I hate weekends. I really do. Unless I am traveling (an expensive but effective method for making weekends palatable), I find that no matter what plans I make, no matter how much I have to do, no matter how many friends I see, loneliness ultimately rears its ugly head and I eventually find myself swimming in a pool of self pity. It's not pretty.
Three day weekends are even harder and despite the fact that this weekend involved a lot of friends, a lot of fun, and a lot of (much needed) housework, there was still ample alone time. Today has been particularly hard since the only 3 people I spoke to were my parents (via phone) and the cashier at Target. You can imagine my mood by 5:30pm.
Anyways, I am currently reading The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric and since I had nothing better to do tonight when Dirty Dancing ended at 7pm, I decided to crawl into bed and
pray for the weekend to end read. It was like the Universe knew what I needed when I turned to the essay on courage by Anna Quindlen. Seriously? It was like someone had jabbed a syringe full of adrenaline to my soul.
I was so moved that I felt compelled to share with you all, my dear and lovely readers. I hope it impacts you half as much as it's impacted me (although with less tears because Jesus - no one else needs to be a puffy-eyed snot rag tomorrow).
Courage is the Ultimate Career Move
Here is my favorite biblical direction: Be not afraid. It's truly the secret of life. Fear is what stunts our growth, narrows our ambitions, kills our dreams.
So fear not.
Oh, I have enough of a memory of my own youth to know that that sounds preposterous. You are surely afraid: of leaving what you know, of seeking what you want, of taking the wrong path, of failing the right one. But you can't allow any of that to warp your life. You must have the strength to say no to the wrong things and to embrace the right ones, even if you are the only one who seems to know the difference, even if you find the difference to hard to calculate.
Too often we lived with the pinched expectations of a culture of conformity, which sees daring as dangerous. Go along to get along: that's its mantra. Only a principled refusal to be terrorized by these stingy standards will save you from a Frankenstein life made up of other people's expectations grafted together into a poor imitation of existence. You can't afford to do that. It is what has poisoned our culture our community, our national character. No one does the right thing from fear, and so many of the wrong things are done in its long shadow. Homophobia, racism, religious bigotry: they are all bricks in a wall that divides us, bricks cast of the clay of fear, fear of that which is different or unknown.
Too often our public discourse fears real engagement or discussion; it pitches itself at the lowest possible level, always preaching to the choir, so that no one will be challenged. Which usually means that no one will be interested. What is the point of free speech if we are always afraid to speak freely? If we fear competing viewpoints, if we fail to state the unpopular because of some sense of plain-vanilla civility, it is not civility at all. It is the denigration of human capacity for thought. Open your mouth. Speak your piece. Fear not.
Remember Pinocchio? There is a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, giving you the very best advice. It is you, your authentic self, the one you were in first grade before you learned to massage your personality into a form that would suit others. Sometimes it's hard to hear its message because all the external voices are so loud, so shrill, so adamant. Voices that loud are always meant to bully.
Do not be bullied.
Acts of bravery don't always take place on the battlefields. They can take place in your heart, when you have the courage to to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations, and, yes, your soul by listening to its clean, clear voice of direction instead of following the muddied messages of a timid world. So carry your courage in an easily acceptable place, the way you do your cellphone or your wallet. You may still falter or fail, but you will always know that you pushed hard and aimed high. Take a leap of faith. Fear not. Courage is the ultimate career move.
My deepest gratitude to Ms. Quindlen for so aptly saying what I know in my heart but am sometimes, ironically, afraid to live.