Fear defeats more people than any one thing in the world."-Ralph Waldo Emerson
This morning I woke up in the dark, shuffled around quietly making tea and a breakfast sandwich for Adam and I while I tried to let him squeeze in a few more minutes of well-needed sleep. The cats tripped around my feet, even though they damn well know that dinner time isn't till, well, dinner time. The sky began to turn from ink to violet to dawn. I headed to the kitchen that I left 7 hours earlier, braced myself for a quick in/out in the walk-in fridge and headed out to make our North County delivery at SCAR in Orange.
I watched the sunrise over Saddleback as I made my way along the 55 freeway. Snippets of thoughts, old conversations, and memories flickered through my mind. About where I am now, and where I was before, and where I was before that. I thought about the sunrises I have seen in my life. How many of them were full of quiet moments of introspection. Of promises and resolutions whispered in hope to the new day. Ages ago, I would still be up from the night before. Mind and body hazy and shattered from a night of escapism. More recently, of course, memories of the past years, getting up in the dark, grinding out hard miles on foot or bike or pool. I thought about the months Adam and I spent getting up at 4 am (or earlier) and heading out for long training days for IMAZ last year. And it made me realize how little did I know then, what I could become now.
I've heard it said that triathlon is a metaphor for life and it's something that holds true for me. I'm not really training for races, I'm training for life. I spent many years wanting a life I didn't have and assuming that other people had something I was lacking. Some sort of magical motivator. Some spark to push past fear of the unknown into greatness. Some key that could unlock the mystery of what I was meant to do with my time, that I just couldn't find or didn't have. I knew I was playing small and I couldn't get away from it. I lived in a small world, with a small job I was stuck in, at a small company, and time was slipping by too fast. For a large number of reasons (the above being one) I finally sought out a counselor a few years ago.
She asked me about what I wanted to do; what I was really good at and also made me happy. That was an easy answer - I love cooking, helping people, eating healthy, and transforming my diet has definitely changed my life and I wanted to share that with others. Yet, if you're anything like me, you can look at that answer and see 10,000 reasons why it's not possible to pursue as a career.
- I don't have $50,000+ for culinary school
- We don't have any money to start a company
- I don't know how to start a company
- We can't afford for me to leave my job
- I need the security of my job
- The food industry is rife with failure
- Owning a restaurant is too much work, too long hours and it will fail anyways
- I've never even worked in a restaurant (Adam spent decades in the industry, thankfully)
- I don't want to be stuck cooking the same fat-dipped-seared-parmesan-crusted-whatnot with buerre blanc sauce every night for someone else's menu in someone else's kitchen
- I can't quit my job because:
- I make too much money to leave (it'd be stupid to walk away from a steady paycheck!)
- I'm too vital to the company
- There's no way I could train someone
- The owner would be really upset and it would be a horrible thing
- People depend on me and I would let them down
- We'll never be successful enough to be independent of my salary.
That's a LOT of fear. We talked about my worst case scenario - I quit, we start a business, it fails, we owe tons of money, blah blah blah.... and then what?! What's the very worst? Even if that did happen, we'd move in to Adam's parents house or with friends or whatever we had to do while working however many jobs it took to get back on our feet. It really wouldn't be that bad. That fear dispelled she asked me what would happen when I quit my job. I launched into a huge tirade on exactly how it would play out. The agony, the anguish, the emotional upset, who would say what, etc... She asked me if I had any proof that's how the situation would go. And I didn't. I was just so sure it would be that way and had convinced myself of it until it was fact. We then talked about money, and how maybe I didn't need to go to cooking school, but if I wanted money - I certainly made enough to save some. Instead of spending it on trying to validate being in a job I'm unhappy with... ouch! Now, at the time, I knew she was right, but I couldn't move for the sake of fear.
Fear is a funny thing. I could almost tangibly see the things I was afraid of, logically know that a good half of them didn't exist, and still be paralyzed. Unable to face those things, I turned and faced a handful of other things I couldn't do. Like swimming. And running. And biking. And when I could do those things, I did them in distances and combinations there was NO WAY I could do, like 20 miles and 50 miles, 70.3 miles and 140.6 miles. I faced scary situations - riding on SART middday (haha), swimming in the ocean when terribly afraid of sharks (and through one panic attack), afraid of descending big hills (still not a huge fan of GMR on a busy day), and I was certain that this ex-pack-a-day-smoker would never be able to run a marathon, let alone at the end of an Ironman. The more I chipped away at the fears I could tackle, the easier it became to face my real fears and inadequacies. Maybe I could be something. Maybe I could figure it out. Maybe I could dream bigger? Maybe.
When Adam lost his job last summer, in a bold streak of courage I stuffed my fears aside and we bluffed our way into starting a business. It felt like we were playing pretend. I still thought that everyone else must know these things, and I'm just an idiot who's been hiding under a rock. We stressed and talked and did the best we could. Little by little it grew, until we were really a business. Like, a for real, busines. I stopped feeling like I was playing grown-up and really started feeling like, "Yeah, we ARE business-owners!" Then we grew some more. And more. And more. And now, I can leave my job any time I want, but out of a sense of loyalty, I'm not leaving until my replacement is trained enough to handle the job on his own. Now, we have a group of wonderful customers that we've developed a close-knit relationship with - one in which we value their business as much as they value our food. We serve all kinds of people - but they're all people that we enjoy seeing and talking to on a weekly basis. We are no longer cooking for just the 5 people in our test group! We are up and running.
I've been too busy to think these past months. It's as though I've been underground working madly and all of the sudden I came up for air, and holy hell! Life has changed! There's a new Universe available to me! There's sunlight and freedom and fresh air. I've conquered those big, terrifying, life-paralyzing things. Somehow. Sometime. While I've been busy. Nothing scary happened. My fear was all imagined. And for the first time in months, years, decades, heck - maybe since I was four years old catching butterflies with my sister in the front yard - I can BREATHE. I feel ALIVE. I feel like life is RIGHT. I feel FREE. I feel like everything is within the realm of possibility. I feel like my hopes are valid. My dreams are on the right path.
We took our first day off in months. After a glorious swim in the outdoor pool, Adam and I sat on the deck drying off since we forgot our towels. I basked in the sunshine, the gentle ocean breeze, and the absolute gratitude of being where I am now, with Adam, with my four crazy adopted cats, with my family, with my friends, teammates, customers, with all of you. I want to yell from the rooftops and tell everyone I meet - FIND OUT WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO AND DO THAT. DON'T BE AFRAID. DON'T DISCREDIT YOURSELF! DON'T KEEP ON DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO.
Each of us, every single one of us is meant to be marvelous. We are intended for extraordinary things. Find the tiny spark inside of you, raise it up into your heart, feed that spark until it becomes a little fire, then fan the flames until it roars. Let yourself shine.
This poem comes up in my blog a lot, and I was reminded of it again tonight by Katie @ Run This Amazing Day (read this post!) and I think it's such a good one, I'm sharing it again. Keep dreaming big, friends!
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson