“You should probably check this out.”
I casually open up my chat app and see that I’ve been sent an image.
Only it’s an image of me.
On a very specific stage.
The moment I’ve been dreading for six months is finally here.
My brain is not pleased.
Right now, it’s swimming in an interesting mix of euphoria and terror—panic. It’s not the worst place I’ve been.
But it does have a crazed sort of energy about it.
I begin trying to get ahead of this fiasco by panic drafting a Facebook post.
But what do I say?
“Hey. Here’s a TEDx talk I did. Please don’t watch it.”
After I’d walked off that dramatically lit, purple stage, I needed a full week to recover. My nerves were frazzled. I felt vulnerable and exposed. It’s a bit awkward to admit. I pride myself on being unaffected by others. But what’s become really apparent is that this concept of myself is…profoundly…deeply…untrue.
Post speech, some primal part of me fears for my survival and safety. I hate the idea of not being able to do damage control. To affect how others perceive me. Especially those who don’t like me.
And I know this is ridiculous.
At worst, I’ll get some negative comments. Someone’ll be cheesed off at me for two days and then move on with their lives.
At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
But the channel where they’ll launch this thing will have 33.3 million subscribers.
And in my heart of hearts, I am, in that moment, completely convinced that I’m doomed.
The internet is where people get into full-on blood feuds over memes. I did a talk about masculinity and suicide and how some men would benefit from allowing themselves to have feelings.
I am so f*cking doomed.
Worst of all, I only had myself to blame. This is what you get for giving a damn talk on vulnerability.
But in the end, I guess that’s what life is about.
You get the obstacles you need.
You keep getting the same obstacles until you learn.
From the massive bouts of sleep-destroying anxiety and rumination about my ruination…
I get to grow.
I get to face my fear, sit with it, breathe, and find that when all is said and done…I still remain.
And there’s so much power in that.
Being the most important force in my own life.
Of course, there’s also a certain irony in this learning.
As I wake up after a night of tossing and turning and fearing the consequences of my actions, I somehow feel okay. In that instant, I can see how all my suffering was brought on from a need to control.
But how do you control 30,000 people? Or 100,000?
The best I can figure…you give another talk.
And that’s where the learning is.
Every possible effort I could make to control the situation would simply lead to more of the situation I’m desperately trying to control.
There is nothing to do in the moment but to surrender.
And as much as I hate to admit it.
As much as I hate giving up.
Surrendering to everything that is…
Accepting that it’s going to unfold in exactly the way it needs to.
Finally, finally recognizing that it has absolutely nothing to do with me at this point.
That is what sets me free.
Free of my fear.
My obligation to put others at ease.
There’s a part of me that’s deeply unhappy about this.
It wants to be embroiled in the chaos. It wants to seek out and try to solve the next problem and the next, in a flurry of Red-Bull-fueled action.
But more and more now, I can see that the less this part of me gets involved (especially with the big “high stakes” moments), the better I get to feel.
And in the end, I think that might be the only thing that matters.
How do you get to feel in this moment? And in the next? And the next?
Everything else. Those are just minor details.
Accouterments to the grand centerpiece of the emotional experience of the thing.
If I can’t find the joy in fulfilling a dream on a dramatically lit purple stage, then what chance, pray tell, does the rest of my life stand?
It’s tempting to smack this dead horse a few more times.
Maybe to prove a point.
Maybe to try and convince.
But maybe for the first time in my life, I can really, truly, let that go.
We learn the lessons we were meant to learn.
And inside of accepting that I finally get to unlock my cell and walk out of this place of needing people to see things the way that I do.