I knew within a week that I had made a mistake. I had left a position at the radio station where I worked, to take a position in their sales department. Lured by rumors of high sales commissions, I had rationalized the change by telling myself I could use some sales and business experience, to add to my growing body of creative experience as a voiceover artist and recording engineer.
I hated it. I hated the pressure of meeting quotas, and morning “rah-rah” sales meetings, but put on a good face for a year, when one morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t tolerate one more day. So I turned in my resignation and drove home in tears of relief and fear.
I was terrified. How would I support myself? I was 28 years old, unmarried, with a mortgage to pay and a cat to feed, and in desperation, I decided to try meditation as a defense against the persistent voices in my head that told me I had really screwed it up this time.
I got a book that suggested I lay down so my spine would be straight (the better for the energies to flow?) and empty my head of thoughts. Thoughts like, “Am I doing this right? What about now? Oh darn, there goes another thought.” I stuck with it, though, and a funny thing happened. I began to hear another quiet voice, one that encouraged me to relax, that everything would work out just fine. At first I was skeptical. Could I trust it? The feeling of reassurance was so consistent, however, that I thought, “Why not?” and listened closely.
That quiet voice inspired me to reach out to people I knew in the broadcast production industry, and the timing was magical. Within weeks I had a steady gig doing both on-camera work and training as a production assistant. Thirty years later, I have found success in the marketing, advertising, and film industries.
I needed that voice again a decade later, when I knew I needed to end my first marriage, but was afraid of being out on my own. How would I support myself? As before, I had known for a year that our relationship had gradually become disconnected, and my resentment and sadness had become a too-familiar companion. “Have I failed?” I wondered. I was afraid that leaving my husband would confirm my deepest fears about myself—that I was unlovable unless I was perfect.
I struggled for months, hoping a miracle would happen and we would again be happy. But nothing changed. One day, I woke up and my fear of what I would become if I stayed was greater than my fear of what I would face if I left. I was terrified, and yet, I knew this time to listen for the encouraging voice inside me. That voice guided me to find a therapist and work through my resentment, and that going to dinner alone wouldn’t kill me, but open me up to interesting conversations with new people. A small client expectedly expanded into a big one, and my fears of not being able to provide for myself gradually eased. I learned to count on a steady stream of abundance that I worked hard to create.
With the passing of my years, I have come to realize that packed alongside every one of my fears is also the gift of courage that comes from trusting our own quiet voice inside: our inner wisdom. I was surprised the first time I shared the story of leaving the radio station for life unknown and someone exclaimed, “That was so brave!” It took me a while to own my courage, because it sure didn’t feel like it at the time. I own it, now, remembering the earlier times in my life where I was afraid and yet trusted that I could figure something out, even if I wasn’t sure if I could. That knowing has come in handy, when I was again afraid upon meeting the kind man who would become my second husband. I had one marriage that didn’t work out, could I try again? I ultimately decided that I could, and we have just celebrated our third wedding anniversary. The gift of my fears led me to be lovingly vigilant about doing the things that make our relationship happy, solid, and fulfilling to us both.
I can say that being afraid at age 58 doesn’t feel any better than it did at age 28. There are always things in life that kick up fears like a car on a dusty road. But I now face the unknown with a little more curiosity and self-trust than I used to, and that makes all that earlier discomfort well worth it.