Self doubt feels like a constant presence, doesn't it? I mean it. Is. EVERYWHERE!
Like when you want to try a new hobby and that little voice tells you, you won't be any good at it. Or when you're finally given that big project at work—offered a chance to show your boss your stuff—there's a little voice in your head that likes to ruin it for you.
And there's a whole slew of things that voice/your brain can pick from, isn't there? Like that one time, in fifth grade, when you totally froze while you gave your first speech. Or that other time, at your first job, when you totally screwed up the register and your boss had to come bail you out in front of customers. You're just a constant failure, aren't you?
You're probably guilty of this: saying the cliched phrase, "Everything happens for a reason."
I know I am.
And then I'd go about my life, figuring that whatever lesson said person needed to learn was being learned. So good for them.
Of course, these words have been uttered to me before. And they were always mildly annoying. Because maybe it doesn't happen for a reason. Maybe it's just the way the pendulum is swinging.
But I shook the words off, knowing the person's intentions were good. And the "bad" thing was always small enough that I could convince myself there was a lesson in there somewhere.
So then I lost this house I really wanted. And I didn't lose it because my offer wasn't in first or because the owner didn't pick me. No, I lost it because I was a freelancer. And because I wasn't able to prove my income.
And there were ways I probably could have gotten approved through a different bank. But my rate would have been on the brink of insanity. And that was stupid. So no.
So as you can imagine, this all really pissed me off. Because I made a damn good living as a freelancer. I worked my ass off every single day. Hustling. Meeting. Greeting. Working days, nights, weekends, vacations—whatever it took to build myself the kind of life I envisioned. Because I am not an 8-5 person. I'm not even a 6-3 person or a 10-7 person. I just need...freedom. To be my absolute best. Maybe I work at 4am. Maybe I'm wide awake at 10pm. Maybe I want to take the dogs to the park at lunch. I need to have that choice in order to do what I do well.
And my best cost me the one thing I had always wanted: my own house.
So I did what any logical person would do. I tried to be logical.
I needed two years of W2s to prove I was worthy of home buying. And I searched for a job that would give them to me. Never mind that the job I took paid me less than I'd been making as a freelancer. I swallowed my pride, said "bye" to most of my clients and bought a new wardrobe.
You guys, I despised nearly every. Single. Moment. Of my time in corporate America. I hated that I was going against my heart. That I was fighting a stupid fight, trying to earn something I was already worthy of—even though the big guys, the ones that run this world, said I was not.
But slowly I got used to the regular paycheck that was always the same amount. To the benefits that were a luxury like eye exams. To forcing myself awake and making myself lie still in order to sleep. To saying goodbye to my dogs in the morning, knowing I wouldn't see them again until 6—if I was lucky.
I stopped writing books.
I stopped cooking.
My depression bowled into me with a long held-at-bay vengeance.
It might surprise you to learn that even after we got a house I kept working for big companies.
Because by this time it was habit.
And I'd forgotten what it meant to trust in myself. Forgotten that I was worth so much more than what I was being given.
But then something happened.
One day I decided to let go.
It wasn't easy. I actually gave myself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror that morning. Something along the lines of, "Alright, Janda. You are intelligent. You are a great writer. And you can get through this."
And wouldn't you know...I did get through it.
It wasn't pretty.
And it wasn't graceful.
Mistakes were made.
But once I let that shit go I found many things that were ruffling my feathers to roll off my back. Until eventually I was set free. To a point where I left corporate America and returned to the great wide world of freelancing.
With the blessing of my husband and dogs, of course.
And I have to tell you: I have no idea what the freaking lesson here was.
I love our house. But I loved the one I lost, too.
I was a good (not great but pretty good) writer before I went back to full-time. I am a good (not great but pretty good) writer still.
I value time with my family—but I did before all of this went down.
What's the lesson, here?! If everything happens for a reason then why did all of this happen?
Maybe I'm searching too hard. Or maybe there was no lesson at all. Perhaps it's not necessarily a lesson we take away but the journey that got us here that we're supposed to pay attention to.
Whatever the case may be, I do know one thing: the next time I have the urge to tell someone it all happens for a reason I'm just going to keep my mouth shut. Because maybe it doesn't.
Or maybe it does.
I'll tell you once I have it all figured out.
who Is it just me or is flying terrifying to everyone?
It's just me. I know it is. Or rather, it's me and a few other people making up a very small percentage of individuals who fly and feel physically ill at the idea.
Driving though! Driving I have no problems with.
Now logistically, I realize how stupid this is. You have a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in a car accident. You have a 1 in millions chance of dying on a plane.
I've never been a very rational person, though. Ask anyone I've ever dated.
The emotional realm, people. That's where I tuck in at night.
Which explains why none of these stats keep me from jumping into my car on a daily basis and traipsing off to work. Why I don't become paralyzed with fear behind the wheel desperately needing to turn up the dial on some Beyonce so she can sing me through to my destination. Why I don't feel the need to curl up into the fetal position and cry when my car is pummeled with a windstorm.
Now...why is this?
While I'd like to chalk it up to my anxiety, the truth of the matter is that when I fly I turn over all control to two strangers that I may never see or even speak to. To all those pilots out there who feel that the public doesn't appreciate you–I appreciate you. Me. I do.
See, I'm one of those rare passengers who boards the plane with crazy eyes, scanning about desperately for my day's pilot as I cling to my bags and wonder if it's too late to turn around and run. It's as if my snap assessment of an individual in a pilot's uniform will hold any water when it comes to how well he or she can handle an Airbus in the event of an emergency (hint: it probably won't). Still...I want to see my pilot. I want them to say hello to me with a small twinkle in their eye, like they know what I'm thinking and want to reassure me it's all okay.
Usually they're in the cockpit going through checklists. I appreciate this too.
Control. It’s a pesky mother trucker. I have yet to meet another human who voluntarily gives up all control. Sure there are people who require less control. As a for instance, adrenaline junkies don’t look to lock their hands around the neck of control as they tumble from a plane with nothing more than a parachute to keep them from plunging to their doom. Still, there is probably something they seek to control (or that they wish they DIDN’T seek to control). Finances. Job. Significant others. This is how we are. We're human.
What happens when we lose control?
The fear seeps in.
Fear is the brain’s response to new things or things that go against our safety and well being. On the one hand, that’s really cool.
On the other hand, it’s a very primal response to very modern problems–and it really sucks. I mean...we all have problems. Varying levels of them, sure- but it's something humans have in common.
There are things we can do to deal with this fear response. And we have to, don’t we? The truth is that when we don’t face our fears, they start to build up until we're paralyzed by them. When I was younger I'd read books about old ladies who shut themselves into their homes, never again caring to see the light of day.
I didn’t understand this urge then. There were so many WORLDS out there to explore. There were so many PEOPLE to meet!
Now I understand the appeal. Now that life has roughed me up a bit.
Sometimes the very idea of stepping out of my front door is almost enough to overwhelm me. But I can’t let it. Frankly, neither can you. Or you can but...you shouldn't.
We don’t get to choose when we go or how we go (usually).
We only get to choose what to do with our time here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to book.
One thing that paralyzed me as a writer, for years, was the idea of sharing my work.
That’s a lie.
One thing that paralyzes me about being a writer (present tense) is the idea of sharing my work.
There are those who say writer’s block is simply a matter of severe anxiety. In some instances, I fully agree. This is one of those instances. In fact, the idea of sharing my work with the general public can send me into such terror that writing itself becomes impossible. After all, what could I possibly write that everyone will love?
The answer? Nothing.
I will never write something that everyone in the whole entire world loves and agrees with. It doesn’t happen for the Poet Laureate and it sure as hell won’t happen for me.
And actually, while we’re going down this road, let’s clarify further.
Not only will some people hate my writing to begin with. Some people that start out loving my writing will come to despise it.
Heck, even you’ve been there. Perhaps not with me, but with another creative.
Think of, for instance, that new song on the radio. Gosh, it’s really catchy. Every time it comes on, you can’t help but sing along. Then, a month or so in, it starts to feel a little old. By month three, you swear that radio stations are tracking your movements and only playing the song when you get into your car. Gah! YOU HATE THIS DAMN SONG, TURN IT OFF!
The reality of writing anything, and then sharing it, is that you will encounter a fair amount of criticism. Some immediate. Some down the road. But hey! You did something a lot of people are far too terrified to ever do. That includes your critics.
Criticism is made worse by the internet. The anonymity that haters today can have is rivaled by… nothing.
Frankly, you shouldn’t give a flying bird about any of it.
Being a writer – being an artist – being someone who creates – is reliant upon your ability to kiss comfort goodbye and just make.
And that is something both beautiful and unique about artists of every kind. This is art, my friend. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. This isn’t perfection. There is no right or wrong answer. This is expression. This is beauty. There is never complete comfort in the unknown.
We kiss comfort goodbye the moment we choose to create.
Is your inability to write caused by a lack of known factors? An inability to know and control the outcome?
I’m here to tell you that, that will never happen. As an artist, as a writer, you must release the anxieties that follow sharing your work with others. In doing so, you may find that your writer’s block falls a bit by the wayside, too.
Allison Janda is a self-published author. She has three dogs, one of which acts more like a cat.