What do your high school guidance counselor’s office and the internet have in common? They’re both plastered with thousands of inspirational quotes about how every great journey starts with one step. We’ve all seen them. The Instagrammable graphics meant to inspire; the quotes meant to fire you up and get you to start doing and dreaming.
Look, you can put as many quotes like that in bold fonts over stock images of a woman at the top of a mountain or with an eagle flying over a scenic vista as you want if that makes you happy. You can pin them onto your Pinterest boards about “Seeking your Truth,” or attach them to your Facebook statuses outlining your latest 30-day challenge.
Maybe they motivate you, but I’m willing to bet they don’t. I’m willing to bet that you forget that quote after a few days, and sometime after updating your social media status you’re sitting at home in your jammies, wondering why you stopped starting, or whether or not you’re actually going to start - reminiscing on that vision or dream you had forever ago.
Sure, an actual journey, one calculated by miles and physical distance and space travelled, always start with a step. It’s simple. It’s inherit to move from point A to point B because we’ve been doing it for as long as we have been alive. We crawled, then we walked.
It’s when we face the more metaphorical journeys that the first step seems so impossible.
We don’t know what that first step looks like.
We don’t know what the step after that first step looks like.
Or the step after that.
When you start something new—a new job, a new project you’re passionate about— you feel like you’re walking on Legos. It hurts like hell, it’s so incredibly uncomfortable and you stop and start many, many times. But after a while your feet develop a callus or go numb and the walking gets a bit easier.
To start a new journey is to get uncomfortable. It’s to ask yourself a thousand times a day if you’re doing things right. It’s to think you’re being annoying or unqualified or a failure over and over again. It’s living through all these things, feeling all these feelings, and still deciding to keep going.
It’s retraining your brain to a new normal.
When I was a kid I found nothing more peaceful than a quiet day in my room in pure silence. I would read a book or I would write in my notebook. it didn’t really matter what I did, as long as I was by myself in still quietness.
Then, I had kids. And, for the last six years, my life has never been quiet.
I get home to kids screaming, to toys screeching, to dishes clanking in the sink, to doors being slammed, to laughter, to temper tantrums, to cries, to yelling at my kids to keep it down, to turning up the volume of the TV or my computer or my phone to just hear it, to shouting at my husband a normal conversation because we can’t hear each other over everything else.
Over every single LOUD moment of being a parent for the last six years, the one thing I have asked for (prayed for, begged for) is silence – to sit in quiet and to have that moment of peace I used to chase after when I was younger sitting quietly in my room.
I travelled to Pittsburgh for business recently and was beyond excited that my standard room was upgraded to a beautiful suite. The room was disgustingly large with a huge living room and kitchenette and king-size bed in the master bedroom.
I remember walking in, and the first thing I thought – after my initial freak out – was, I can hear myself think. It was remarkably quiet.
I sat on that massive bed in peace and quiet as I had done for so many years when I was younger; before the kids, before the screaming and crying, and general loudness.
For a few hours, I loved it. And then, I hated it.
It was too quiet. I could hear every creak, every toilet flush, every door opening and closing down the hall. I timed when the air conditioner turned on and off. I counted car horns outside. I laid wide awake on that bed trying to sleep but just couldn’t. I turned on the television and closed my eyes, sleeping so peacefully with it playing in the background.
As much as I told myself I hated the constant noise of my house, I had become accustomed to it. I was comfortable with it, and it took regressing to an old comfort level to realize that my threshold had changed.
That’s the thing about habits and comfort levels. When you get yourself out of your comfort level, you may feel uncomfortable. The entire time, you may be saying “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I want to go back to how it used to be.”
But then you go back to the way things were, to the way you used to do things, and it feels wrong. Your muscle memory has changed. YOU have changed.
If you’re standing at the starting line of your next big adventure, you’re probably wondering what your first steps are. It feels daunting and lonely to be standing right on the edge of something spectacular. You feel so far outside of your comfort zone. You’re so close to screaming, “I hate this. I’m not good enough. I don’t enjoy this.” You have a thousand questions you want answered. You have the weight of the worry and a fear of inadequacy.
But regardless of the journey you have in front of you, the first step is and will always be getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. The longer you push through the uncomfortableness, the quicker you develop a habit.
That new habit will transform those feelings of fear, of discomfort, until they are less noticeable. You’ll find your initial worries transformed into manageable quirks of the job. You’ll find that discomfort turns into your new normal, something you may even be comfortable with. You’ll start to love it. You’ll start succeeding.
As someone who is also standing in the doorway of something my heart has been calling me to start for some time now, I feel uncomfortable. I feel like I am sitting in silence on a hotel king-sized bed begging for the comfortable chaos and noise of my home.
Sit in that uncomfortableness for a minute, sister. Acknowledge that this feeling of uncertainty is totally normal and a sign that you care SO MUCH about the journey ahead of you that you don’t want to fuck it up.
Now, compartmentalize that uncertainty. What are the five things keeping you from moving forward? Be tactical about this. Make a list of all the things you need to ask your mom, or your bestie, or Google about. Ask the questions, get your answers, find your starting point, and KEEP GOING.
This is your wake-up call. This is the starting bell at the starting line of your journey. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you do not have permission to put starting on hold. You no longer have the option of choosing the comfort of not starting at all over the discomfort or uncertainty of standing like a statue at the start. It’s your time to start. It’s your time to do.
Get to it, lady.