I remember a regular old day when I was a regular old student at Utah State University. I was taking an upper division class in my major. It was hard, but good hard - the kind of hard that eventually led me to those aha moments, which is the hope of any good professor. I worked hard and did well in the class. One day, Dr. Allgood told us he was in need of a teaching assistant for the next year. I thought about it for maybe two seconds before thinking to myself, "Nah. I could never do that." I was completely content with the status quo precedent I had set for myself and didn't have much confidence that I could do much more. Helping edit my peers' papers? Teaching them in front of the professor?! No thank you; too scary. A couple of weeks later, he pulled me aside and asked if I'd thought about applying for the position. When I told him no, he replied, "Well, I think you should. You would do a really great job at it."
There it was. One little conversation, with one little positive comment. It was a little thing that turned out to be a big defining moment in my life. This man who was incredibly brilliant in his field had faith in me. He believed I could do hard things. So I did. I spent the next year as his T.A., which was sometimes terrifying. (Sometimes, awesome people intimidate me. He was awesome.) Not only did I not fail at that quest, I did it well. Dr. Allgood even encouraged me to apply for an award as the Outstanding Teaching Assistant in our department, and I got it. None of this ever would have happened had the little moment not happened in the first place.
I wish I could say that that moment set the path for me to never be afraid to take risks again. Sometimes I just get scared. I let the what if's creep in. Or, if I don't have a 100% guarantee that the outcome of such risks will be perfect, why bother?
Just over four years ago, I decided I was going to audition for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had just reached the minimum age requirement, and I was spending a lot of time in Salt Lake, so why not? As is normal with pretty much anything important I do in life, I successfully procrastinated making my audition cd until the LAST POSSIBLE DAY. Cue stress, panic, and an extremely irrational girly breakdown. "Just forget it!" I cried to my mom, who was helping me with the recording. "My voice isn't sounding perfect. I'm not doing it! I'll just audition another year." Well, Mom was wise. Mom knew her daughter. Actually, Mom had seen this exact tantrum (with slight variations) approximately 286 times in her life. She calmly replied, "Katie, what's the worst that could happen if you just turn in your slightly imperfect cd?" Still grumpily sobbing, "I'll tell you what's the worst that could happen, Mother! Mack and Ryan might hate my voice and wonder why in the world I ever thought I was worthy of auditioning and then they will put my name on a MoTab audition BAN LIST. THAT'S WHAT!" I am ridiculous. (And yet, I'm fairly confident I have not fulfilled my quota of such tantrums in my lifetime. Future husband, take note.) Funny how one little look from my mom said, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard" and one little look back said, "I know. FINE, MOM. Fine." There it was again, one little moment that led to one little risk that led to one of the biggest blessings I never imagined I could have: four wonderful years as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Isn't it interesting how those defining moments, the ones that change our direction or perspective or feelings or whatever, are so often just little tiny moments? They are the little moments that pass by us so quickly, we don't even realize we are being defined by them until we look back at them in retrospect. When you look back at your life, what are the defining moments? Were they big or small? What are the little things happening in your life right now that might actually be a bigger deal than you think?
Currently, some little things are happening in my life. They are the kinds of little things that may never become any more than that - little things. Or they might be the little things that lead to not only big things, but the biggest of all things. (Elusive much? Sorry, don't need the whole world weighing in on personal decisions that I haven't even begun to figure out how to make yet.) They are little things that allow me a choice: Do I stay in my happy little zone of comfort where I always know what to do, that place where I always feel in control? Or do I take risks, entering the world of complete vulnerability and then leaving the outcome in the hands of others?
Why do we allow a thing as ridiculous as fear to hold us back?
Fear of rejection.
Fear of failure.
Fear of discomfort.
Fear that it will just be too darn hard.
Fear that outcomes won't meet our expectations.
As for me, it's time to evaluate my little moments of now and take some really giant leaps of faith into the dark. Maybe those leaps won't lead to an illuminated soft landing. Maybe it will still be dark. But the faith part means I believe I will somehow land somewhere good.
Here's to the little moments and the little risks.
Vulnerability, bring it on.