Have you watched Brené Brown's Netflix special, The Call to Courage yet? If not, don't worry, you still have time. It's only been up since yesterday. But I had been waiting on pins and needles for its release, and ate it all up in one sitting, then went back in to absorb it a little piece at a time.
I found Brené Brown's work back in 2010, just as her TedXHouston talk was going viral. I’m pretty sure that I’m responsible for at least a hundred of those first million views or more. And I couldn't be more grateful. I have used her research in my own work, unapologetically stalked her on the internet, bought each book, and told pretty much anyone I've ever had a long conversation with to read every word she's written and listen to every talk she's given. Her work has literally changed my life.
But I've had a relapse as a student. This isn’t 2010.
And only moments into the special she says these words: "Time is the big, precious, un-renewable resource." It was like a gut punch.
Perhaps it's because I'm on a deadline for the last book in my time-travel trilogy, but the essence of time is something I ponder so often. A subject that since my first creative writing assignment in the sixth grade has fascinated me to the point where I couldn’t sleep without writing about and exploring its very nature. And even after all I’ve learned, I know that some of my time…I’ve squandered.
After being inspired to vulnerably show up in the arena, knowing I’d be knocked down, again and again, I’ve recently been telling myself a story of pure defeat.
Brené phrases it like this: “I engineered smallness in my life.”
My gut’s not doing so great here.
I worked a lot of professional hours up until about a year and nine months ago. I had been a full-time teacher, administrator, mom, volunteer, or other various roles for twenty years. I published my first book while I was still at a job that required forty-plus hours a week, and I pushed myself to show up in the great arena.
As I got further and further into the mindset of “maybe I actually can do anything I want” I let my husband know that I needed to quit my day job. We came up with a six-month plan, and let the organization I was working for know that I’d be willing to train a replacement if needed, trying to leave the program as strong as I could, but I would be resigning in a few months.
I wanted to be both vulnerable and productive, so as I prepared to have the smoothest transition possible, I requested exit interviews with some of my superiors. I asked specific questions about my performance and got some very helpful insight into how I interacted with coworkers and how I lead my own team. But one thing stuck out at me. In meetings, one of the leaders said I was “cagey.”
What did that mean?!
The reply I got was, “I value your opinion and you withheld it regularly.” He wasn’t wrong. But since I had nothing to lose as I was leaving, I admitted that the smallness I felt at said meetings was too much for me to combat, so I had played it safe for the three and a half years I was there. No arena warring. The big guys were no match for me.
The truth is I had put myself out there a few times and gotten knocked down in the arena. I believed I was daring greatly, but what did "recovering" from the blows look like? This wasn't criticism and feedback from those not playing the game. Smallness became my protective armor, and vulnerability took a backseat.
“How can you be loved if you can’t be seen?” Brown asks in her special.
Since I have only myself to report to in this new job of mine, last year, I gave myself permission to explore all creative outlets at whim. Music, painting, drawing, writing, digital art, voice work, anything that I was feeling in the moment, I went with.
But something crept up on me that I didn't even see coming. I looked around and realized that I have been sitting in the cheap seats. I haven’t shared much of my creative work, not really...I’ve been “cagey.”
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I have manuscripts piled high on my desk or pristine soundtracks and vibrant paintings filled to the ceiling of a studio. But I have snippets of melodies no one has heard, poems no one has read, thoughts and drawings that no one has savored. No one but me.
And it's made me believe they’re worthless. And in dollars and cents–the currency we all understand–I guess they are. But that doesn’t count in worthiness.
The start of this blog has been about finding that place of home–belonging. And I felt so vulnerable after I launched that I couldn’t bring myself to figure out where I wanted to go next. Because the challenge is that I have ideas and words that I worry won’t fit into someone’s agenda or belief system or approval…so I assess and acclimate, as Brown describes, to fit in where comfortable.
But that’s not belonging. That’s not getting up after the knock-outs.
I wish that this whole thing was a one-and-done journey. You learn your lesson and are good to go. But, my goodness, it’s not. The more we silence our true selves, the lonelier it is, and the more we don’t show up, the more prone to not showing up we are.
And perhaps we go down in the arena fight after being brave and we do end up sitting out for a while.
But another thing calls us. Things like this. These life-altering Netflix specials, podcasts, articles, workshops, or blog posts that really do change the world. You can get up after a defeat.
There’s a call.
And today, I answer that call to courage Dr. Brené Brown asks of us. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t have a three-step plan for you or a super-focused message for my brand. I have a deep desire to not leave people unseen. Unheard. Unloved.
So, this is a piece of who I am. I hope to see you too. Do yourself a favor and watch the special. And answer the call with me.
"Today, I'm going to choose courage over comfort".
Who's with me?