Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's okay to be afraid. It's okay to fail.

Something I've struggled with for most of my life is fear of failure.  By the time I got into high school, I never wanted to try anything I thought I wouldn't be a star at.  I liked playing basketball in middle school.  But when high school rolled around, I joined the cross country team.  I knew I could earn a varsity letter as a freshman running, but I would only be on junior varsity in basketball.  So I ran mile after mile for two years until a knee injury benched me.  I auditioned for the school plays and got the role of the lead's confidante, but never went after the big role because I didn't want to face someone else beating me.  When I got to college, I never even auditioned for a role (even though I secretly wanted to) because I knew I could rule the roost in the costume department.  And in true form, I got the paid position of the costume shop supervisor as a junior.  As the years passed, I would try new things but only things that couldn't reject me---quilting, stained glass, skydiving.  I could die skydiving, but the ground sure as hell couldn't tell me I wasn't good enough if I hit it. 

In my childhood drawings, I was always a doctor or an artist.  300 level biology lab showed me the exit door from the pre-med program and just plain old fear of rejection prevented me from ever considering my creative pursuits could be on the same caliber with anyone else.  After abandoning biology/pre-med and theater as majors, I settled on marketing.  Marketing suited me.  It was creative and I could excel among my classmates.  I knew I could find a well paying job.  After college, I went to work for the sales division of an automotive company.  
Even though the social aspect of a sales job had suited my extrovert personality well, the high anxiety associated with meeting monthly sales objectives and the fierce competition that took place in the office took a toll on me.  After describing the work environment to a friend once, she exclaimed, "Holy cow!  You work in the Boiler Room.  Just like the movie!"  I left that job when I had Red.  I have zero regrets about leaving that job...except maybe those times when I have lunch with an old co-worker, they tell me about their latest promotion, and I think "That could have been me!"

The Cobbler and I had a discussion last night about our aspirations and where we want to see ourselves in 10 years.  It was the first serious conversation about life goals (aside from money and retirement) we've had in a long time.  All of this was triggered around the promotion of one of his co-workers.  It isn't that he thought his co-worker was undeserving of the new job, but he was upset he wasn't considered for it.  His first thought was what's the matter with me?  

But did he want that job? For a lot of years, the answer has been no.  He told me he didn't want the extra pressure and responsibility of a management position.  The extra hours that her perceived he'd have to work were unappealing at best.  I think he's starting to realize that he's grown, he's capable, he can do it, he's ready for it, but like me he's been afraid.

I want to have a pursuit other than being a stay at home parent, but I want to be available to my husband and my children.  I want to be there to pick my kids up from school, make dinner for them, and drive them to dance and karate.  Tom Thumb will enter kindergarten in the fall.  What do I want to do with my life next?  Well, I won't be strong arming any old men in suits into buying more pick up trucks.  That's for sure.

So after the Cobbler and I decided that we'd save for a trip to Hawaii that we'll take somewhere between 2015 and 2017, we held each other hands, we looked into each others' eyes, and said, "I'm not going to be afraid anymore."  I feel ready.  It's about time.


The Reader said...

This is a timely post. I've been avoiding a really small thing that really disproportionately terrifies me. -gulp-

I need to just get over it, not be afraid, and do it. Thanks for posting so honestly on this.

Sock Monkey Mommy said...

Boy, we are both going through our issues as the past creeps up and envelops our day lives. I am so proud of you (and the cobbler too). Admitting it is first step. Love this post.

Jenny said...

It's so hard to be a stay-at-home-mom! I feel guilty about not working. But if I was working, I'd probably feel guilty about not staying at home... Ugh!