A few years back when I was going through a very difficult time, some people in my life were questioning my resolve. My intelligence. My ability to figure things out and handle life on my own. And they said as much. It was like a punch in the gut. I vividly remember tears burning my eyes out of anger and shame and defense.
Their words weren’t true. At least I was pretty sure they weren’t. Were they? Either way, they flipped a switch inside me and traveled down my spine like an electrical current and this was the truth they ignited:
No one is coming to save you and you do not need saving.
You are the hero of this story.
This life of yours is 100% your responsibility.
You already have everything you need to make it happen.
But even with all of that smoldering inside me, the ugly words had woven themselves into the tiresome questions my mind played back on repeat.
What if I can’t do this? What if I’m not strong enough or smart enough? What if it’s too hard? What if I fail? What if I can’t make it?
And I kept coming up with one answer: There’s only one way to find out.
I know a few strugglers right now. People in my life who are really facing some tough times. They’re at a crossroads. A fork in the road. Their futures are hanging in the balance, if you will. And quite honestly, things could go either way. And this is what I want to tell them:
Dig f*cking deep. Deeper than you’ve ever dug before. Claw your way through this rough patch so that the dirt from this life– the disappointments, the heartache, the regret– the weaknesses that so easily beset you– so that it all becomes history beneath your filthy, torn nails. Find the f*cking grit and unquenchable spirit that’s inside you and figure it out. Do the things that scare you. Whatever the hell they are. DO them: But you’ve got to move forward in this life. And you’re the only one who can make it happen.
And the funny part is, the “things that scare you” part for me? You’d think it was something, you know, actually scary. But it wasn’t. It was only doing things I’d never done before.
Actually, it was doing lots of things I’d never done before. But nothing truly frightening.
If I’m being honest with you, it was about transitioning from a kept woman to keeping myself.
It was about getting shit done and working hard and feeling the burn of achievement and accomplishment and independence. And nothing has ever felt better.
A lot of the struggles and problems we face around here are very white-bread suburban issues– but sometimes the mental and emotional resistance we’re up against may as well be slavery. We feel powerless (even though we’re not). We feel incompetent (even though we’re not). We feel worthless (even though we’re not). We feel stuck (even though we’re not).
The battle I was facing was not really against a person. It was more against myself.
Growing up, I wasn’t really raised to think this way. Understand me: I wasn’t raised to NOT think this way– but none of this bravado was really part of my Modus Operandi. I was always just letting life happen to me and then figuring out how to navigate whatever had happened.
Elizabeth Gilbert recently said, “Bad things happen to women who wait for good things to happen”
Man. You can’t just sit around waiting for the Life Fairy to gift you one. You gotta get after it yourself. And it doesn’t have to be amazing to anyone else, as long as it is to you.
Debbie Harry photographed by Richard Creamer, Los Angeles, 1977.
I started to believe all the audacious quotes I was reading everywhere. Believing that if they were true for other women, other people finding their way, they were true for me, too.
Find something that speaks to your very soul every time you read it, reminding you how you want your life to feel. Actively search it out and discover it for yourself. Whatever it is. Grab hold of it. Every quote, every song lyric, every crumb of inspiration you can suck the life from. Hang them where you can see them all the time. Repeat them like a mantra. Repeat them until you start to smile at them the way you would a lover across the room. Repeat them until you read them and your very first thought is, ‘Huh. Sounds like me.’ The bravery. The bravado. The badassery.
Donald Miller said, “The best stories have their protagonist wondering if they’re going to make it.”
And I’ve decided I am.