When people ask us how we are making this project work – how we managed to buy Parnassus, quit our jobs, and completely revolutionize our lives – we have a lot of answers, all of which play a part: Hard work. Privilege. Imagination. Drive. Passion. Creativity. Luck. Planning. But most critically is that we overcame the fear that kept us in place. It was terrifying to make the decision to quit my (VERY well-paying, upwardly-mobile, and engaging) job to follow my dreams and passions. But, ultimately, it became more terrifying not to do it. It became horrific to me to imagine myself staying where I was, at a law firm in Baltimore, as my dreams shriveled on the vine. I overcame my fear, and I quit.
But! I made a mistake! Fear does not grow like a tree – you don’t cut it down once and for all. Fear is like a vine. It is constantly creeping around the edges, growing back, reaching its tendrils inside of us over and over again. I, naively, believed I had conquered fear.
I was wrong.
I want to be honest with you, dear reader, about this experience I am creating for myself. It has been hard. After an initial two weeks of inspired bliss, I suddenly came face-to-face with fear once more. And, for a time, it held on to me.
Anxiety, am I right?
I have always been struck by a scene that Thoreau describes in Walden. He describes walking from his cabin to the pond for the first time. He makes his own way through the untamed brush. But he discovers, in just a week or so, that he has worn down a little path and now has something to follow. He went out into the woods to live a wild life, and immediately fell into a routine. Ultimately, he leaves the woods to create new paths in other places – never satisfied with simply maintaining the status quo.
When we get up and go to work each day, we follow a pre-made track. Our paths, of course, are not identical, but they all kind of have the same rhythm. We don’t get to decide a lot of what we do. We have to wake up at a certain time. We have to conform to a certain dress code. We have to be available (and that usually means we have to go somewhere). Our time is spent doing things that, largely, are decided by others. Even the bosses are reacting to the clients, the deadlines, the outside forces that dictate working life. We largely aren’t in control of the course of our days.
This was the path I was on. It was wide, flat, and paved long ago. I was surrounded by others, all of us walking together on this well-trodden, familiar, comfortable path.
I took myself off of that path. The thing is, I hadn’t realized how accustomed I was to it – how normal is was for my time to be planned by others instead of me. And uncharted territory is hard to tame. I suddenly found myself in the wild, and I didn’t know which way to go. I was paralyzed for a time – Left? Right? Neither or both?
I’ve been quiet here for about a month. It’s been a month of breaking down and building up. The last week or so has been the first time I have felt a sustained sense of calm, stable inspiration. But – finally, I’m feeling it again: The desire – and the strength – to forge my own path.
The author, finding new strength. Photo By Sean “Noodles” Comber of tresor space!
I am quite sure that, as this project of ours progresses, Amethyst and I will have a lot to say about fear. We both believe deeply that much of what damages people and holds them back is fear. So many of the harsh ways in which we treat ourselves and each other (on both a micro and macro level) are rooted in fear – Fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of isolation, fear of failure…
There are many practical updates to give you. We have been hard at work, and are making real, visible progress in building our dream! But there have been tears as well. I want you to know that. I want you to know the reality of being brave. The fear doesn’t go away. You just learn to face it, over and over again.