Drawing Lines in Black and White.

“Just make a pros and cons list!” my close friend told me last week, as if the solution were that simple.  I was feeling so suddenly divided over my feelings for two people when I saw her.  I had been gravitating one direction, but being around her causes the scales to tip in her vote’s favor.  Of course she wanted me to make a list; she thought all I needed was stark contrast to see the obvious.  I wasn’t sure it would be that obvious.  Besides, how do you even compare people like that?
Case A                             Case B
smart                               smart
hard worker                  hard worker
tall and handsome     tall and handsome
nice                                   nice
No, no, not like that… that’s stupid.  Think harder.
Umm, okay…
Case A                      Case B
go-getter                   more laid-back
smooth-talker            trustworthy adventurous              reserved formal                        goofy
pragmatic                  dogmatic
Closer, doesn’t this help?
No, it doesn’t help.  These kinds of things aren’t black and white!  And you can’t just group people like that!
And so I struggle.
Case A.  Someone might be a go-getter and adventurous, but that could also mean they’re busy, hard to entertain, always just as easily pleased by the world around them.  That person might seem slick, but a smooth-talker could just be telling you what you want to hear – a politician.  A formal, assertive, confident presence can be just as concealing.  Yet pragmatic people, the ones who try to see the logic in things, the scientific light,…those people are often so much easier for me to relax around.  There’s room for debate.  There’s sifting through facts.  There’s entertaining the mind without fear of hurting someone’s feelings.  But does it provide perspective?  I like perspective.
This should be easy.  Why isn’t this easy?
Case B.  On the other hand, someone else might be more laid-back.  This could be good because it’s a comfortable place to be, but does that person ever go outside of the comfort zone?  That person may be obviously trustworthy, an excellent quality, but what if it’s at the expense of adventure because of how reserved and in-the-box one lives?  Goofy is good; similar humor is appealing and leads to fun times that require less formalities and that can be spontaneous.  Then my friend’s always saying, What about that dogmatic part?  The part so hell-bent on a certain perspective and way of living that any deviance is unwelcome?  Unaccepted?  It offers me perspective and conversation, which I like, but I don’t like feeling like my own opinions are invalid, like that person has the only possible right answers.
Finally, my friend forgets to realize it’s not just one-sided; how someone regards me, yearns for my company, makes an attempt – friendship, relationship, whatever – that plays an enormous part in my considerations, and understandable so I’d say.  So far, it has been that factor dictating the majority of my choices.
“Pros and cons list!  Pros and cons!”
I can’t just do that.  I love making lists to lead my life, but people are not black and white and divided by the thin line of a column on a piece of paper.
And the whole time, I cringe at the thought: Who is comparing me?

Fear and Starting.

One thing that has got me wrapped up a lot in thoughts lately is committing to something, to starting. I write and will continue to write a lot about change, about fear, and about decisions. But what about when you combine change, fear, and decisions into a single moment? What does that become? Well, it may not seem obvious, but doesn’t it just become a new beginning?

Starting over, starting fresh, starting anew – that all sounds fantastic. But starting one thing often means replacing or ending another, if not simply stressing yourself out and spreading yourself too thin. Starting can mean a lot of unknown territory. Therefore, starting involves a lot of change, put into effect by cue of a decision, and constantly provoked by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of having made that wrong choice. Fear of the consequences of that change.

So “starting” is deeply rooted in fear, no matter how wonderful and ambitious starting something might feel. I think what I fear the most about starting is my inability to endure and the probability (or sometimes inevitable reality) that I will fail. If I’m starting a new crocheting project, failure seems habitual. (If only you realized how many times I’ve forgotten a project, or set it aside and lost count of my stitches, or even left it somewhere for my cats to half-unravel. What’s worse is when I try to knit because, no matter how rectangular my piece should be, it always turns into a 45-45-90 triangle… ineptitude FTW!) If I’m starting a book, failure seems unlikely but not at all dangerous (bookmarks are easily forgotten and books re-shelved). But what if that failure involves other people?

I’m always fearful of starting anything involving another person. And I don’t just mean a friendship or relationship; I mean anything that might come with it an unspoken expectancy of consistency and repetition. I’m terrified of letting people down and being remembered for it. I’m also fearful of starting any kind of group or inspirational movement. It’s a silly fear, because my goal in life is to make a change in the world that will last longer than I will. You have to jump to kick-start such strides. But what if I jump and there was nowhere I could’ve gone? Something I missed? No one to follow me? What if everyone will stand at the top and just laugh at me and not help me back up?

It’s really easy to be frustrated by a friend who can’t pull himself away from the things he has grown to know best. He doesn’t want to abandon his old ring of friends, his family, his hometown, his high school memories. He wants to replay, relive, and continue to stay in the life he has always known. With me becoming such a reckless wanderer over the past year who invites nothing but chaos and unknowns as a way to get through the rough times, I tend to forget that he hasn’t experienced any new personal growth in a while. He doesn’t understand the inspiration in starting a new path.

It’s really hard to see that and then to step back and realize I can’t blame him for not taking that leap. I might not see leaving home or friends or an old relationship as a challenge the way it was two years ago, but I am afraid to speak my mind at times when I know he would stand up for himself. Those times are the latter of which I was speaking, the times that involve other people to start a movement. My friend is eager to get people onboard, to provoke their minds and create his own bandwagon. I, however, am afraid to do that; and it’s what I want to do the most.

That is when I got a fortune cookie that changed me: “Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.”

When I got back from Colorado at the start of November, I sent out a survey to a lot of people whom I knew and didn’t know so well. It was a survey asking for feedback on the movement I wish to begin in my community. It was outlandish in ways and definitely provoking. I had some hateful responses from people who clearly are not personally involved. As much as I wanted to cave and let them defeat me, I remembered why I was doing this for the first place and realized it was not for me but for the people I care about. That’s when I started to let the positive feedback sink in and I realized how much praise I was being given.

“You’re an inspiration to me; your ideas are radical, but if they work this will be life-changing for so many people. Even if it doesn’t work, this will still change our lives by your inspiration.”

I’m not in it for the recognition, but that sentiment was exactly what I needed to make me realize this is why I’m here. I can’t sit back and let these desires burn; I’d burn up from anxiety. Instead, I have to let it catch me on fire and just go running off that cliff. I’ve gotten over my fear of changes in work, friends, and hometown, but now I’m going to get through this too and decide that I’ve got to put my armor down. People might hurt me from time to time, but I’ve got to act like a martyr for my cause before I even have a reason to be acknowledged. Confidence is enough to convince people you are not one to be questioned or taken lightly. And so I act boldly. And those forces have come to my aid from unseen places. The ball is rolling.

And that fortune is still sitting next to my stapler.