The 90’s perfectly bookend my youth- I entered middle school at the beginning of the decade and graduated college at the end. Being a child of the 90’s meant two things: I owned flannel and I grew up with the gang of Beverly Hills 90210. Oh the drama of Brandon, Kelly, Dylan, Donna, and the rest! Recently, the episode where Brandon leaves flashed through my mind. After nine years of living and working with his group of friends in the cocoon of Beverly Hills, he decides to take a job in Washington DC. As he wrestles with whether or not to actually move and leave his friends and life behind, Kelly asks him what he is so afraid of. Towards the end of the episode there is this great scene where Brandon faces his longtime fear of night swimming, and he and Kelly run into the pitch-black ocean. As they discuss their fears about night swimming and life in general, they remark that it is the unknown, the uncertainty that is so unnerving. You don’t know, you can’t see what is out there. It is the fear of the unknown that keeps you beachside.
This past week I felt a little like Brandon. After six years working with wonderful colleagues at a great counseling center, I decided to run towards the unknown. This past week I opened my own private counseling practice. It is something that was always in the back of my mind but the timing never felt right, the thought of being on my own seemed more overwhelming than exciting. But several weeks ago certain things fell into place and it seemed all signs were pointing in this direction. As I weighed the pros and cons of this decision, I heard that voice… that voice in my head that speaks every once in a while, but when it does, it is loud and clear and is usually speaking from the deepest recesses of my thoughts. I heard that voice say you’re staying because you are afraid. The voice was so clear and was so right. I knew then I had to go. I could not stay out of fear… fear of failing, of not being able to make it, of losing all that the previous six years had given me.
I always tell my clients staying in something out of fear is the very worst reason to stay. Staying out of fear is never going to turn out well. When we stay in something out of fear, we start to feel controlled and resentment is sure to follow. Sometimes we have to run towards the fear. We have to embrace the mystery of uncertainty and the unknown because staying beachside and staying in the cocoon means we never get to become the butterfly. Running towards the fear is what keeps us emotionally and spiritually alive.
This is not the first time I’ve run into the unknown, but somehow this time it feels bigger, riskier. I have walked through two other major life changes prior to this one. When I set aside my flair for the dramatic and look at those previous changes logically, I recognize they were much bigger dives into the unknown. I left music, the only thing I had known or invested in to that point in my life, for a giant question mark. I left a teaching job that I loved at a school that truly felt like family for the uncertainty of a career change into counseling. Yes, those were major turns in totally new directions and this is more of a veer to the right, but I suppose the fact that I am older, I have a family, and I know that times of testing and stretching often follow decisions like this one, leave me feeling like this dip into the ocean of the unknown is more significant.
As I look ahead into this new chapter, I am truly excited. I am excited to continue working with women as they face their fears, overcome their pasts, and find their voices. I am excited to continue speaking and teaching. I am excited to simply see what happens next. The benefit to having two previous major life changes under my belt is that I know the ebb and flow of the incoming tide, so to speak. I know, as Rebekah Lyons says in her new book Freefall to Fly (adding this to my Worth Reading list… lots of great insights that I can’t wait to share), “sometimes we need a freefall to teach us how to fly.” I know that not everything is going to be smooth sailing. But I also know that those previous life-altering decisions led me down paths and gave me experiences I never could have dreamed of. Leaving music led me into the classroom, and I discovered my love for teaching. Leaving the classroom led me into the therapy field, and I discovered this world of counseling and speaking that I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of. I enter this new chapter knowing the risks yet understanding the advantages of running towards your fears… you get more opportunities to face more fears. Your story grows richer. Your life grows bigger. Your purpose gets clarified.
So it’s official. I have hung my shingle, and I stand ready with open hands to embrace what lies ahead. Running towards the fear has never felt so exciting. 🙂
What is your night swimming? What is one small step you could take today that would move you closer to your fear? What have you learned from previous life-altering decisions where you have chosen the unknown over the known?
P.S. I want to say a word of thanks to Kristen Bailey. Kristen designed this blog and my new website, www.mazirobinson.com. I cannot thank Kristen enough for using her talents and gifts to help me launch into this new venture. Thank you for your partnership and friendship, Kristen!