I’ve been planning this trip to Europe in my head for years. I want to twirl around in the Austrian country side, singing Yes, Julie Andrews! The hills ARE alive with the sound of music! I want to drink beer from steins so large that my wrist aches from the sheer weight of the thing. I want to wander through Christmas Markets and find the magic of the season again. I want to eat all of the best, brown foods of my people: pretzels, kraut, knadles, schnitzel, and lindzer tortes. I want to speak German with Germans and practice that beautiful, guttural, aggressive sound that can only come from one’s throat.
I can’t seem to nail down a date or book a flight. I am holding back.
Mostly it’s because I worry too much. It’s hereditary, it’s been passed down from my Great-Grandmother Fetterman. For the sake of this example, I am worried about money, about timing, about terrorism (thanks losers!), and about my expectations. What if it doesn’t compare to the trip in my dreams? No singing VonTrapp children, no frosty mugs of lager, no dumplings or hand-carved nativity scenes.
What if, what if, what if.
I want you to do something for me. Yes, right now, wherever you are. If you’re able, raise your right arm and point to the sky.
Now raise that same arm even higher.
Ah ha! See what I did there? And you fell for it, right? Holding back is just like that, and we all do it. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not.
I suppose I’ve always been the type to hold back. When I was a competitive swimmer, I always saved a bit of energy during a race, just in case. Just in case what? Just in case I wanted to lose? Even now, I know I’m falling for the raise-your-arm-higher trick. I am back in the gym and training hard – but not as hard as I could be. Deep down, I know I could throw a few more pounds on the bar, but I don’t. I am still holding back, and why?
I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself.
If I give it my best and fail, it will hurt so damn bad. I don’t know if I’ll have the guts or the energy to continue on. But If I give 90% and fail, I’ll be disappointed and know I could have done better. My boss always says this thing that sometimes makes me want to roll my eyes like a defiant child, but mostly it’s right on the money:
The only advice I can give here is to suck it up and do the thing. There’s a lot to be said about longing and fear and regret. It’s all so cliche, but it’s still advice I think that you and I both need.
What is really freaking you out? Seriously, I am worried about ridiculously silly things, like canceling my cable and what happens when Kid President turns 18. We are in this shit together, really. So if you need a push to start writing a novel, or to finally display your art, or to come out of the closet as a cat lady – I got your back. As long as you promise to email me in a few weeks and remind me that, Mallory! The hills are alive with the sound of music… and so are you.