So when this question was posed in a Huffington Post article, I wasn't prepared for the flood of thoughts and emotions I experienced. I figured I had already conquered several of my biggest fears (speaking up, singing in front of others) so this was a non-issue.
Or so I thought.
What I missed, I discovered later, was the more profound question. What would your life look like if you were not afraid to pursue what you REALLY wanted to do with your life? Especially if what you were doing currently amounted to settling for the most practical thing to meet your responsibilities. What are your dreams? What goals or plans did you have that were realistic, but you never pursued? What untapped gifts or talents do you posses that are being allowed to lay dormant?
We all know someone who is so phenomenally talented in some area that we declare they "missed their calling". Women and men who are artists, musicians, bakers, chefs. People who work exceptionally well with children, or can handle even the most challenging adults in the workplace. Those whose intelligence and creativity we admire on a regular basis, but who, for reasons known only to them, never sought to explore these gifts any further.
For me, at least, the reason was fear. I had known all my life that I loved to write. I had known since at least middle school that I was considered a good writer. I found my preferred format in my early 20's when I fell in love with the works of Erma Bombeck and Robert Fulghum. Fear began it's slow creep the minute I expressed my desire to become a professional writer, then internalized a friend's dismissive derision of my dream: "So what? Anybody can go write a book." Fear gained a permanent foothold when I began to realize that all of my literary and journalistic heroes had college degrees, while I had a small child to support and not a whole lot of help.
Like many in my position, I started to qualify why dreams with whens and ifs. When my son gets older, if he starts having less issues, I will go back and pursue my degree. I can't write if I don't have a degree, no one will take me seriously. When my daughter gets older, if she doesn't experience the same level of challenges my son experienced then I will finally start on my goal. But year after year, as I became the mother I needed to be to my children, learned to support them in the ways that helped them most, my dreams and gifts sat untouched and dormant. Oh I would whip out my gift for a letter here or an essay there, always to the amazement and delight of others, wherein someone would inevitably suggest that I had "missed my calling".
I remember reading an essay in Reader's Digest, sometime in the late 80's, about the principal of throwing your hat over the fence. In it, the author touched on the story told to him about an old farmer that needed an old fence taken down, and asked his grandson to help him. As incentive, he grabbed his grandson's hat and threw it over the fence, reasoning that this gave him a reason to take the boards down, if only to get his hat. The deeper meaning of course, being that whatever you want to do, take a step that will create a reason for you to finish it.
This blog is my hat going over the fence. My dream is to write, without fear or reservation. Sometimes it will be funny, sometimes political, sometimes just an observation, but it will always be honest, and never mean spirited. Names will be changed to protect both the innocent and the crabby. This is a conversation between you and I, dear reader. There will always be critics, and I am as prepared as I'm going to be for that. But to not write out of fear of inadequacy is no longer an option.
So the fence starts to come down today. One board at a time.