There's a specific moment from my childhood that I vividly remember.
I had just graduated kindergarten. I remember feeling really good. I felt popular. I felt cool. Which, I shouldn't have... because I also vividly remember once hiding in a corner of the classroom and pissing myself while everyone was at recess. But, I guess I was still pretty cool. So cool that I was invited to a friend's pool party.
Our parents were all there, of course, because we were five to six year old kids swimming in a four foot pool. But, they were out of sight. We all had "swimmies" (that's what I call them, I don't know if that's the technical term, nor do I want to know because it's god damn adorable) or life jackets on and we were playing games and having fun with our friends. At one point, I decided I didn't want my swimmies anymore. I told my friends that my mom sometimes let me swim without them. (She didn't.) But, remember, I was popular and cool and I did cool things like that. I took off my swimmies... and I drowned and died.
Just kidding. I swam! I swam my little heart out! I paddled my arms and I was afloat in the pool and I didn't die for probably a whole minute until someone either told my mom or she found out on her own and I was either taken out of the pool and immediately yelled out, or was forced to put my swimmies back on (while being yelled at.) Regardless, I just remember that freeing feeling. Taking that risk (to be cool) and succeeding. I swam. Without the help of any sort of flotation device. And it wasn't no thang.
I bring that up because I've been thinking a lot about courage and fear lately. I teach a lot, so the story of how I got into improv comes up a fair amount. And it's always the same story, "I was shy and I wanted to come out of my shell, so I took an improv class." But it wasn't easy. Certainly not. I It took some prodding and persuasion and a real push and I did it, and I was scared every week, and continued to face scary situations... but obviously, I got over it (and many other humps along the way) and it has served me well.
But, lately I've been feeling stuck. Not very courageous. Totally afraid. And now that I think about it, not very cool or popular either. I'm afraid to speak up for what I believe in because it's not the popular opinion and could easily mark me as an outcast. I'm afraid to take a risk, make a change and break away (as Kelly Clarkson advises me to do) because of the fear of the unknown. If I move to Los Angeles, what if I fail? What if I can't find a job or what if I don't have any money to support myself? What if I move out there and all the people that I think are my friends, aren't my friends, and I have to find a whole new group of friends? (Not possible.) What will I do without my safety net of family and friends?
It all comes down to this one very deep, well-spoken thought: Fear is the worst.
Just a quick Google search of "quotes on fear" will prove to you how much prominence we give fear. We all know that we have to, or should, face our fears... but we also don't want to get off the couch. The couch is so comfortable and familiar.
When I was a five-year old in that pool, I abandoned familiarity, comfortability and safety and swam right through fear (see what I did there?) and came out stronger in the end. I could swim! Without protection! I was fine. It wasn't scary at all. As I make my decisions in the coming months, or years, I hope I remember that courageous little Patty that's somewhere deep inside of me.
I just gotta take my swimmies off, swim through the fear... and everything's going to be just fine. And probably significantly better! Just like Kelly Clarkson promised. She did promise that, right? If not, I'm suing her.