I have this quote posted to my wall in my studio, reminding me to just keep pushing whenever I get scared. And I get scared a lot right now. My life is a giant question mark, more so than it’s ever been before. I’m pursuing my current dream of a varied and mixed life, full of both science and art and family and my community. I can go in so many different directions, fail in so many different ways, succeed in so many different ways – it’s pretty freaky some days.
When I get scared, I try to remember that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to succeed. That no matter what, I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep taking steps, no matter how slow. Progress will happen if I keep taking the little steps.
As I work to shape my life into something that will make me happy, I’m sometimes haunted by the dreams of past-me and the dreams of my culture and what it tells me I should want. The quote above leads me to a fantastic video by Hank Green, one of my favorite creators. He gave a speech at VidCon last year that included the ideas “you have no obligation to your former self” and “dreams should fuel you, not define you.”
I want to be open to possibility and new directions. I want to see a strange chance and take it, even if it brings my life in a wildly new direction. It’s scary, though, because behind it all are the thoughts about how people will think I’m abandoning my dreams, or heading off in a direction that will ultimately let me down.
You know what? If that happens, I’ll turn around and try something new. I like research, and perhaps my life will continue on in research, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll end up doing costume design for theater or working with some nonprofit or being a fantastic administration assistant. If I don’t like it, I’ll try something else.
I want to shake off this idea that I need to do one thing in order to “be successful.” Here is another great video, where Hank talks about how “success” does not exist – there is no one thing that will make us perpetually happy. “That satisfaction, that joy – it comes from solving problems and making things… and most fantastically of all, we make ourselves.”
I know I want to make things. That has been a driving passion my entire life. When I look back on essays I wrote in high school and college, they are about how I love both art and math, and how I want to create things.
Right now, I’m working hard at making myself. It’s scary a lot, but could also be amazing. So, this year, I hope I keep making mistakes. New and glorious and varied mistakes. ~Kell