 

#goals

I just spent a week with a dear friend whose mom gave her a notepad with the header "#goals." We laughed about it, especially when our grocery list was on there and it looked like taco ingredients were her #goals. But I think she's onto something. She moves through the world with her goals in mind-- whether professional, personal, or athletic-- with an inspiring amount of consideration and purpose. Emulating that quality is definitely a #goal of mine.  

In many ways, my lifestyle makes me move with intention every few months.  Seasonal work forces me to ask myself the same few questions three times per year: what will be fulfilling, stimulating, and promote growth for me next season? How much do I want to work? What are my priorities?  How do I want to balance time with my partner, sisters, friends, and students? There's space for complacency too (like in any other job), but more than other careers I get to re-evaluate and have input as to where I'll be and what I'll be doing every four months.  

I love that. And I love that I'm surrounded by others who move through the world with intention and seasonal deliberateness.  I love that I get to be the author of my story, instead of a victim of my surroundings.  

I don't love the word or idea of a "resolution"-- implicit is the notion that we need to "resolve" or settle something unsettled.  I am not incomplete or defective.  I am whole and growing and broken all at once. I do love the idea of intention-- of thinking and acting and speaking with thoughtfulness and purpose. Writing is the right medium for me because editing is 90% of the process. Being intentional as opposed to impulsive is definitely something I'm still learning and will continue to work on for the rest of my life. It's a good thing I'm so flexible because I often sit or stand with my foot in my mouth. The medical definition of intention is "the healing process of a wound," which also fits. The idea of gently working towards optimal function. 

We're now nearly a week into the second year of the month. For me there's something powerful in putting my thoughts to paper (screen?) in order to hold myself accountable.  For the past few months I've set intentions at the start (including saying Rabbit Rabbit), and do my best to move towards that purpose over the following four weeks.  

This February, I decided that 1. I will be published twice. Any public forum works. 2. I will meditate 10 minutes/day. and 3. I will continue to simplify by selling and giving away belongings and limiting plastic in my life. There is looseleaf spinach in rural Wyoming, and we don't have to buy non-recyclable clamshells! 

So far so good, but I've got three more weeks of this month to keep working and dancing towards these three. I'll take all the time I can get.