Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Do something that scares the crap out of you...

I don't mean do something that you are afraid of because it might mean harm or danger.  I mean, do something that scares you because it is unknown or because of the risk of failure.  Do something you can't possibly do perfectly.  Do something where you are far more likely to lose than win.  Do something you don't even dare dream is possible...

Yeah, it is January, which means a new year.  I don't want you to resolve to do something that scares you.  I didn't even mean for this post to be written at the start of a new year.  It is a post I've wanted to write for a while, but just haven't been able to find the words for...tonight, I have the words.

You know, life isn't easy.  It may look easy when you see others doing more, having more, enjoying more.  Guess what?  For the vast majority of people - even the super happy ones?  Life is really damn hard (excuse the cursing...).  I can honestly say I'm happier than I've ever been, and at the same time, life is incredibly challenging with new difficulties to overcome all the time.  Why?  Because I take risks instead of sitting around on my duff...you don't have to take risks everyday, or even every week.  But, you can take risks on enough of a regular basis to see great rewards.  And, when you don't see a reward, and  instead get a big fat rejection, you can also gain insight and knowledge.  Gaining insight and knowledge, even if it is a negative like, "Wow, I really hate doing xyz...", is worth it, because at least now you know!

My challenge to you - whether you do it now or later - is to do something you only dream about.  Take a risk, give it a try, naysayers be damned.  You won't know until you get out there and do something...  It could be as small as trying a food you've always been a bit afraid to taste.  It could be as huge as selling everything and moving to another continent. 

I wouldn't be as happy as I am if I hadn't taken some risks in the last ten years.  The first was FIGHTING to finish my undergraduate degree.  Once I decided to actually stop goofing around, and decided to get that degree, I went for it and fought tooth and nail to attend classes, do well, and graduate!  Those last three semesters often felt impossible, but I struggled through, received A's in the last three classes, and got my degree!  Next came leaving an abusive relationship despite dread that to leave might be worse than to stay (where would I live? how would we pay the bills? who would I lean on during tough times?).  My abuser made those last three terms of school exceptionally hard (taking the car and canceling babysitters so I couldn't go to class were only two of many things he did to stop me from going to school).  Then, I worked my way into a job in the Emergency Department of a major hospital even though I knew it would be a hard job with crazy hours (I worked night shift for several years).  That job was exhausting but incredibly gratifying.  

Eventually, I wanted more, so I applied to graduate school and was accepted by two different programs.  One would have been fairly easy, and I could have stayed in my job and could have continued living with family...but would it have been satisfying?  The other was at a school with an amazing reputation, but 3,000 miles away from everything my son and I knew.  I applied to the second school on a whim, assuming I would never get in. It would require moving, leaving behind friends and family and belongings, and there was no guarantee that my son or I would like the school or the city or anything else.  We knew no one in the area except for one cousin that I hadn't seen regularly since childhood.  The cost of living would be higher and there was no guarantee of a job once we got there...and, I got in!

Guess which path I chose?

There were plenty of people saying I was nuts to follow path #2 into the great land of unknowns.  "It will be too hard."  "You'll be broke all the time."  "How will you make friends?"  


What if I fail?  SO WHAT?  To fail means to learn.  To fail means to grow.  To fail means to be human, and to be engaging life instead of letting life roll over you or around you.  TO FAIL MEANS TO LIVE LIFE ON YOUR TERMS.  TO FAIL MEANS YOU TRIED. But guess what?  While we've had some hard times - some much harder than I ever imagined - we've also had some incredibly amazing times!  We've seen places, and met people we would never have experienced had I not taken a risk.  We've found out that we love some things and hate others when we expected the opposite to be true.  We've found that people are mostly the same everywhere you go - I swear to you that New Yorkers aren't big, bad, scary people!

By taking risks, and being willing to accept failure as an opportunity to learn about myself and the world around me, I've opened up the world to myself.  YOU HOLD THE KEY TO YOUR OWN PATH.  YOU CREATE YOUR OWN HAPPINESS THROUGH YOUR OWN ACTIONS AND ATTITUDES.  

So, what are you going to do that scares the crap out of you?

Now, I'm on the path to looking for a post-graduation job.  I thought about looking for jobs exclusively where we now live, or exclusively back "home" where my parents live.  Eh, those would be great, but why not look further afield?  Why not look EVERYWHERE?  It is cliche, but why not SHOOT FOR THE STARS?   You don't know what you can achieve if you don't try.

I spent years as a miserable, scared person.  I was terrified of failure.  Terrified of even the slightest chance of not being perfect.  And as a result, I did nothing...ever...until one day, I'd had enough, and decided to try something new.

So, what are you going to do that scares the crap out of you? 

I'm leaving you with this...I found it floating around on Facebook.  If you know the original source, please let me know so I can give proper credit:


  1. What an inspiring post! And I love your story.

    The last big risk I took was moving to the countryside with my 40 day-old baby as a single mom, and it was well worth it.

    Now, my big scary challenge is reading The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. It's been 20 years of a pack a day. It scares the crap out of me to think of quitting, but I've started. I might fail, but at least I'm trying, and it feels good.

    Happy New Year Malea!

  2. Gabriela, that is HUGE! I know it must be a difficult challenge, but it will be so worth it in the end!

  3. great post Malea! It really felt like a kick in the pants for me. I fell into a bit of a rut this past week worrying about various things. I don't even have an answer to your question, which means that I need to put some thought into it. Your story is really inspiring---what amazing things you have accomplished! Good luck with finding a phenomenal job! I know you will!

  4. I agree with you! The best things in my life were gained because I threw caution to the wind and took risks.


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