I have always been afraid. Lots of fear. Mom says I was born with it, and I think she may be right. My earliest baby pictures show me weeping in terror of the camera. I was afraid of walking to school, of being kidnapped, of falling, of climbing trees, of failing, of roller skating. I remember crying myself to sleep behind the green rocking chair when my uncle wiggled his mustache for my older sisters. I was afraid it was going to fall off.
As I grew into adulthood, two new mighty and pervasive fears developed—the loss of security (financial mostly), and the thought of growing old and dying.
In the summer of 2010, both fears came to a head.
I was not, mind you, dying alone and insecure, but being a single girl in Utah with no prospects at age 35 (gasp!) simply compounded all my angst when I lost my financial security. Yup, laid off. Blast that recession. A few days after losing my job, I wrote the following:
Friday afternoon–around 4:45: Bill, a friend of 12 years and the senior partner at my company–came in and closed my office door. He sat down and said, “You’re being laid off.”
A very surreal moment.
I packed up my office. I backed up my computer. I turned over my keys and credit card. I shook everyone’s hand, noticing that my own hand was shaking uncontrollably (how annoying is THAT?). And I left.
Where did I go? To my celebratory, Six-Years In Our House Anniversary Dinner with my sister, Jill, where I dropped the bomb on her. And then? Then we went to the Apple Store, where I blithely spent $300 on an iPod Touch. Clearly, I was affected.
Truth be told, I DO feel ok.
The other night, Jill was watching a documentary on work. They interviewed a man who had always wanted to be a comic book artist, but who had chosen to go to a “regular” art school and then ended up teaching for years in a high school. He made a comment that struck me then and has stayed with me since–he expressed his regret at living “Plan B” without ever even trying “Plan A.” He gave up his dream right out of the gate because he thought it was unachievable, or irresponsible, or just not “right.”
I think I did the same. I’ve been living my back up plan, instead of living my dream. And part of that probably has to do with me not knowing what my dream is. I always wanted to be a wife and mother (uhh, that didn’t work), and then I wanted to be an artist (but I opted out of that in college years ago). So what now?
Weird that—at age 35—I’m trying to find myself.
The scariest thing about being laid off is that I feel like God is pushing me to make major changes in my life. The world is wide open, and I have so much less to lose, since I’m already in the process of losing it.
I’ve dubbed it already … this is “Life: Take 2.” My second chance to get things right.
Where do I go from here? And how do I stay close enough to God to trust that I’ll choose the right direction? And does it really matter what direction I choose? Does life really have an answer key? Is my chosen career important at all, aside from the fact it should be something that truly makes me happy?
No answers yet, just questions. Part of me feels like this is a new (and big!) test of my strengthening faith. Last year really put me through the ringer, but although much is still unresolved, I feel like I’m finally coming up for air after thrashing around under the surface for far too long. I feel like I’m healing. And that the whole experience has tempered the steel of myself, my relationship with God, and my stability.
In a way, I feel like this is a gift from God. Like I’ve been taking some hideous exam, and I finally finished the hard section. Like God has decided I’m ready for the next thing. Like this is a reward instead of a punishment. It’s a strange sort of reward–at least on the surface.
But I think it is.
Looking back now, it’s abundantly clear that what I thought would be an insurmountable summit—my greatest fear come to fruition—ended up being a bit of a gift. That fear I’d held inside for my entire conscious life, certain that it would consume me if just given the chance, didn’t quite last the first three hours. By nightfall, I was fine.
I let my anticipation of something “bad” gnaw at me for years—as Mom would say, “I was borrowing trouble.” I spent more time fearing the possibility of losing my job than I did being afraid when I actually lost it.
While I can’t say that losing my job led directly to wonderful things, or that I scored high enough of some Divine Quiz to earn rewards I’ve always craved, but what I can say is that God knows our path, and sometimes He has to lead us through what we perceive to be the darkest spots—the things that frighten us the most—not to punish us, or to show Him that we’re up to it, but rather, to show us what we’re capable of.
And we’re capable of a lot.
Two years later, I’m now living the life I always wanted. Employed. Married. A mother. And while I still struggle with the knee-jerk reaction of predicating decisions on fear, I’m learning to trust that the things that look scary to us at first glance can often turn out to be blessings we had never imagined.
So my advice to me (and you and anyone who will listen)?
Stop with the fear. No. Really. Stop it. Just go out and do it, whatever your “it” is.
Image Credit: Andolent