What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? For one, I would write this blog post. So here my “being brave” goes.
I got to thinking about this quote (from Who Moved My Cheese? or Sheryl Sandberg, depending on who you ask) in the weeks before my 30th birthday. Anyone who knows me knows that while I don’t miss being 23 anymore, I’ve been dreading the big 3-0 since the (now little) 2-8. When people I tell look at me like I’m trying to catch a New York taxi in a snowstorm and ask why, I tell them that to me, 30 is heading over a cliff. My mom had me at 30. It’s such a…grown up number. That means I should be grown up by 30. And have everything figured out — or close to it, right? (Smirking as I write because I know I’ll look back in 10 years and laugh at my silly 29-year-old self.) Then one of my friends said something that hit a nerve:
To celebrate your 30th birthday, why don’t you do something you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to try?
My friend suggested getting a tattoo…in jest. Not a bad idea, but not quite my style. (Mom will be so happy to see me write this.)
So I set about trying to think about what my scary thing would be.
Eating fried scorpions? Not very creative. And not really all that scary.
Skydiving? Not a bad idea — I’ve always wanted to do it. But still not hitting the right chord.
Then tonight it hit me, as I was listening to a fantastic RadioLab tonight on the treadmill called “Help!” (Definitely listen when you have 60 minutes to spare.) The theme: What would you do if your worst enemy was…you? The segments discuss strategies to coax yourself into doing something you know you should but for some reason can’t (usually because you’re self-defeating/afraid/addicted). First the hosts talk to two friends, civil rights advocates in the 1960s, who were trying to give up a serious smoking habit. Fast forward 20 years and one gave up cold turkey and hadn’t touched a cig since, but the other couldn’t stop smoking no matter what she tried. Then one day, sensing her friend’s disappointment she was unable to quit and mad at herself for failing for years, she made a promise to her friend that if she ever smoked another cigarette again she would give $5,000 to the Klu Klux Klan — the last place she’d ever give a dime. She never smoked again.
Next, the hosts interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, about how she overcomes a bad case of writer’s block to find her “creative genius.” She quoted Einstein: “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” Gilbert believes that ideas are external (almost “spiritual”, in her words), and that when a really good one comes to her she grabs on and just writes it. Like other writers, not all stories comes to her immediately; while some flow, others take lots of massage, beating into submission. She believes if you’re inspired by a great idea and put in the inevitable sweat to see it through, you’ll eventually end up with a work that’s transcendent. But if you give up, she says, the idea will move on to someone else who’s more open to it — and the next thing you know you’ll read about another writer who’s taken the same idea and run with it.
Back to my original point. To commemorate my 30th birthday, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid? I would…write a book. There. I said it.
My book idea is a ghost that’s been tiptoeing around my mind for the last five years. I had a flash of inspiration about it five years ago. I wrote the first chapter. Then, unsatisfied with the words that came out, I let the idea slide…and I haven’t written any more since. Instead, I started this blog late last year to get my creative juices flowing. While I’m glad I did (another thing I thought I was too scared to do!), I keep on putting off the thing I really want to accomplish in life. The thing I would do if I was “an adult” and I had it all figured out. That ends now. I’m NOT saying it will be genius, or the next Eat Pray Love, or even published. But I am saying I have to at least try.
So there, World Wide Web, you have it. I’m going to do it. I’m going to set aside as much time as I can manage every day and write this book, as a celebration of my 30th year of life.
And while Elizabeth Gilbert’s “creative genius” definitely is inspirational, it won’t quite be enough of a push for me. So like the woman who beat back her smoking demon, I’m going to give myself a dis-incentive to get writing. If I don’t finish writing my book by my 31st birthday, I’m going to…
…this is where I need your help. I’m looking for something that sounds like driving a nail into my left hand (without the physical pain…that’s NOT something I’m up for). So let me know what you think I should do and I’ll swear to put myself up to the task!
My ideas so far:
–Give up running for a whole year
–Give up drinking for a whole year
–Give $3,000 to an anti-abortion group
Any other ideas? I’d love your thoughts and inspiration!