Are you too afraid to fly?

Monday, July 24, 2017

I’ve got this theory that everyone is at their peak when they’re a baby, brand new (I have no evidence to back this theory up. It really can’t be proved).

You’re full of magic! There is so much genius lurking in your synapses, ready to fire. You figure everything out so quickly – proprioception! Whole languages! How to manipulate your parents! You are entirely fearless during this brief, glittering period of your life, and everything is possible.

Unfortunately you have to grow up. The trouble with growing up is that you stop being this pure angelic thing entirely unto yourself, yet to be impacted by the neuroses of those around you, and start becoming a creature of our world. Our world is confusing and weird and scary at times, and you’ve got all these messages being lumped at you from all sides, and lots of these messages come from fear – the world is dangerous! Money is exceptionally difficult to acquire! Everyone is out to get you!

And then you become entirely mad just like every other living human. It’s okay; it’s a process we all go through. Unavoidable.

Curiosity and fearlessness are two highly undervalued traits that we seem to part with entirely. You arrive at your later years of high school and start being ‘realistic’ about your career prospects. You panic that your dreams are too big, downright impossible. You start having to worry about stuff… It’s awful. Fear can be a really powerful force in your life, convincing you that failure is inevitable, that you’ll disappoint your parents, that it’s not worth even having a go.

I have a photo of myself at the age of three at the beach. I’m wearing a triple j t-shirt and an exceptionally sun-smart hat – the kind with the flap at the back. I appear to be dancing. Maybe I was; I don’t remember the picture being taken. I will never be cooler than I was in that moment. I was an awesome child, which makes up for me being a decidedly mediocre adult.

Whenever I am freaking out about anything – which is more often than not – whether it’s the impossibility of a long-term writing career or a talk I have to do or how rubbish my work-in-progress novel is, I ask myself, ‘What would Young Steph do?’

Young Steph would not freak out. Young Steph would marvel at the awesomeness of Older Steph’s life. Failure would not even occur to Young Steph because Young Steph would be too busy having fun with it. Because books, and writing, and talking about books and writing? Those are the things I love (and the things Young Steph will very shortly love, when she learns to write – at age three she’s too busy being rock ‘n’ roll).

When I was fifteen and an aspiring author, I was keenly aware of the possibility of failure. I couldn’t really shut it out. But authordom was something I had been dreaming of for years, and I knew that all authors had tonnes of rejections. I figured if I started submitting to publishers then, I might be published by the time I was thirty. I could cope with that.

I didn’t get my expected result; instead I ended up with a book deal. If I’d allowed myself to be crippled by the fear of failure and rejection, nothing would’ve happened. My manuscript would’ve languished and I would’ve continued to envy ‘real’ writers and wonder ‘what if?‘.

So, when it comes to pursuing your dreams, you have options (Hint: giving up isn’t one of them! I won’t allow it!). Either get back to the core of what you want to achieve and stop thinking about the possibility of failure – instead think about how you as a kid would view your dreams: entirely possible, and pretty magic. It’s not about deluding yourself; it’s just about shifting the focus away from the negative.

Or, incorporate failure into the plan. It’s part of the journey, and the eventual successes certainly make it worthwhile. The main thing is that you don’t fear failure. The fear of it is worse than failure itself, I assure you! You will have many fabulous adventures, I can tell.

Originally published on Birdee Mag.
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