Celebrating Fears Faced

When I was in high school, I was accepted as a Rotary exchange student and was invited to go to Belgium for the year. I let the fears of others rule my decision and I stayed home.

That is one of my biggest regrets in life.

As I matured, I began to realize that letting fear stop you from taking chances means giving up on a lot of dreams and on living. I tried, when faced with fear, to push through it and face the fears. I wasn’t always successful, but I grew stronger and more courageous with each attempt, or so I thought.

Yet, something shifted again after I became a mother. Suddenly fear has control over me again, and more often than not I give into those fears. Fear of trying to publish. Fear of making friends. Fear of taking chances. I think this new hold FEAR has on me has something to do with the fact that my life is not my own–my decisions affect Nathan and Sarah. I can’t just pick up, take off, and take chances.

Yet, as I approach this birthday (Eek! The actual day is tomorrow) I find myself yearning to become the person who does not let fear stop her anymore. After I graduated from college and was on the job hung (following a one year internship at a theatre) I had two interesting options on the table:

  1. The more practical option of working for a Canada based Arts Administration Organization that sent people throughout North America to help arts organizations with reorganization and planning. This would have probably led to a solid career in Arts Administration and or Arts Advocacy (one thing I would still love to do ) and–more often than not in recent years ;)–I’ve thought being Canadian wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
  2. A job teaching at an English conversation school in Okayama, Japan.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time (or even just the first of the celebratory posts), you know where I ended up.

In Japan in my early 20s.

Yet, the decision to go to Japan was not an easy one. It was a fear-filled one. It took some words of wisdom from one of the actors at the theatre company I was working out to help me make a choice. He said,

“There are no wrong decisions. There are choices that can go badly, but they always lead to the next decision.”

I tried to make those the guiding words of my life. This doesn’t mean we never make mistakes, but if we face those mistakes head on–despite our fears–we will make it through to new opportunities, new decisions, and new moments to face our fears.

So today I celebrate the moments in my life when I faced my fears and moved through them. Among those moments, I celebrate the day I got on a plane, headed for a country I’d never been to a job I never thought of, and cried my way from Boston to California before sitting in sleepless fear from California to Japan.

I hope someday to be that courageous again.

Making Choices without Sorrow

Making decisions

When I was a year out of college I faced a decision that would change my life forever.

I had worked the previous year as a lowly intern for a regional theater company in Massachusetts, doing electrics and stage management. While I learned a lot during that year, and loved the fact that I was actually doing theater, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I always wanted to direct (if I couldn’t be a famous actress, of course). I was burnt out after long hours on $40 a week plus housing, schlepping lighting instruments up and down ladders or comforting divas before they made their grand entrance.

So, when the time came to look for my next move in life (the internship was only for 9 months) I decided to pursue options from my other major–English. I was originally an English major, and only really got a double major by default because I ended up taking so many theater classes anyway. So, I applied for jobs where my language skills might be more valuable.

I remember stumbling uncomfortably toward an interview in New York City with a Public Relations, wearing heels I should never have worn. Sweat dripping into my first official suit, that I contrasted with a bright floral shirt to show my personality. I’d written my way through the first  hoops to get that interview, creating a fake publicity campaign for some product that they had assigned me. I knew I had the writing chops to do the job, but did I have what it takes to make it in the Big Apple? Or did I even really want to? Well, I didn’t get the job, so I guess that question was moot.

Ultimately, I was offered two jobs–both of them out of the country. The first was with an Arts Management company based in Toronto that went around to Arts Organizations throughout North America for three months at a time to help them reorganize their publicity and promotions to make them stronger companies. That job would have put me on a career path, that would still be helping me today. The second job offer was to teach English Conversation at a small, private, English language school in Okayama, Japan.

Well, anyone who has been reading my blog knows which job I took, but the decision was not an easy one. The job in Canada meant safety, security, and the potential for future earnings. You can translate that to safety. The second choice was a leap into the unknown, and I had no idea where it would lead.

By coincidence, the theater company where I worked had ties to Japan. They had a working relationship with Suzuki Ono, who had come to train the performers in his specific style of acting, and had invited many of them to train in Japan over the summer. I spoke to some of them, looking for advice. Several said, “Well, we’ll be there. Maybe you could come see us.” I naively believed that Japan was small enough for me to do that without planning ahead.

But one person said something that has stuck with me ever since, “You can never make a bad decision, Lisa. You simply make choices. And although you may make a choice that makes you unhappy for a while, that choice leads to other choices.”

I thought long and hard about that, and then I called the Canadian company. “I don’t know what to do,” I said, and I explained my dilemma. The response, “You need to go to Japan, this is the chance of a lifetime. If you are still interested in working with us when you get back, give us a call.”

So I eventually found myself on a plane heading west, tears pouring down my face as I flew over the continental United States (I’m still unsure why it was better to go west in order to get to the Far East, I guess that’s why I am not a pilot) heading to adventures I couldn’t imagine, and to new decisions that would eventually lead to other places and situations. I still don’t know where all this is heading.

Do I ever regret not taking the safer choice? Honestly, sometimes I do. Now, as my interests have shifted somewhat, I would love to have proof of the skill set I would have gained in the Arts Administration job. I mean, I have done everything that is required to get that kind of position, but never had the title or the official job to prove it. Also, given the way this country is heading lately, I would love to already have an excuse to be living and working in Canada. I may end up there yet, depending on how the next Presidential election goes. 😉 I don’t know where I would have ended up if I had made that choice, but I can’t live my life thinking “what if?” because that way likes insanity.

So my answer to the Daily Post question “When is it better to be sorry than safe?” is almost always. You can be sorry, and then you make a new choice that will lead you to joy. But if you always play it safe, then you may never reach your potential. Of course, there is potential for sorrow in any choice you make, so I guess the main thing is –keep making choices.

It All Comes Down to Sex

A scarlet letter

Image by Monceau via Flickr

After reading this article Firing Melissa Petro Would Be Indefensible and Intolerable I’ve come to realize that the biggest problem in American society all comes down to sex.

Okay, maybe religion and money play a role too.

But seriously, from my perspective and from the blogs I follow sex holds sway over so much of our society’s twisted attitude toward . . . well . . . everything.

Think about it:

  • Melissa Petro may lose her job and never be able to teach again based on the fact that she was honest about selling sex and stripping in the past. I, for one, would love to have her teaching my daughter. I value innovative, creative, honest teachers. I would rather have her in the classroom than a teacher that hides behind puritanical values that do not allow for the students to learn anything about real life. Should we go back to the days of Schoolmarms of yesteryear, who only taught until they married and took on the role of wife? Or maybe all school teachers who have actually had sex or done something not quite proper in their past should be labelled with a scarlet letter so that students and parents could beware. The school halls would certainly be colorful then.
  • Political races are often won or lost based on the abortion issue. Now remind me, where do babies come from?
  • Rules governing how we raised our children are often based on irrational fears of the predators in our midst. This suggests that as a society we are all warped and twisted people who can never control our sexual urges or any other evil acts. For great insight into this trend check another of my favorite WordPress sites http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/
  • Don’t forget the constant political, social and religious debates about Gay Marriage or DADT. Another issue that is really based on who gets to have sex with whom, and who has the legal right to have sex. (I am not diminishing the complexity of either issue. I know there is more at issue than sex).
  • People may argue that money and power are the real issues, but let’s look at it this way. Many of the people who have more money and/or power in this country, also have more scandal/divorces and . . . let’s say it . . . issues with SEX.

So folks, I’ll say it again. It all comes down to SEX.

What do you think?

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