The Fear of Starting
The Fear of Starting
By Caitlin Rodgers
I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way we elected journals as the go-to gift for women everywhere. Think about it: Have a birthday? Here’s a journal! Graduated from college? I want you to have this journal. Merry Christmas? Oh, good! Here’s a journal. Really, journals are right up there with candles and coasters, together forming a trifecta of safe, pre-approved gifts for women everywhere on any occasion.
It’s thanks to this unwritten rule, (seriously, was there a secret ballot vote I missed?) that I’ve amassed a full on plethora of journals over the years: some have dreamy quotes scrawled across the front cover, others wink at me with their gold-lined pages and still others are straight-up literary with their leather binding and ribbon bookmark - and for a long time, they all lived in the corner of my bedroom … completely blank.
What is it that you’re afraid to try?
You see, they’re all lovely in their own way which was my problem. Not a single spine was cracked or a page written on because it felt wrong to disturb their perfect state of new. Over in their pile they were safe from being anything but pristine, and I knew that the moment I opened any one of them I would end that. You see, my handwriting gets messy when it’s running to keep up with my brain, spilling out lists, prayers, problems, fears and heartaches — ideas all being worked out in their rawest form. Then it’s only a matter of time before coffee spills, the cover tears and pages get ripped out. No, it just felt better to keep all my journals safe, clean and closed.
And yet, as I type those words, I know they’re ridiculous. We all know they’re ridiculous because that’s exactly what the journals were made for — to be written in, to have pages torn out of, to have messes spilled out over them. Journals exist for all those uses and my refusal to start using the pile I’ve been given is a waste.
And I can’t help thinking - so it goes with our lives.
What is it that you’re afraid to try? What’s the thing you know you were created to fill bank pages with but feel safer keeping in your head, tucked away and unvarnished? It feels simpler and cleaner that way, doesn’t it?
It may feel simpler and it may feel cleaner, but it will never feel right. I had this fear that if I started writing, things would get messy and there would be no going back. I’d be opening a door I couldn’t close. And I was right. The day I picked up that first journal, cracked its spine and starting writing something … anything … — that day didn’t change my life all on its own, but it led me here and it has helped me find myself over and over again along the way.
Thinking about opening a journal of your own? I can go ahead and confirm your
suspicions: you are going to spill coffee all over those precious pages of your life. You’re going to struggle, stop and start with the things you’re dreaming of doing and being. But those dreams? They’re going to keep poking and swirling. They’re going to say hi in the middle of the night and interrupt your day either way. The journal is going to get tossed around in your bag, it may even get lost for a few days. It’s going to suffer ink blots and some not-so-great lyrics and business ideas, but that’s not the point. The mess is witness to you coming alive and stepping into what you were meant to do. The mess is where it’s at.
The mess is witness to you coming alive and stepping into what you were meant to do.
It may feel safer to stay in our corners, safe and pristine, but that’s not what we’re created for - and that’s not going to make you feel the least bit daring or alive. What is it that you’re thinking of right now? Let’s stop being in love with what we think our dreams could look like and get obsessed with how they make us come alive when we do them. The doing will never look or be perfect, but will always be better, it will always make us braver and it will always make us more of who we are meant to be.
Be brave and open that journal today. I promise I will too.