Her name was Rachel. I don’t know where Rachel is at…it’s weird how she left my life as quickly as she entered it. It was a few years ago. I don’t remember much about where I was in life; living in Chicago, contented, shooting weddings, visiting home too often because I was homesick…you know, the usual. :)
I was in Ohio to go to a concert. A Needtobreathe concert…because I do things like that. I drive crazy amounts of miles, spend money on gas, and give the most amazing car performances that earn me imaginary Grammy’s and move my imaginary audiences to imaginary tears.
Yeah. Uh-hem. Like I was saying, I was in Ohio. :)
Before I left town to make my drive back, I stopped in at a friend’s house to wish him the best as he was making a big move of his own. I remember we talked for a little and at some point, Rachel came out. She worked for him…and we started talking. About what? I have no idea…I just know that hours…and I literally mean hours later, the conversation ended with something to the affect of promising that we would take the next 4 weeks to do something that scared us.
1 scare per week.
It didn't matter what it was. I just know that I had found myself in somewhat of a rut of routine and feeling very uninspired. There’s beauty in repetition…but that’s not what I was living. I was living the kind of life where I overdramatized silly thoughts in my head and read into everything out of sheer boredom. It wasn’t good and I’d found myself in some melodramatic love story that only I knew existed.
So we asked this, “What if we did something that scared us each week for a month?” We knew that having the other person committed to this experiment would give us the courage or motivation needed to stick to it.
I drove home determined.
We set no expectations on how or even if it would make a difference. Maybe it was a good idea in theory…but ridiculous in reality. We didn’t promise to quit jobs, move across the country, run off and marry a Frenchman (’cause you know, if you’re going to do that, he may as well be French). No, we simply made a promise to do one thing a week that would scare us…and at the end of the week, we’d report it to the other person.
Week 1: I decided to end the sad little love story I was in. It scared me because I was ending a very big form of entertainment I’d created. And the truth of this?…the “official” story had ended quite some time before this…but I finally had the conversation where it neutralized the end. I was no longer allowed to be angry over my hurts, or be sooooooo relieved I’d dodged a bullet. I was just simply allowed to be thankful that it was. I wrote an email in a very neutral tone, hit “send”…and immediately, wrote Rachel to debrief.
Week 2: I asked myself, “What if you explored a world of photography outside of wedding and portraits? What if you went to New York to a fashion photography workshop?”. Did it scare me? Y.E.S. So I signed up…and wrote Rachel to debrief.
Week 3: I was feeling a little exhausted…as facing fears can do to oneself. :) I was walking near my apartment in Chicago when I looked up to see a sign for a dance studio. At this point, I didn’t even have to go through the process of wondering, “Can I? Should I? What if I look like an idiot?”…and I went home, signed up and went to my first class the next morning. As always, I wrote Rachel to let her know I’d faced another fear.
Week 4: I confronted a friend of mine. Let me tell you, I HATE confrontation…facing this fear was like the world series of facing fears. But I did it, and you know what? It went quite well. No one was angry, it was good and honest discussion, and we remain friends to this day. I told Rachel about it.
I often think of Rachel…because neither of us knew that my life would change simply by creating a habit of facing fear. Not one time did Rachel say to me, “Don’t be afraid…that’s silly!”…she never discounted my fear…just put her hand at my back and said, “I’m proud of you. You can do this…and if it doesn’t go well, that’s okay, ‘cause the assignment was just to face it.”
It’s so easy for me to validate an experience by how I perceive the level of success to have come from it. Did I become an amazing dancer? Am I a Fashion photographer in NYC? Did I marry that boy who was starring in my mental love story? Do I love confrontation?
I could say a resounding N-O to all of those.
But did I dance…3+ times a week for the next year and a half…and did I find out that I love it? Yes.
Did I go to New York and shoot fashion photography for a weekend, make a lot of friends in that industry that I have to this day? Did I eat amazing food and realize that maybe I love food photography even more? Yes.
Did I learn that it’s so much better to live real love stories with people and friends in my actual life and neutralize past hurt and experience with real forgiveness? Yes.
Do I still hate confrontation…but now understand that the good can so often outweigh the difficult? That sometimes, it’s okay to let people in your life go? Yes.
I don’t know where Rachel is at…she had her list of 4 scares as well. Her’s were difficult…I mean, really difficult. Her courage fueled mine. She was brave…every week. She’s a kind and beautiful person. I was recently reminded of a quote by Dr. Peter Marshall when he said, “Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned”.
I’m writing this from California as a photographer working for an industry leader who I now consider a dear friend…and it makes me think of Rachel. So thanks, Rachel…for letting me look fear in the face and calling it by it’s name, and then inviting courage to take the driver’s seat. I’m convinced that my biggest life decisions since those 4 weeks in July have been direct results from our crazy experiment, and I have you to thank.