I’ve lived most of my life as a cynic, although I never would have admitted it.
I preferred to call myself a realist, which allowed me to rain on everyone’s parade with the justification that I was being logical and wise. It’s a really easy way to live actually, since it excused me from ever having to try anything that might fail – if there’s a chance it won’t work, a chance I might get hurt, a chance my weakness may be exposed, then it’s wiser just not to try. It felt safe.
But then people, real people that I know in my life, began to do some pretty amazing things and I started to see that maybe reality is what you make it. My friend Liz started a company in Uganda that helps women afford an education. My friend Brooke started a non-profit that’s working to transform a community. My friend Lauren moved her family from Johnson County to KCK to care for a refugee population. My friend Mallory adopted a 12-year-old out of the foster care system. My friend Christina left her day job to work full time on a start up that gets clean water to people all over the world.
I know what they’re doing isn’t easy. And that they’ve had “realists” tell them it wouldn’t work: it’s not enough, nothing will change. And I know each of them would say they’ve made mistakes, had failures, and had to reevaluate their approach. But I also know them well enough to say they believe it’s worth it. Their cause. Their calling. They pursue it with their whole being. What it looks like to anyone else is irrelevant.
I’ve also learned enough to know that blind leaping is not wise, and that good intentions are not enough. Living life outside of a simple predetermined course takes bravery, but also thought and planning. It requires a willingness to learn valuable lessons from mistakes, but not allow those mistakes to induce timidity. Deciding to blaze your own trail in life, to determine what’s important and then live accordingly, regardless of the opinions of others, is not for the faint of heart.
At some point as children we begin to look to the reactions of strangers instead of the voice within to determine our steps. Our desire for the approval of our peers strangely outweighs the desires of our own hearts. As adults we value the illusion of security that the familiar gives and we use that security as an excuse not to pursue our true passions. We may even tell ourselves that we have no choice. We have responsibilities, right?
I love taking time around the New Year to think about what’s inspired me in the past year and decide what I’m going to do about it in the next. Finding inspiration in people I know has been easy. Our team at Milagro has been enjoying the book The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield and the challenges it gives to overcome the voice of doubt in our own heads.
Smitty and I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last week and even that gave me a new perspective on a lot of things, from realizing that other people see us differently than we see ourselves to reminding me to enjoy the extraordinary moments (and resist the urge to share ALL of them with social media land).
In 2014, I plan to begin “un-knowing” a lot of things. It is my tendency to over think, over plan, and assume that I know how things should go. I want to make a conscious effort every morning to be open to the unknown, to seek out the unfamiliar, to be made uncomfortable, and to see everyone I meet as a new person on a new day, letting go of my preconceived notions.
Happy New Year, Milagro community. Here’s to a 2014 that offers inspiration, challenge, and a whole lot of fun!