“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Now that the next few years of my life is somewhat set, I was really looking forward to following the mapped-out path of my professional life. High school and undergrad years were full of exploration, challenges, and journeys to understanding myself better and learning to embrace who I am. I sincerely thought that I could take it easy now, at least for a bit, and just enjoy the road that’s laid out for me for once. Taking on new challenges has been fun, but I was hoping I had landed in a stage of my life where I can catch my breath and just enjoy structured learning at school while connecting with great new people and settling into Chez Moi.
What the former First Lady of the United States said about taking daily trips outside of the comfort zone seems sound in theory, but difficult in practice. How much time do we have in a day to dedicate to something new and scary? Encountering the unknown increases activation of our sympathetic nervous system, leading to everything from increased heart rate to dilated pupils. Going through that everyday is exhausting, and it can be anti-productive if you’re diverting your energy supply to these new endeavours on a daily basis.
I am a creature of relatively extreme habit, and I did not understand this recommendation to make yourself uncomfortable every day. But then my opinion changed… a little bit…
One of my blog posts from a little while ago, about the value of memories, mentioned that I found an old recording that I had made with a friend from high school. It reminded me that I used to pursue the performing arts as vigorously as I pursued science, but that stopped during my undergrad.
Regardless of the multifactorial reasoning for why I stopped my pursuit of the arts, I am now at a new point in my life, and I asked myself why I shouldn’t pick up where I left off. Despite the rational reasons like not having time, not being experienced enough, and the arts not being perfectly compatible with my current life trajectory, I had no real answer for myself, because in my heart of hearts, I dream of being back on the stage, singing and acting again. Thus, I did a lot of research and decided that I will definitely audition, this week, for a musical that my school is putting on. Kiss of the Spider Woman was a novel that was transformed into the Best Musical of 1993, as well as an Oscar award-winning film later on, and it is a beautiful and strange tale of love, fantasy, and sacrifice.
Just thinking about auditioning again after being rusty for years makes it hard for me to stop hyperventilating (which unfortunately affects my singing…), but it also gave me an incredible spark of energy that I haven’t felt in a long time. It turns out that living predictably (at least for me) can lead us into a life of sedentary comfort psychologically, and it is only with driving down new roads and taking on new adventures that we give our brains and bodies the jolt it needs. The excitement of potentially being in a musical again has given me the motivation and drive to become better engaged in every other aspect of my life. Keeping busy means that all of our eggs are not in just one boring basket, but spread out over several different passions, so when school might not be going super well, you have hockey practice, or dress rehearsals, or volunteering in the community. Success in one gives us the reminder that we can be successful in the other avenues of our lives, as well, and I think that’s the secret to why those who get involved during post-secondary education also tend to succeed academically.
And that’s why Eleanor Roosevelt suggests that we do something scary every day, because it reminds us that we can. It reminds us that we have the potential to be more than what we currently are, to constantly grow and learn and reassess.
I hope that my risk-taking will encourage you to do the same. Think about what else you love to do but for some reason are not doing right now. Ask yourself why, and then if possible, make the first small step and follow through regardless of your hesitations. It doesn’t matter what the result is. It doesn’t matter if I get the lead or a part in the chorus or no part at all. What matters is that I did something that makes me feel like the world is full of possibilities again, that I am not restricted to any one career or passion or life.
It makes me feel alive and human.
To end, I wanted to prove that I’m serious about auditioning, so below is a recording of me practicing for my audition. Posting this piece also constitutes as the one thing I did today that scares the bejesus out of me!
Two birds with one stone –> AWESOME!
The song is from the Phantom of the Opera:
“Past the Point of No Return“