I am not afraid.
Not of the dark. Not of death. Not of snakes or spiders or plane crashes.
As a four-year-old little sister, I was not afraid to lift up the rocks in the backyard (at my brother’s request) and look at the insect eggs and creepy crawlers squirming in the mud beneath. I was not afraid to order my Shirley Temple and entrée at dinner; I would order my brother’s Roy Rogers for him, too. I was not afraid of strangers, or fast cars, or unfamiliar food.
I haven’t gone sky-diving. And I do worry about fish biting my toes in the ocean. But still, I maintain, I am not afraid.
There is one thing that lurks in crevices. It paralyzes me. It looms in the indigo quiet of the bedroom, whispering between my husband’s even sleeping breaths. It pirouettes behind each word. It trips on the back of my shoes. It seeps out of my pores.
Failure terrifies me.
I transferred from William and Mary to CU Boulder. Did that mean I had failed in some way? I chose Colorado over more Boston grad school. In the eyes of my cohort, in the eyes of my professors, was I, (am I still), failing?
And now, in an effort to chase after a three-year-long dream, I have reduced my teaching load from five to two classes. Is this move yet another symptom of my failure to launch? Failure to thrive? Failure to succeed? Failure to commit?
My 1907 converted garage with exposed brick walls and stained turquoise floors awaits me. French doors usher in Colorado sunlight. Industrial rolling racks bristle in the cool winter air, laden with carefully chosen, lovingly hoarded vintage pieces. Dresses. Pants. Silk blouses. Outrageous blazers. Leather biker vests. Long flowing muumuus. Kimonos. 1970’s Frye boots. A beautiful vintage desk – a “writer’s desk” with dovetail joints, brass handles and a leather-covered surface. Two professional-grade pinnable dress forms. A gorgeous linen tufted couch and velvet ottoman – for friends, clients and visitors, of course. It’s all out there, waiting, with bated breath. For me. And them. And all of those dreams.
But instead of swishing and swooping out there, instead of a frenzy of ecstatic activity, I am
by the possibility of
in my own
Overwhelmed, of course, by the list of tasks before me: business plan, marketing plan, logo, website, pricing, inventory, outreach, launch, photography, models, marketing, marketing. But this long list – it’s not a new thing. I’ve done hard things before: a graduate degree in 9 months, a positive outlook after the death of a sibling, two half marathons with a donkey. I know about focus, priorities, stamina, resolve.
So what about this
is so daunting?
it’s that feeling deep inside
that this is what I have been wanting
Before I knew what I wanted, I wanted this. Before we even had the tiny garage, I wanted this. Before I could conceptualize of an online vintage clothing line, it was this.
It has always been this.
Every moment in my life has been leading up to this.
This! This turquoise-floored bodega. This dream. This venture.
Every dress-up party. Every scarf-based backyard costume. Every carefully obsessed-over outfit. The Bethany-orchestrated parties. Every hour on the sewing machine. Every thrift-store purchase.
It has all
been leading up
And my family is rooting for me, and my friends encouraging, and my acquaintances asking about my progress and my husband supporting…
and I am
spinning my wheels. Stuck. Spitting gravel.
That little scared voice is whispering:
What if, after all of this, after every molecule in my being has been shouting at the top of their lungs for 29 years that we just want to CREATE, what if I … fail?
What if no one cares to purchase my carefully curated vintage goods? What if no one visits my website? What if it’s all a big zero – an eddy in a river that deposits me in a logjam?
What if I didn’t really have it in me, after all, to be an entrepreneur, to be an artist, to choose and market and style my own clothes?
Then what do I, will I, have left, after all of that leading-up-to?
So today, in an effort to extract myself from figurative paralysis, I went for a run. And I met a woman and her dogs: these beautiful, well-behaved, silky soft dogs who did not bark, and wanted only to wag their tails and smile. And the woman remarked that, though she wished there were a dog park nearby, she didn’t dare take the dogs to Chatfield Reservoir’s dog park because, in her words “they come back so dirty. This white one comes back absolutely brown.” And I stared at her, trying not to let the dismay show on my face.
Dirty? She was worried about the dogs getting dirty? Is that all? Here she was, with these gorgeous creatures who only wanted to romp and play and roll and run, and she was withholding utter joy because… she didn’t want to risk them getting dirty?
And then, it dawned on me.
I am the woman with the white dog.
I too, am afraid of getting my dreams, my prized, immaculate, unrealized dreams, dirty. I, too, am withholding joy and amazement because of fear. Fear of dirt. Dirt on my reputation. Dirt on my pride. Dirt on my dreams.
Better pure white, perfect, unrealized, than sullied, touch-able, real.
Who cares about dirt? I love to be dirty. I LIKE dreadlocks in my unbrushed hair. I LIKE it when I have spent a week outside enjoying the world rather than worrying about being clean. I even like it when I have dirt under my fingernails. It reminds me I’ve been doing. Digging. Interacting with the earth. Nothing fun ever gets done without dirt.
And this venture? It has to be the same. Yes – I am going to get dirty. I’ll probably fall down. A lot. And I’ll have to wipe the mud off of my face and dirt out of my eyes, but I’ll be doing something real. Not in a cubicle. Something I love. Something I care deeply about.
And the dirt is part of the deal. And the tripping is part of the learning. And the paralysis I’m feeling is like the woman’s fear of dirty dogs; ludicrous.
So I am going to go out there. I am going to get dirty. And I’m going to enjoy it. Or at least, not be afraid of it. And I guess the only way to avoid the fear, the only way to confront the looming failure, is to make a habit of getting dirty. Each and every day. Taking risks. Rolling up sleeves. I’ve got to commit. Promise. To get dirty. To romp and run and play and make mistakes in joy. Because getting dirty is important. Essential, even.
Because without the dirt, I’ll never even get started. I’ll have failed before I’ve begun.
*Images courtesy of The Getty Open Content program: http://www.getty.edu/about/opencontent.html