The naked, bald truth is, I am struggling to write this piece.
Even after a solid 10 years of writing online, the prospect of putting myself out there threatens to shut my words down. There are so many what ifs: what if someone reads it and gets upset? What if I can’t say exactly what I want to say? What if I say something and then decide I don’t agree with it anymore?
They’re all there, swirling around in the back of my brain, making it hard for the coherent thoughts and words to come through. And then there are the doubts that swirl up to the top, that break through my concentration even when I am focused on something else.
What if no one reads it? What if my words don’t matter? What if I’m just adding to the noise, what if no one cares, what if my words don’t make any difference for anyone at all? And who am I to try to say something, anyway? It’s all been said, probably better than I ever could.
In the past, I’ve let all of that shut me down. A year and a half ago, I deleted a whole website, a whole blog, and most of my online presence, because it seemed like so much chasing after wind. I didn’t want to try and keep my sputtering little flame going.
And yet, after that and then some time to reflect, I’m back. Different, stronger, with some massive changes in focus, but I’m back.
I’m back, and possibility is the reason why.
All my life, I’ve wanted sure things. I’ve wanted to know that X amount of work equals Y amount of success, whether success is good grades, helping people, making money, or whatever. I’ve wanted the formula that would guarantee results. I’ve wanted to know that my work mattered, that doing X, Y, and Z would make it matter and that I’d be able to see that and to hear it. I’ve been a bet hedger, the one who never invested my money or my time or myself unless I felt like a positive outcome was all but guaranteed.
Possibility has changed all of that for me.
Searching for certainty was a terrifying place to be, because I knew that I live in a world where nothing is certain, and wanting something when I knew that reality contradicted my desire created all sorts of fear and anxiety. Knowing that my heart longed for something that could never, ever happen in the real world meant that my whole life was fear and disappointment:
Fear because I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always waiting for that moment when my formula stopped working, when my sure thing because so much less sure. I knew it would happen, it was always just a matter of time, and,
Disappointment because those things did happen, because I’d write an amazing article and no one would read it, or someone would decide that I didn’t have the authority to say what I was saying, or because I’d study for a test and still fail.
When I quit my blog and removed myself from online life, I couldn’t see my own role in all of this. It felt like it just wasn’t meant to be, like finding an audience and helping people wasn’t something that was going to happen for me. I figured that God and the universe must be telling me that I was meant for a different kind of life, for a small life, a life without influence. An unheard life.
I’m not gonna lie, that felt better for a while. It’s easier, in some ways, not to put yourself out there. It’s easier to stop risking, to pull in and protect yourself, and I’d even go as far as to say that that was what I needed, for a while anyway. I needed to heal, and to think, and to figure out what I really wanted.
The problem was, what I wanted was really close to the life I’d pulled back from, the life I’d been working towards when I decided I needed to go away. I wasn’t, as far as I could tell, chasing the wrong things or going after things that weren’t for me. The things I wanted and the person I wanted to be while doing them hadn’t changed.
So I had to change how I went about it.
I wish I could give you a profound conversation or a single moment where something changed, but I don’t know who first asked me about possibility or when the word first came to mind. The truth is, it was a quiet change, and one that I didn’t even notice myself until it had set in some deep roots.
It’s as simple as this: in the process of thinking through where I wanted to go and how to get there, I found myself thinking a lot about what might happen. The conversations in my head began to circle back to the possibility that I had something to offer, I was the right person to offer it, and that my offerings would make someone’s life better. My self-talk even changed:
- “It might be a flop, or I might really be able to help someone.”
- “I don’t know if anyone will want my help, but it’s definitely possible.”
- “I may never have a paying customer, but it’s possible that people will line up in droves for what I have.”
When I stopped for a couple of consecutive seconds and listened to what I was saying, I began making possibility into a deliberate practice.
In the moments where I doubted myself, when I felt like an imposter, when I wondered, again, if I had anything to offer and whether the life I want could ever really be mine, I began to ask, “But is it possible?”
And then I made myself slow down and actually answer the question. The great thing is, the answer is nearly always, “Yes.” Even the most unlikely things are possible, thought they aren’t likely or probable. But the truth is that I don’t usually know HOW possible something is, I just know that there’s a possibility I will succeed.
Well, there’s a possibility as long as I’m working. There’s no possibility when I’m not working, when I’m paralyzed with fear, when I’m letting self-doubt dictate when I DON’T do, rather than working for what I want and what I believe I was made to do.
So asking myself about possibility and answering that question honestly helps me move forward with my work. It helps me work in spite of the doubts and the questions that used to make me freeze, mid-step, and turn around and go back.
I love the honesty of possibility, the fact that it looks at reality and acknowledges that we have no real idea about what is going to happen. But it looks at that with hope. It says, “You’ll never know until you try,” and then challenges me with whether or not I’m willing to try, whether I want to try, whether I have any real belief that the things I dream about belong in the real world.
It’s not that I no longer want certainty, because I do. I’d love to have it. But I live in a world where possibility is often the best I can do, the best guarantee I have. And that possibility is worth working for.
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