My Sandpaper Year

Photo from  Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr.

Photo from Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr.

Reflecting on 2014, I imagine any number of the thoughts that have crossed my mind are likely the same ones that have occurred to other people about the last 12 months of life. I could have done a little more of this and a little less of that. I could have been a better friend/sister/daughter [fill in your superlative here]. Nostalgia always tends to abound this time of year.

As I reviewed the chronicle of my own experience, however, I realized something pretty profound. This was one of my sandpaper years.

My what now?

I know it’s an odd term, but let me explain. Everyone, whether they realize it or not, has years that shape them more than most. Years where some things about who you are as a person are buffed smooth, and other rougher spots you didn’t even realize existed, get exposed. It’s a year where not a lot seems easy, and you feel mostly like Sisyphus, continuously rolling a boulder uphill just to watch it slide down the other side and have to do it all over again. In short, a sandpaper year.

Photo from  Beth Scupham via Flickr.

Photo from Beth Scupham
via Flickr.

If I’m being honest, I’ve actually had a couple of back-to-back sandpaper years. Self-inflicted, unfortunately. Without getting too detailed, let’s just say I made an awful lot of big decisions that should have been better thought and prayed through, and I didn’t do much of either. I panicked when faced with my future and thought I knew what was best for myself, but lack of counsel proved otherwise, and, well, there you go.

And for the sake of continued honesty, I didn’t do a whole lot of living wide during that time either. Sure there were glimmers here and there, but mostly I defaulted. I cocooned in and braced myself for the hard knocks as much as I could, much like a boxer backed into a corner, just trying to survive the round.

But, here’s what’s important; I learned something.

I realized I am far stronger than I ever thought possible. More often than not, I was the only support system propping me up and that made me push forward. I also realized, being a strong individual isn’t nearly as strong as the supportive bond of connection and friendship. A person is never truly an island, and those that believe so are fooling themselves. And, I came to the conclusion that truly knowing what you want, in life, in your career, in love, in general, should never be denied. Why? Because you will always seek it. Conscious, unconscious, you will always seek it, and be dissatisfied and completely and utterly restless until you finally chase after it.

So here I am, crossing over the threshold of another new year and wondering what to do. One thing’s for sure, my priority list is much different than it ever has been, and that is going to make for an interesting 12-month adventure.

Happy 2015, everyone! After a few lost years, I have resolved to get back to living wide. How about you?

Meaning

Thanks for joining me as I kick off Living Wide’s Soundtrack for Successful Failure.  Why a soundtrack for failing successfully, you ask?  Well, in the famed words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

I have never let it be said that I don’t A) laugh at myself or B) admit when I am wrong. In my last post, I detailed how I had to shelve the manuscript I’d worked on for 10 years because it simply wasn’t working… for now.  In admitting that I’d failed, that I simply couldn’t make an idea work, I freed myself to other possibilities. I opened up new opportunities I hadn’t anticipated.

So, in celebration of failing, yet in a good way, I am debuting a playlist of songs that will hopefully encourage you, dear readers, to follow your dreams, even if at first, you fall flat on your face like I did.

First up, Gavin DeGraw’s “Meaning.” I am a little ashamed to admit, only a little, but I first discovered Gavin DeGraw by watching “One Tree Hill” many moons ago. You’ll remember his track “I Don’t Want to Be” was the show’s title song. On the same album, Chariot, is the song “Meaning.”

It contains the line:

“Sometimes our only way is jumping, I hope you’re not afraid of heights.”

If I were ever to get a lyric tattooed on my body, this would be it. Never has one line defined my life succinctly, and it’s an important reminder that not always are we given options, and sometimes those options are radical and scary.

In my endeavor to live wide, I’ve often found that the best decisions I ever made were scary as all get out, and not completely “sane” by most people’s standards. Yet, I don’t regret any of them, and they’ve definitely made life interesting and vastly wide.

What do you think? Has a lyric spoken to you so much you that it made you want to step outside of what is safe? Or, has a song spoken to you so much you wanted it as a permanent reminder on your body? Please share away!

Sounds Good

Apologies, Living Wide faithful.  I know I’ve been absent these past few weeks, which reminds me, I need to update my bio because the reasons for my truancy are both very good.  First, I’m writing again!!  YAY!!  I have been trucking along on the manuscript for my second book, tentatively titled “Perfect.”

Wait, second book?  Where’s your first book?  I’m glad you asked about that.  See, my first book was a project I started in 2002, one year post-college.  It was a tale I returned to several times over the course of the years, and I was pretty happy with it until 2008 when I decided to rewrite all the parts that I had finished from a completely different point of view.  Why?  I don’t remember really, but it definitely set me back and led to four more years of starting and stopping.  I also can’t tell you why I couldn’t just get it together and finish the first draft, but after a while, I had to admit to myself that things weren’t working.  It had been nearly 10 years and still no book.  Late last year, I made the conscious decision to admit that I’d failed.  That my first book wasn’t the story I needed to write in this moment.

Accompanying that decision was a batch of my soul searching over the past couple of months, during which I realized something pretty important… I want to follow my dreams.  I know that’s something everyone says, but few actually do.  Well, I think you’ve realized by now, if I am anything, I am the follow-through-girl.  I’m also a little bit crazy and daring (hello, quitting my job).  So I decided to do the ultimate wakadoo thing and have faith in myself.  Faith that whether I would be published or not, whether people liked the story I had to tell or not, I was going to write a book.

I picked up one of the ideas I had filed away and started to play with it around October of last year.  And bam, I was writing again.  I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and then I stopped for grad school finals, and then I wrote again.  Oh, did I mention that’s the other reason?  Grad school?  Like I said I’m a little nutty… new job, grad school and writing my first/second novel all at the same time.  But I digress….  I finally found my story, and I promised myself, even if it kills me, I will finish it and someone, I don’t know who or how many, will get to read it.

Now that you know the why, let’s get to the fun part.  I’ve decided to challenge myself even more.  Again, what is she thinking?!?  I know, but roll with it would you?  So every day in the month of April I am going to post an inspirational song that is Living Wide-themed, and hopefully will encourage you all to follow your dreams too.  I’m calling it the Soundtrack for Successful Failure.  I will also accept submissions for songs that make you want to stop living small, break out of your box, and chase the horizon.  I can’t wait take this journey with you all!  Who’s bringing the snacks?

Love,
Me

Risking It

Even as we were packing the moving truck, I had doubts. It was the summer of 2005, and I was moving to Washington, D.C. It was a decision that was either going to further my career or end up with me calling my parents six weeks down the road to tell them that I was A) out of money and B) needed to move back to Atlanta. Why those two outcomes, you ask? Well, I was making the move purely based on faith. I was living wide before I even knew what living wide was.

A few months earlier, I’d passed the two and half years mark in my job, and I was feeling restless. I’d previously toyed with the idea of moving away from the state I’d called home for nearly two decades, but never felt it was the right time. At this point, I’d been exploring my faith for several years and had recently begun bringing the big prayers to God. Like, is it time for me to move? I’d always liked Washington, D.C. I’d visited the city a handful of times and knew living there held great potential for my career. As I prayed about what was to come next, my heart kept turning back to D.C. Initially, God made it obvious that D.C. was to be my new home in subtle ways, but in the spring, He got downright overt. An apartment I could afford was available down the street from the only friend I knew in the city. My resume was getting some interest. Things were looking good. All signs were pointing to “Go,” so I decided to.

It was a leap of faith that would land me an 11-hour car ride away from the safety net of my family. A fact which hadn’t dawned on me until we were loading the moving truck. My decision had suddenly become real. I was really taking a leap into the unknown based solely on an inkling from God. I was trusting that my faith in Him and the talents and abilities He’d given me were going to be enough. That I would be okay and it would all work out.

Invariably, it did all work out. By my fourth week in D.C., I had a job. My bills were all going to be paid, and my cat and I would continue to have food to eat. I had taken a flying leap into God’s will, and it turned out better than I’d hoped.

I’ve been thinking about this step in my journey quite a bit lately. In many ways, my choice painted me as a risk taker. I was risking my financial security by responding to God’s call. Was I scared to do it? Yes, absolutely. The fact that I was trusting God, that I was leaving everything I knew for something I had no clue about, made the decision terrifying. That kind of faith was simply scary. But I tell you what, I never regretted it.

The reason this particular decision has been so on my mind is because I reached another crossroads recently. I had to decide whether it was worth it to continue in my current job, or walk away and trust that God would bring about new possibilities. I had to choose, was I going to be faithful or fearful.

After much prayer, thought and counsel, I decided. I decided I’d rather terrify the Earthly side of my nature by leaping into the will of God, trusting in His provision, than do what’s expected; to do things the “right way.” How’s it all going to turn out? I’m not sure really, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Life is Short…

And so is this post. All pith aside, there are moments… sometimes they are a handful of seconds, sometimes they are entire seasons, where you feel it… just how short life can be. God sends us regular alarm clocks to alert us. Occasionally they build to a crescendo, other times they blare like an air horn. What it really boils down to is whether we hear them. I’ve had a buzzer screaming in my ear for some time now, think it’s about time I stopped hitting snooze.

How about you?