Last September I attended a conference in Nashville called Story Gathering. I had heard some good things about this conference and how it would help you tell better stories, both in your personal life/writing and in your professional world.
I’m not 100 percent sure what I expected. I guess I expected it to be good, what with all the hype I’d heard from old co-workers. I expected to learn how to better tell stories at work. I kind of expected to learn techniques on how to take something that most people find boring (data, instructions, sermons, etc.) and make it into a digestible story.
And while I may have learned some of those techniques, the thing I really came away with was inspiration. It takes a lot to inspire me. I don’t know if it’s because of my depression or being the oldest child, or just who I am as a person, but the usual “You can do it!” doesn’t really work for me.
I mean, positive feedback is great, but honestly, I know when I did a good job and when I didn’t try my hardest. I usually know when I need to make a change, and, with years of practice, I know what it takes to motivate myself to do it. What I didn’t expect from Story was that these people would help me realize that I had been neglecting to address an area in my life that was in need of change.
It’s really, really easy to get wrapped up in the details of life. To focus on what is urgent instead of what is important. Everyone who manages multiple priorities in life understands this.
While it may be more important to pursue a dream that could impact others and bring you joy, at the time it’s more urgent to nap/exercise/eat/clean/organize/work, etc. and etc.
I’ve realized this in other parts of my life: at work, with home projects, in relationships. I recognize that I don’t get to do a lot of what I really want to do or what would really help because I’m constantly doing “urgent” tasks that come up. On some level, I knew that. And to some degree, I’d accepted that. But what I didn’t realize was that I was doing this in my personal life. I had accepted a life in which cleaning my room and sending emails took precedent over living out my dreams and making a difference in the world.
And that’s sad.
So as I sat in the Country Music Hall of Fame and listened to speaker after speaker from all walks of life tell me the same thing, I surprised myself, and I became inspired.
Because this is what I heard:
- You have a talent that you were gifted with, and you are not using it.
- This talent that you have could be used in a positive way to actually make a difference in the world, and more importantly, to impact that one person out there who needs to hear what you have to say.
- There will never be a good time to start using this talent. You will never feel healthy or mentally stable or financially stable or prepared enough to take on this task. So you need to just take it on now.
And those are all things that I don’t tell myself already. I don’t tell myself that I am a talented writer. I don’t tell myself that my journey with anxiety and depression could speak to someone else who needs that support. I don’t tell myself that life is painful but that I could use that pain to make something great.
No. What I tell myself is that everything has already been written and anything I have to say has already been said 100 times. And I tell myself that if I’m not feeling well and something is hurting, I should rest and take time to take care of myself and my mental state.
So when I heard those speakers tell me (cause you know, they were only speaking to me in that theater) that I was good enough to make a difference now, well…I’ll admit it. I was inspired as hell.
One speaker with whom I particularly identified brought up one point again and again. She said that in life there is fear and there is love, and everything we do is motivated out of and brings to the world either fear or love. This was a new perspective for me. I had never simplified the world into just these two emotions, but it made sense.
Do I want to go about life putting fear and anxiety into an already anxious world? Or do I want to use my love of life and my talent to spread more love to others?
What I realized then was that I had been leading a lot of my life with fear. I hadn’t started writing for the public eye or gone places or done things for fear of being anxious or feeling sick. I feared the hardships and the disappointment and the vulnerability more than I’d loved the adventure, my talent, or the world. I’d feared a panic attack and a stomachache more than I loved experiencing everything that life has to other.
That’s no way to live.
As Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Your fear is the most boring thing about you.”
So why would I let that fear control so much of who I am and what I do?
That was the punch in the face I wasn’t expecting from this conference. I wasn’t expecting Story to help with my anxiety. To get my life moving again. To inspire me to start back up with my talent of writing. To jump back into traveling. To, as cliché as it sounds, kind of change my life.
No, I wasn’t expecting that. But it happened anyway. And I’m so glad it did.
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