I’d Rather Be Brave

It seems like we’re always waiting for something.

Waiting for an answer, for a direction, for an open door. Waiting for the right person, the right opportunity, the right words.

I think I’m just tired of waiting, of wondering. I’m tired of thinking that one day we’re all just going to wake up and have it figured out. As if we will suddenly know who we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to do, and that we will possess the bravery to do it.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but if it’s a sign you’re in need of, consider this yours.

You’re never going to be ready. You’re never going to have the perfect answers and the color-coded map that guarantees you won’t get lost. But not making a decision is making one. I’ve learned that this year if I’ve learned nothing else. If you refuse to choose, to change, to try, to explore, you’ve made the decision to keep things exactly as they are.

Don’t let fear make your choice.

Don’t let it decide to keep you comfortably inside the lines. You’re not made for a life consisting of waiting rooms and Netflix.

Make a choice. Do whatever it is that you’re trying so carefully to weigh and plan. Let go of the questions about what if, how, and what if I look like a fool?

Well, if you end up looking insane, then you can just e-mail me and join my little club. It’s called the I-do-at-least-fifteen-things-a-week-that-make-me-shake-my-own-head-and-cringe-and-laugh-at-myself club. It’s a mouthful, but we’ve got each others backs, we go on unexpected adventures, scream loudly in the car and eat a lot of peanut butter.

Do something risky and if you fall on your face, come sit here with me and just know that you are not alone or stupid for trying. 

In fact, I’m thinking of changing our name to i’m-ridiculous-but-at-least-stuff-happens club (we accept checks, so that’s a little shorter for the pity donations that might start rolling in).

The reality is, you don’t want to spend a lifetime waiting, toiling, and wringing your hands, trying to make a decision. Decide to do the unexpected, the difficult, the crazy, the thing that will make for a good story at Thanksgiving. Be someone who has something worth saying, stories worth telling, a life that leads to having books written and songs strummed.

Just do whatever it is that seems so incredibly scary, irrational or uncertain right now. Just do it unapologetically and decide that whatever the outcome, you’re just going to laugh. That whether it’s good or awful, whether it’s what makes you famous or infamous, just decide that you’re going to take yourself out to lunch and laugh hysterically at how brave and hopeful you were. (Trust me, it’s a lot more fun and a lot less tragically pathetic than it sounds.)

We need a world full of people who celebrate hope, possibility, bravery, courage, guts. People who finally said, “I’m not made for always taking a number, standing in line, waiting for the perfect moment”.

This is your permission slip. Chin up, it’s time that you take that trip, or make that dinner reservation, or leave that voicemail with your shaky apology.

The reality is, you’re not just going to wake up with a rush of bravery. You can’t cash in all your saved cool points to ensure that everything will work out just right.

It’s going to take deciding that whatever the worst outcome, it’s not enough to break you. You’ll survive, you’ll grow. Maybe one day you’ll be courageous enough to let it be a permission slip for others to take some chances.

When people are around me, I want them to feel like they’ve been given an all-access pass to becoming fully alive and fully present. I want them to feel the permission to embrace all that the room they’re in has to offer.

So, whatever it is that’s got you so wrapped up right now, whatever decision, situation, person, opportunity, just know that it’s okay to throw your heart out there. It will be alright if you risk looking like you’ve completely lost your mind.

If it happens, I’ll be here with you. I’ll be here in this little cafe, writing stories and bleeding hope and laughing about all the times I’ve learned the benefits of choosing to be brave.

After all, people who aren’t afraid to take some chances are the reasons why we’re all still here.

I’d rather be brave than spend my days waiting for the perfect moment, waiting between white walls and hoping someone will finally call my number.

You might stumble, or get stared at, or still end up watching Netflix on Friday by yourself. But if you’re ready to take some chances, just know you won’t be alone. There’s a little club here on the other side of this screen that’s cheering you on and loves hearing your stories.

“Twenty-one and strong as I can be–I know what freedom means to me.”

In one week I will turn twenty-two. I don’t really know how to feel about that.

Sometimes I wish I could write a letter to myself last year at this time. I wish I could tell newly twenty-one year old Ashlin what to expect in the year ahead. If I could buy her a latte, I would have a lot of words to wrap up for her. I would load her up with suitcases of advice for the journey of being twenty-one.

First of all– I would tell her that it will be a mistake to buy a million lotions on Black Friday. No one needs that much lotion and you don’t have enough friends to share it with. Just put the bag full of them back. Seriously, step away from the warm vanilla sugar; there’s not going to be a shortage any time soon.

Then I would tell her to be prepared to use her weep towel for the first six months of being twenty-one. Babygirl, you are going to cry all the time. Invest in some big sunglasses and a good under-eye concealer, because you are going to fill buckets with your waterworks. Then I would mention that she can throw it away after that, because the crying is over–the fat lady sings and the pity parties finally end.

I would tell her that she’s going to lose some people and things this year. There’s going to be a lot of loss, a lot of questions, a lot of darkness. I would hug her for a minute and tell her to hold tight to the still small voice. I would tell her to take more road trips, get lost in the trees and to really enjoy when the shades of orange bleed into the horizon. I would tell her that these are the things that will keep her sane in the middle of absolute uncertainty and unimaginable loss.

Then, I would tell her that she’s going to laugh more in the year of being twenty-one than all the others combined. There will be incomparable joy that will leak from unexpected places and will heal some of that pain. It’s still going to hurt, but that laughter is a medicine that Walgreens doesn’t have in stock.

I would tell her not to be afraid of anger. It’s not going to destroy you. It matters what you do with it, but it’s not wrong to have it. Be angry. Slam your fists when you’re alone and let out a yell that rattles your bones. Let it out. You’ve got reasons to be angry and God doesn’t fault you for it, in fact, sometimes He gets angry with you.

I would tell her that staying out until 3 AM on summer nights and weekends is brilliant and worth it—because staying up late with friends and laughing until your stomach hurts, sitting in diners, crying about heartache, talking about Jesus… those are things worth staying up for.

I would grab her by the face with my palms and say, You’re gonna run away sometimes and it’s perfectly alright. Do not let it gut you. You don’t have to be perfect! She really needs to hear this one, because she spent the prior twenty-years trying to be superhuman and do everything right. It’s time she learn that she’s beautifully and hilariously flawed.

Oh, then I would probably smack her and tell her to stop looking at people in the car next to her when at a stoplight. Because you know what happens when you do, and screaming “EW!” and driving off is not very Jesus-like. Even if they are creepy, that’s still not nice. Then, I would just throw out there that she needs to stop tempting her gas light. It does eventually run out–and when it does, it’s in the middle of five o’clock rush-hour traffic on the busiest road around. JUST GO GET GAS!

I would tell her that even though it’s going to be a hard year (a really hard one), that she’s going to write some of the best things she’s ever written. I would probably start to cry at this point; when I tell her that her inbox will be flooded with people who tell her that her words are changing their lives. I would tell her that it’s proof that God doesn’t waste the pain.

I would tell her that she’s going to taste fear in a way she never imagined. But I would promise her that it gets better. You won’t wake up in a cold sweat every single morning—nightmares will come and go, but you’ll push through and you’ll find a way to feel okay again. I’d comfort her by saying that there are explanations and reasons for why it’s happening—I’d tell her she’s not crazy, she hasn’t failed God, and it isn’t at all what she thinks it is.

Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I wouldn’t tell her any of this—because maybe I can somehow see how I needed to learn this. I needed to navigate the unknown territory without a map; because it would make me grow and it would push me to do bigger and better than I ever thought I could. Maybe I wouldn’t tell her because I wouldn’t want her to have done anything differently or changed any of those decisions. Maybe I can be grateful that twenty-one was beautiful in its own way, that it marched to its own beat.

Twenty-one was all about questions, wandering, and words. But it was also about joy and freedom. It was about making impulsive and irrational choices–only to learn, those don’t always turn out to be mistakes.

Twenty-one was messy and chaotic, but it was a jam. It was a mixed melody and I learned to dance.

Welcome, twenty-two! Here’s to a year of turning up the volume and changing the beat. I’m ready to dance to whatever tune you’re destined to play.

 

Sometimes You Just Walk

“Baby, you’re going to be quite alright.”

These are the words I heard sitting in my car this morning. I was just staring at bare tree branches during the final moments of the morning’s thunderstorm.

Just seconds before, it had taken everything I could muster not to just sit down in the floor of Target’s fitting room and let my eyes pour their own kind of rain.

I’m going to Ireland. I have two (pretty much three) amazing jobs. I am living my dreams, doing all the things I love. I am exactly (well, for the most part) where I hoped I would be at twenty-one. Honestly, I’m doing better than I ever expected.

But… and isn’t there always one of those? That word, she follows me everywhere I go; her fingers are almost always laced with mine. Sometimes, she sits on my shoulders and she is forever kicking me in the gut.

The truth is, no matter how seemingly perfect it’s all going, there are always those things that can knock the wind right out of you. One minute, you’re admiring a clearance lamp shade and the next thing you know, you’re hyperventilating next to a horrid burnt-orange vase.

It hits you…you’re not perfect. You feel like a worn out puzzle and as though your pieces are scattered in a million places. Every day has been a prayer for finding the right fit for at least one of them.

Somehow, you’ve got to accept it. You have got to get over the fact that you’re going to do some things that you’ll immediately regret. You will make decisions that will forsake everything you ever stood for. You will betray yourself over and over again. You will at some point be your own greatest disappointment. You will break your own heart.

But then you’ll hear those words, “Baby, you’re going to be quite alright.”

Maybe you can’t hear Him when He says those words to you. Maybe you’ve never really known where to lean your ear to hear what your maker has to say to you. Well, I think He’d be okay with me relaying this message to you.

You’re going to be quite alright. I know there are loose ends. Oh, and there are dreams that fell off somewhere along the way. You lost some pieces of yourself, and you left behind some important stuff that you needed. You’re tired and you’re disappointed and really, you’re a little bit angry.

But you’re quite alright. You, with your bloodshot eyes and your faded sweatshirt, you are going to be just fine.

I took a walk on the edge of a busy street sidewalk today. As I balanced my weight on those strips of concrete, I decided that sometimes it’s okay to take a walk having nowhere to end up. I didn’t have a destination and sometimes, you won’t. Sometimes you just walk and you end up wherever you end up. Sometimes, it leads you somewhere else, but a lot of times you end up turning around. Yeah, sometimes you just walk.

And It’s okay to wander a little. The wanderers are the learners. They are the ones with stories and they almost always come back with a little more strength in their bones.

When I noticed the green starting to peak out from the ground, I closed my eyes and I told Him that I wish He would go ahead and tell her to wake up. I wish the hands that formed this earth would wake her up. I need to see her crawl out from under the winter covers. I think it’s time she and I both pull ourselves out from the beds we’ve made.

I know it’s not always so simple. We’re going to wander aimlessly, we are going to screw up and the winter is going to come and it’s going to feel barren and cold. At first, you might be enchanted with the change, but quickly you will remember how much you long for growth and green. When you do, and the winter has not quite passed, know that you’re doing just fine.

And you’re going to find your way. The pieces will eventually start to show up and they’ll fit where they were always meant to. 

You will disappoint yourself and then you’ll learn how to forgive your own heart.  The things you pick up and leave behind will mold who you are going to be… and as for us, we’re going to be quite alright.