"...You know the mistrust of heights is the mistrust of self, you don't know whether you're going to jump." - Janet Fitch, White Oleander
Everyone I know is afraid of failing at something.
Career. Family life. Owning a home.
Maybe your dream is to start your own business. Maybe you want to see and experience the world.
My two biggest dreams are to travel and to write. Though it's no walk in the park, I've put a lot of time and energy into making my travel dreams come true. The writing thing, though? It's a little different.
If I fail at travelling, it's a private thing. Like the time I spent a few days in Siemp Reap, sad, hungry, and alone, because none of my cards worked at the ATMs. Down to $12 in cash, I had a pretty awful stomach thing, and wanted nothing more than to leave the town behind. But with no money to get on a bus, and no cash to pay the, "cash-only" hotel, I found myself in a...er, situation. A stray kitten I'd been feeding, whom I'd made friends with in happier times, meowed at my feet, while I sat despairingly sipping a $1 coffee, trying to stave off my only meal of the day. I picked her up and sat her in my lap. "I know, sweetheart. I'm hungry, too." When I finally ordered food, a $4 hamburger with fries, I shared the patty with her. She devoured her meal, while I ate slowly, sipping water between each bite. I was still kind of hungry at the end, but I wasn't sure how long I'd be stuck there, so I guzzled some more water, while she crawled onto my lap, purring.
That morning over Skype, using touch-and-go WiFi, I'd spent hours on the phone with the Canadian banks, who assured me the problem wasn't on their end. I trekked a few kilometres on foot to pay a visit to the Cambodian banks, who assured me the problem wasn't on their end, either. "What am I supposed to do?" I asked the man from TD on the phone. He said the same thing as the woman from Scotiabank: "Maybe you're entering the wrong pin." Yeah, that must be it. Thanks for the amazing advice. I remember checking my balance online, stomach grumbling, despondent over the fact that I had money -- plenty of it -- and no access. Finally, thanks to a choppy conversation with Jonno in Japan, we discovered that Cambodia is one of the few countries you can actually wire yourself money. Huzzuh! A way out! A few more days waiting for business hours to line up all my ducks, and I'd be home-free.
It wasn't the only time I ran into trouble on my travel adventures. I got horribly lost in Paris, in the pouring rain, and ended up in the ghetto. I found myself on the highway in Bangkok on a bicycle, an inexperienced cyclist, cars and trucks F-L-Y-I-N-G by. In Kampot, I was chased by a pack of stray dogs on the way to the train, carrying a 14 kg backpack, armed with a stick I picked up off the side of the road (wondering if I was safer without said chew-toy in hand), walking at a sl-o-o-w, backwards pace for 2-3 km until they eventually backed off.
So, yeah, there have been a few failures. But each was followed by some sort of success. And more often than not, I've learned from those mistakes. Failing that, I've at least learned to have faith in myself and my resilience. Yay!
So, the million dollar question I'm scratching my head over: why hasn't this translated into writing?
Full disclosure: I've been working on this website for months without launching it. It's not like I've done anything extraordinary to improve it since August --so why the holdup? What am I waiting for?
Duh, I'm afraid of the same thing everyone else is afraid of...FAILURE. All caps.
I'm afraid of not being good enough. Afraid of people thinking, "Who does she think she is?" Worse. I'm afraid because I look at myself and think, "Who do you think you are?"
It's funny, when it comes to travel, I don't wait for perfection. I don't wait to have a year's worth of income saved, and I don't plan every meticulous detail. I just go. Sure, you try to anticipate some things and do your best to be prepared, but mostly you deal with problems as they arise. Why can't that attitude bleed into other parts of my life?
To be honest, I can't say that I'm fearless when it comes to travelling, either. The first time I was alone at an airport, about to leave for 30 days in Europe, I totally freaked out, and I did it anyway. The flight was paid for, what else should I have done, gone home? And on that journey I failed, and survived. And the next adventure was more challenging. And I failed, a lot, and survived again. And the truth is that we don't act without fear, we act in spite of it.
Cheers to our fears. May they never hold us back from our dreams again.