The Courage To Begin

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The unofficial theme of the first month of This is Thirty Four is “New Beginnings.” (I know. I’m singing the Semisonic song too.) Beginnings often mean change. Change is disruptive, and disruption often takes courage.

This weekend, I attended the March For Our Lives Rally in my town. I’ve never participated in a rally or a march or a protest. Not because I don’t feel strongly about certain issues, but because, honestly, I’m not always courageous in that way.

But I don’t like to write about something I’ve never experienced. So, I went downtown, not knowing what to expect. As I got out of my car, I saw people lining the sidewalks, walking towards the rally.

So, I walked with them.

The closer we got to the rally, the louder the music and the buzz of conversation became. I’ll admit; it was a bit frightening at times. Sadly, these days, where large crowds are gathered, bad things are prone to happen.

But I kept walking.

I reached the crowd, not seeing a single person I knew. I live in a small town and thought the odds of finding someone I knew might be in my favor. I was wrong.

But I kept walking.

I walked through groups of people, huddled together with their signs, some of which I didn’t agree with and some of which resonated deeply with me. Perhaps I was projecting, but I felt like people knew I wasn’t sure if I belonged in their midst.

Still, I kept walking. Until I stopped. In the middle of the crowd. To listen.

I listened to the voices of high school students as they gave impassioned speeches and sang songs decrying violence and gun culture. Whether you’re a card carrying member of the NRA or hippie who makes love, not war, I think we can all agree that these kids—from Emma Gonzalez and the Parkland students in Washington DC to the local students in the 800 + cities across the US who marched, to the minority youth who don’t have a hashtag or the ability to organize but who face violent realities every day—are brave.

I left the rally thinking about change. Not only what it would take to see change in the number of school shootings and violent crimes in our country (a topic I am not qualified to address here) but also about change in my own life. What would it take to see change in certain areas of my life—of our lives-- where I (we) feel stuck?

Great People Change Things

I can't stop thinking about the Amy Poehler quote that's circulated the Internet this week. It's from her book. "Yes, Please': "Great people do things before they're ready." 

Like people who hope for political change, we might HOPE our marriage will get better or we HOPE to lose those 20 pounds. We HOPE to mend a broken relationship or we HOPE to stop doing that self-destructive thing that we don’t want to do but can’t seem to stop doing. We HOPE, but are we actually willing to DO?

As Rachel Hollis (who I'm probably not going to stop quoting anytime soon) says: ”Hope is not a strategy."

I can’t tell you how to change the world, yourself or your circumstances. I do know that just like attending the March For Our Lives rally, I often find the inspiration to change when I approach a situation with humility and an open mind and most of all, when I listen.

There is so much value in listening and learning from other people—people who have different opinions from you, people who have faced similar situations, people who have gone before. 

Next week, I’m heading down to Glendale, CA to attend the Rise Conference. I don’t know a single person attending the conference. I’m going to meet other women who are doing cool things online and elsewhere, to get inspiration and insight from the amazing speakers, and hopefully to come away feeling “unstuck” in a few areas I’ve been struggling with.

I have no idea who I’ll meet or exactly what I’ll be doing while I’m down there… which is both terrifying and kinda cool…but mostly terrifying. I just know that, for me, lately, pushing myself out of my comfort zone is where I’ve seen the most change. Much like the people who marched on Saturday, I’m tired of HOPING for change in my own life, and I’m ready to take action.

What about you? In what areas of your life are you hoping for change and what is your strategy to accomplish it? Maybe it’s attending a conference. Maybe it’s reading a book, going to that therapy session or making that phone call. THINKING about doing something doesn’t do very much at all.

Do you know what the rest of Amy Poehler's quote says? "...(Great people) do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that--that is what life is. You might be really good. You might find something out about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself." 

Whatever it is you’ve been meaning to do, now is as good of a day to do it as any. Pick up the book. Schedule the appointment. Make the phone call. Let today be the day that marks your “New Beginning.”