Here’s the thing about shedding your old self. The act itself isn’t hard. It’s the thinking and worrying about it that’s hard.
Seven years ago I thought that leaving the corporate world, the reliable paycheck, the medical benefits, and complete individual financial independence was ridiculously hard to do.
Six years ago I worried I couldn’t handle a beloved parent’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Five years ago, I remember thinking that saying “No, thank you” to a job in academia (that was with amazing people–wah!) so that I could just keep writing was crazy.
Four years ago, I remember believing that giving up the idea of being a consultant to write full time was tough.
Three years ago I worried that I simply couldn’t deal with a lump in my breast at my first—very first!—mammogram.
One year ago I remember thinking that giving up cross-neighborhood event planning would be hard (ok, this one I think was easier, I was clearly not cut out for it–it made me really bitchy). I also recall worrying that I was not cut out to parent an 8-week-old creature of any sort, ever.
Six months ago I thought that handing over my beloved community coworking space to new people would be ridiculously tough. And I thought that letting go of my city self to become an island self would be really, really hard. I also worried that a parent battling depression combined with bitter squabbling in my extended family would physically break my body and my heart.
What do these things all have in common? I spent a ton of time thinking, plotting, planning, and worrying–almost none of which actually helped.
Which brings me to today. Today I can’t write essays.
More specifically, because technically this is an essay, I can’t write essays for the new book I’m working on: the first book that I will be sole author on. I can only write poetry.
Day after day I sit down to write what I used to write. Day after day only poetry lands on the page. What the frack?! I am not a poet! I have no idea how to be a poet! Except for a life of reading poetry, I have no training at all. Nobody is going to buy a book of poetry from a complete unknown who doesn’t know what she’s doing! What am I doing? And why is this frickin’ life not getting easier like it’s supposed to if I work hard and follow my own energy?!
See. This is what worrying about shedding your old self gets you: big fearballs. Like cat-barfed-up hairballs but made from spiraling fear and just as gross.
I’ve written nothing but poetry for four months straight. I’m writing poetry every day now. A poem is written even before I get out of bed, and more follow it throughout the day. I refine and edit in my dreams, wake up to make changes.
My first sole-author book will be a book of poetry. Will this be hard? I have no idea—because I’m not going to worry about it or even think about it much anymore.
I’m shedding my old self again. To the extent I can be, I will be like the baby bird escaping from its shell, the butterfly from her cocoon, and the snake from his skin. This writer is escaping from her chair to wander the world as a poet and to write wherever the breeze blows her.
The act of letting your old self go isn’t the hard part. Most days, the worrying about it is.