It's been almost a year since I said "yes" to the biggest, scariest thing I've ever chosen to do. I graduated from college, packed my life into a couple of suitcases, raised a few thousand dollars, and moved across the world to serve with a non-profit for a year. This is what I wrote in my journal eight months ago:
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It's a beautiful thing, really, to be in this place. This willingness to strip my life of safety and security and trade it for faith. Trade it for the opportunity to walk alongside others through the darkness, though I lack answers and am ill-equipped. I think oftentimes we are afraid to go because we look at ourselves in the mirror and are overcome with a fear that we don't have what it takes. There are so many reasons why it makes more sense to play it safe. We need more training, more time, more energy. We are waiting. We are stagnant. We are stuck, stifled by a lack of confidence...by the voices in our heads that tell us that we should stay. That safety matters more than following our dreams and desires. That someone else could do the job much better than we could.
I have found that the expectations put on us by the world form a certain dichotomy that becomes difficult to traverse when you're in the season of life that I'm in. As a child, I was told that I could be and do anything I wanted when I grew up. Cliches such as, "chase your dreams" and "follow your heart" were drilled into my head until they found a home deep in my soul, and now that I'm ready to do just that, the chorus of people who used to tell me to chase my dreams are telling me to stay here where its safe. Here in this city whose street names I know and whose people are familiar and where I am known. Here on this coast where people think like me and love the same mountains and ocean I do. Where the risk of failure is limited to a ten mile radius. Where fall-back plans exist and plan B and C and D.
I took a personality test today called the Enneagram and it categorized me as a "Reformer." Reformers are known as those who "have deep convictions about right and wrong, what is just and unjust. They are often dedicated to reform and social causes since they feel personally obligated to improve the world and leave it a better place. They put themselves on the line for their values and ethical convictions—if it means risking their jobs, their fortunes, or even their lives. [They] are convinced that there are indeed some truths—some values—that are worth both living and dying for."
I told a friend of mine the other day that, for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm really starting to "fit" into the person I was made to be. I'm really starting to like who I am...not because I think I've "made it" or believe that I don't have any more room to grow. I am still learning. I fail daily, but I'm not at war with my personality. I've been told by plenty of people that I am naive for thinking the way I do, but I like that I want to make the world a better place and I believe that in time, I will (though it might require a less-than-graceful dance of a few steps forward and a few steps back). Frankly, I think it's naive if a person doesn't believe they have the ability to make a difference in this world.
My friend told me something the other day that stuck with me. "We are undoubtedly going to make mistakes," he said, "but we are undoubtedly moving in a beautiful direction."
I think when we find something that we love and we believe in, we owe it to the world to cling tight and press in. I think our purpose is to run full sprint toward whatever we are inherently passionate about- no matter how big or impossible it may seem. We owe it to the world to dedicate our time and energy and heart to our dreams and make them realities, no matter the cost. And when fear creeps in in the form of self-doubt or jealousy, we owe it to ourselves to push back. Failure is probable and mistakes are inevitable, but they are nothing to fear.
A coworker of mine asked me the other day, "What would be more terrifying than moving to Thailand for a year?"
"Not," I responded.
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I'm five months into my time here in Thailand now and it hasn't been easy. The truth is that on most days I feel like a failure at my job. I am unqualified to do what really needs to be done and I daily doubt whether I'm making any kind of impact on my co-workers, let alone on the world.
I could use more training, more time, more energy...but I know that if I would have waited to have "enough" of those things, I would have never gotten here because that's how fear works. Fear tells us we can't. Fear tells us we shouldn't. Fear tells us we're small and insignificant and we don't make a difference in this big world.
Fear is a liar.
There will always be a reason to stay home, play it safe, and put off doing what we've been created to do, but we've been given voices for a reason. We get to tell fear to shove it and run forward, clumsy and awkward as we might be.
We'll stumble and fall some days, but messing up in the midst of passion and courage and determination is not failure, it is the recipe for boldly living out our purpose- for doing what we have been created to do.
Macklemore has this line in one of his songs that I really love. "Don't try to change the world," he says, "Find something that you love and do it every day. Do that for the rest of your life, and eventually the world will change."
I look back at what I wrote in my journal all those months ago and I can't help but echo the same sentiments now...
It's a beautiful thing, really, to be in this place. This willingness to strip life of safety and security and trade it for faith in the hopes of making a difference.
We will undoubtedly make mistakes. We are undoubtedly going in a beautiful direction.