Dreams and Fears

I sit here 12 days after anticipated reflecting on the year gone by and working through my goals for the following year. Every year for the past 10 years or so, I’ve reflected back on my list of life goals, updating where I’ve made progress, crossing the goals I’ve gradually left behind, and adding new interests and aspirations.

The last year and a half, however, have been so dramatically different from the life I knew. I had become comfortable in the worst way possible, and I suppose God decided to shake me.

It’s a good thing, too.

In the beginning, I wasn’t just shaken; I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea where I was going. I knew where I wanted to be vaguely, but I certainly had no idea how to get there. I guess you could say I was momentarily paralyzed, because I never expected to lose a job. But once I got past the paralysis, I realized I finally had absolutely no reason to not pursue my dreams. The most unlikely of characters, Conan O’Brien, reaffirmed this for me somewhere mid-2011 when he gave his inspirational commencement address at Dartmouth. What a speech; it rocked my world.

Looking back, it’s hard to tell where things went wrong. It all sort of runs together, but I do know there was a time when I felt called to teach, and there was another time where I definitely developed a nagging sense of discontent–the sort of thing one feels when everything around her seems out of place and maybe even a little disorienting. There’s something comforting about security and the familiar–something so safe, that I once considered it unwise to venture out on my own. I think that, ultimately, is why I stayed put for so many years, seeking as many new experiences and responsibilities as possible within my little haven. I knew I didn’t belong there anymore, but something made me stay. Looking back now, I know what that thing was; it was fear.  All that time I thought it was wisdom; but it most definitely was fear.

This evening I read an article over at RELEVANT Magazine called “Lessons From Leaving A Desk Job,” and that’s when it hit me. I don’t know why I’ve never noticed the connection before, but there it was plain as day, “Our dreams are tied to our fears.”

Of course!

So obvious. So plain. So clear. Why did I not understand this before? At least not so simply put as that. Our dreams are tied to our fears. And so for someone who comes dangerously close to making an idol of success (a battle, indeed), it’s only natural that the potential of failure may be too great a fear to face. At least until one begins to see experience (failures and all) as the stepping stones to true success. Nobody gets where they want to be by doing everything perfectly. The more I read about leaders and entrepreneurs and other success stories, the more this becomes painfully obvious to me. Success sometimes takes affliction, suffering, hard work, tears, and, occasionally, a whole lot of failure.

God knew better what I needed than I did, and it’s a good thing. I needed a jolt. I needed to experience failure, and I needed to have the security pulled out from under me in order to figure out who I really was and what I really wanted out of life. I needed to realize who I don’t want to be, and I needed to seriously evaluate what I care about most in the core of my being. I needed to discover my passions. I needed to seek real wisdom. And then I needed to figure out how to do what I love every single day of my life, so that I can live joyfully, serving people in the very best way I know how. But most importantly, I needed to learn to trust Christ instead of myself, and I needed to learn to let my thankfulness find its way from my brain to my hands and out my fingertips into the world.

And you know what I discovered? I discovered that I was nothing like I thought I was, and my interests, dreams, and goals were things I had been carrying around for a decade. I discovered that I was not happy; I was simply, terribly, overwhelmingly comfortable. I was slowly fading, and I know so perfectly now that it was God who saved me. He’s in the business of saving me.

Like Conan, I can honestly say this past year has been one of the most exciting, fulfilling, successful years of my life. I’ve been pushed outside of all kind of comfort zones, I’ve done things I never dreamed I’d do, I’ve gained experiences and successes beyond what I could have even imagined. I’ve met some of the most amazing people, I’ve traveled, I’ve developed a sort of confidence I didn’t even know I was lacking, and I am so excited about what’s to come.

And so here I sit, ready to really peer into my soul and uncover my fears. That, in and of itself, is a bit scary, but it’s a necessary part of self-improvement. One of my favorite quotes is from the sinfully nihilistic word ninja, Chuck Palahniuk, who said, “Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.” And so I plan to do some occupying. It’s all the rage.

I’m gonna find my fears, I’m gonna kick their ass, and I’m gonna work hard to be the very best version of me. Here’s to 2012. May it be a year of brilliant, joyful, intentional, thankful living.

Beka Johnson
Beka Johnson

Beka is the Director of Inbound Marketing for a fintech company in the Seattle area. She loves dabbling, reading, scheming, writing, and dreaming up ways to make good things better. When she’s not working, you can find her digging up all sorts of adventures in her new city.

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