“The biggest fear we have is not the fear of dying, but the fear to be alive, to be ourselves,
to say what we feel, to ask for what we want, to say yes when we want to say yes,
and no when we want to say no.”—don Miguel Ruíz
These words hold great truth. Yet, embracing this message requires courage and faith. It takes commitment to move forward as our true selves, without the protective masks and safety nets we’ve employed for protection. Saying “yes” when we mean “no” often becomes our default because we don’t want to disappoint others. But in the process of staying small and trying to make everyone else happy, we cease to step into our potential. We miss the magic of being fully alive.
Speaking up for ourselves, leaping blindly into the unknown, and staying true to who we are can be scary. It requires trust without guarantee of a desired outcome. I suppose that’s why it’s so difficult to do.
However, it’s a necessary step if we hope to travel our soul’s path. This mysterious journey takes us from our comfort zone. We face unexpected roadblocks and risk failure. Saying “yes” to our dharma—our purpose—may be the most difficult decision we’ll ever have to make.
Maybe you committed to your path when you were young. Or perhaps you met this fork in the road later. For me, it happened in my early fifties. The Universe unexpectedly presented me with two opportunities … a part-time existence in Bend and the prospect of becoming an author.
At the time, life was great. Nothing needed to change. Still, I sensed something was missing. While I could not identify exactly what this was, deep within, I felt a nudge to step out of my comfort zone and explore. And so, to my surprise, I said “yes.”
I began to spend more and more time in Oregon. And I started to write. Both felt awkward at first. Neither my husband nor I knew anyone in Bend. Likewise, I had zero experience writing, let alone the confidence to begin my first novel. Plus, how could I put myself out there? What would others think?
But something led me to dip my toe into these two new worlds. Instead of saying my oh so comfortable “no,” I allowed myself to play in foreign arenas.
Truth be told, except for college (sixty minutes away), followed by four years in Philadelphia (seventy-five minutes away), I’d only lived in one place … Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. When our kids were four and two, we bought my parents’ home—the house my dad built—where I grew up. There are many fabulous benefits to this … four generations that lived in the same space … three generations that graduated from the same high school ... being close to family and lifelong friends … intimately knowing the community. The blessings were many. Of course, there were challenges. But the pros out weighted the cons tenfold.
Nevertheless, finding my missing puzzle pieces required more than merely shifting environments. I also needed to test myself professionally. Was I capable of becoming an author at this stage of life without any formal training? Writing did not come naturally. I was a numbers girl. My undergraduate degree is in Finance. After a stint in banking, I taught at the elementary level. Math was my favorite subject to teach. Numbers were understandable, predictable, reliable. Writing, well that was an entirely different animal. It required creativity, vulnerability, and flow—elements I’d suppressed.
But for some reason, I could not contain my curiosity. I felt drawn to writing and Bend. I finished the draft of Learning to Bend during our first summer in Oregon. While I didn’t publish the novel until two and a half years later, I’d begun this journey into an unknown territory. Simultaneously, the same thing was happening with Bend. At times it felt as though I was a freshman in college, meeting all new people and having to find my tribe. Doing this required me to become more accepting, consider new perspectives, and question my own limiting beliefs. It also prompted me to ask myself what I wanted, something I hadn’t truly considered before.
While this transition caused me to face some of my fears, I’ve never felt so alive, vibrant, or creative. Maybe a part of me awakened. Whether it was due to Bend or writing is irrelevant. The fact is I started to find out who I was … and what I felt called to do.
I’m grateful for having said “yes” to the unknown, for trusting this is my path. While it hasn’t been a cake walk, I’ve grown and learned many lessons along the way. No doubt there are more question marks ahead, waiting for me to choose “yes” when I mean yes and “no” when I mean no. This continual process allows one to move towards the truest version of themselves and learn to trust in the opportunities life presents.