“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~Unknown
There are two basic human emotions that are the driving force behind each thought, each daily inspiration, and that rare but pivotal new-chapter, life-changing decision. Those things are fear and love.
The funny thing, however, is that they are intertwining forces. In order to feel passionately about something, fear and love must coexist.
One year ago I made what some people would consider an irrational decision. I had a great job, a flexible boss, and rainbow-colored work walls, to boot.
I had a circle of close-knit, happy-hour-loving girlfriends who brought overflowing amounts of joy and adventure to my life. Together we’d paint Los Angeles red, fly to Chicago on a “girls’ trip” whim, and celebrate each other’s birthdays in Las Vegas.
Within our friendly beach-side neighborhood were my favorite Thai restaurant, faithful yoga studio, and the best omelet breakfast spot within a five miles radius of each other. My adoring family was a short one-hour Southwest flight away, so I could always access TLC from mom and dad.
I was comfortable, I was happy, but most of all I was where everyone wants to be—safe.
Halfway through the best year of my life to date I decided to make a monumental move. I quit my rainbow-walled job and applied to graduate schools abroad.
Skimming potential programs I narrowed my choices to three well-known major metropolitan cities: London, Paris, and Barcelona. After much deliberation, I decided that while London is bubbling with energy and the French have the most delicious buttery croissants I’ve ever tasted, Barcelona was my true calling.
A California water-loving girl at heart, I can never be far from warm sunshine or the familiar stretch of sandy beaches.
Upon arrival and the few months following, the unexpected feeling of homesickness hit me like a mid-summer tidal wave in the South Pacific. I was alone in this foreign place, aching in my heart and missing my safe life.
As we oftentimes do when it comes to big decisions, career changes, or new mortgages, I doubted myself and the choice I had made.
While waist deep in fear and doubt, strangely enough I was also on an exhilarated high. Each morning run was an adventure; each trip to the market, something new.
Even though there was a high probability I’d get lost en route, the miniature unknowns were breathtaking and exciting. I never knew who I would meet or where I would be that weekend.
I took day trips to lining Costa Brava towns and tried yoga classes spoken in a foreign tongue. Getting back into the classroom was a bit awkward, but I submersed myself in bulky case studies and writing, something that has always calmed my racing mind.
Slowly but surely, I made a circle of international friends and discovered new cultures, colorful cuisines, and a fascinating European way of life. In time, I opened my heart again and found more love and laughter than I ever dreamed possible between two people.
Despite the initial difficulty, it was worth every chaotic moment to reach this place.
Life is too short and far too precious to waste time going through the safe motions that distract us from what will really bring us joy. It can be big, or it can be a small, or it can be somewhere in the middle.
It can be the fear of quitting your nine-to-five job to finally pursue your love affair with the culinary arts. Or running the marathon that you’re too afraid to try. Or starting the business you’ve always dreamed of.
Or, it can very well be finally overcoming your fear of stage fright at Monday Karaoke night for your love of singing.
In our current world where stimulated ideas, new opportunities, and innovative minds are so openly welcomed, oftentimes the biggest thing standing in the way is ourselves.
So take the leap of faith in yourself, or someone else for that matter. Go back to school or even an online school, finally start your blog, or accomplish the resolutions that have been making cameos on your New Year’s list for the past five years standing.
At the end of it all, we all have two life lists: All the things we actually did, and all the things we wish happened.
Focus on building the first list, starting right here and now.