Last night I overheard two women at the bar. They were talking about quitting their jobs and changing their priorities (see QUIT IT for a recap of my thoughts on that subject) and how much happier they were now. Unable to contain my enthusiasm on this issue I joined in, and the tone became unanimous: We’re so much happier now, and we can do anything! We’re so awesome! Hear us roar!
While I hugged my new friends (like you do at 1am) I said the wisest thing I’ve ever said: “Go on out there and get your life, girl.” OMGIAMTHEWISEST! So simple. And yet, holy moly – so complicated. Let’s discuss. Let’s go get our life.
So you stopped the thing that was making you unhappy. Bravo! Pulling the trigger to stop something is hard. Be it changing your major in college or breaking off an ill-fated engagement – it’s hard to stand up and loudly proclaim that you, in fact, do NOT want the thing you have now. It’s like you had to fire your current life path from its job, even though you were the one who enthusiastically hired it. You must say thanks but no thanks, universe. I’m taking this project in a different direction. I’m downsizing this department. I’m releasing you of all your duties within this assignment.
Inversely, pulling the trigger to START something can be even harder. For me, the instinct to hesitate until I’m ‘ready’ and ‘prepared’ can paralyze this process. I try to protect myself. I think if I wait or plan for just a liiiiittle longer I won’t embarrass myself by making a mistake or leaving a bad first impression. This is a false sense of safety, guys. All the hesitation ultimately leaves you with an undone thing. Don’t fall for it!
Here’s what I’ve figured out: you just have to start in order to start. BOOM. You don’t need a 5-year plan or a master’s-degree-like understanding of what’s to come. You just need to DO! Each time I just simply START something, I realize with great relief that it’s totally, joyously, fully ok to not know how everything works before I do it.
When I was 24, I started a company to publish and distribute a children’s book I wrote. Let me highlight the things I did not know: how to start a company, publish a book, and distribute said book. Let me highlight what I knew: I was 24 and I wrote.
Yikes, right? But the proof is in the hardcover – not knowing exactly how is not reason enough to not do. I try to approach each new endeavor with the motto that Ideas Become Things, and this is a perfect example. I wanted to make this book happen, so I spent about a million hours setting up a legal business, building my website, communicating with the printer/illustrator/designer in Hong Kong/Boston/New York, scheduling story hours, participating in book fairs, sending invoices to wholesalers, restocking store shelves, promoting with social media….it was a sometimes confusing process loaded with shit I didn’t know how to do until I did it. It still is. But now, it exists as a thing I have proudly done.
Same can be said for our acting careers, or our desire to visit Thailand, or our dream of running a marathon. Start it, do it, and then it exists.
My first roadblock: feeling worthwhile. Often I talk myself out of my wants with really shitty reasons, like ‘that dream is too big’ or ‘that is really unlikely’. This anti-pep-talk is toxic! Nothing is too big to want or to pursue. Nothing is too unknown to learn about and master. We are worth having the things we want in our lives. We are worth the starting, and at times worth the starting over. Channel your inner Oprah and own it.
My second roadblock: fearing failure. Deeply wanting or caring about something heightens the risk you feel. In a generation that’s kind of too cool for its own good, it’s pretty scary to publicly start something that you deeply desire. It is safer to keep those things all bottled up and never start them, because that way we will never fail at them. But who wants to live life in that gross, fear-based, buttoned-up way, really?
As an artist, I simply don’t give myself the choice to wait or fear failure anymore. None of us have that luxury. In order to get something done (a webseries, a workout, a rehearsal, an anything) we must start, even if we don’t know all the details or the results – things evolve and change, but only if you begin them. There is beauty and discovery in that process, but only if you allow yourself to be in it. It’s a hard but important self-taught lesson: if I actually DO the thing I want, then I can be proud that I HAVE the thing I want.
The world will always be swarmed by people who, simply put, just never got around to starting. Don’t be part of that swarm. If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Go on out and get your life, girl!