Starting anything has never been my forte. No, my thing has always been to talk myself out of whatever I’m considering, until one day I wake up and decide to just take the plunge (no life vest or floating device). I’ve always been stubborn, as a kid I’d often get my head stuck in places (no, seriously), but falling flat on my ass seems to be the only way that I learn. For someone who is so enamored with this imaginary notion of control, I fail quite often.
“Failure” is a word that I grew up fearing, a rancid tasting thing of word that I looked down on with disdain. The echo of it’s scathing presence would linger for weeks after I’d found out that I hadn’t booked the role in a play, or when I hadn’t aced the essay of the week. I’ve always been my own biggest competition and worst critic. The irony is that I chose a career with no clear path, a career in which I will be rejected far more times than not.
For a long time I tried grasping at control, tried to measure myself by some imaginary standard that I’d fabricated and imposed on myself. How I operated that way for so long is an utter mystery. The day when these notions were challenged, I had walked into a yoga class and the instructor asked us to set our intention. On this particular day I was frustrated with the world and I absolutely did not want to be there, “fuck it!” I thought, “it’s ok to fail.” I’d never taken mantras all that seriously, they’d always seemed so woo woo, but walking out of there I felt a thousand pounds lighter. I felt like every stereotypical LA hippie cliche and I could have cared less. I felt…inspired.
Soon after that I started making a list of the things that I wanted to do but hadn’t even attempted out of sheer fear. That’s when I finally started making headway with projects and I started recording my poetry. I’d had glimpses of this inspiration when I’d risked in auditions and when I had decided to end relationships, however, this was the first time that I was actively aware of what I was doing. Before embracing failure I had failed so many times before, I mean truly failed, and I had survived. The difference is that I’m no longer afraid of failure. I will fail again, but that doesn’t define me.
That was my problem with the word, this notion that it was reflective of me, that one word could come to define me. I was cocooning myself in a ratty blanket of “you can’t” and calling it safety. I was protecting myself before any perceived threat could come near me. The real threat was that I was, unbeknownst to myself, actively trying to keep stagnant.
Every year I make a sort of to-do list, things that I want to do or try out in the new year. On that list there will always be one thing that scares me and requires some sort of risk-taking. Some years that’s the first thing I cross off and other years I don’t get to it at all. Sometimes the thing that I consider “risky” someone else wouldn’t bat their eye at, but along with being willing to fail, I’m also working on embracing the things that are so uniquely me.
So, how are you risking? What believes do you need to let go of?