The first time I heard of Jon Acuff I was on a mission trip in Haiti and someone had a copy of “Stuff Christians Like”. A marvelous introduction to Jon’s literary work. He’s become one of the authors and speakers and people that I list when I say “I want to do things like what this person does.” So it was really cool when I was perusing instagram yesterday and saw that he was in Tampa! Doing a meet up! To talk about creativity and bravery! Solid.
I knew that part of the meet up was for people to come together and share their work. To bravely share (with strangers) those dreams that we’re working towards. And it’s interesting that this idea appealed to me because speaking to strangers about myself is literally my nightmare. I threw up before every public speaking assignment I’ve ever had, and once while studying fine art in college I had to present and defend my body of work (the meanest of all assignments) to my peers and professor. I decided to just skip it instead because dropping down a letter grade was easier on my soul than talking to my peers about myself and (THE MOST VULNERABLE THING OF ALL TIME) my art.
But hey, meet up with an author I admire and a room full of creative people who are probably all wiser than me and will most likely not stutter when they talk, as I most certainly will? Oh, sign me up!
We all know that when you’re getting ready to go somewhere – anywhere – the process includes picking out your clothes, brushing your teeth, and envisioning every conversation you’re going to have while you are at wherever you are going. I am always wildly hilarious and charming in these visions. Crackin’ jokes, not sweating, introducing myself to lots and lots of new people, and enjoying having non-frizzy hair. But none of these things ever come true, ever. Especially not the hair.
First of all, I was late. Not late late, but late enough that he had began speaking and I 100% missed the beforehand chit-chat. I live for beforehand chit chat. There aren’t a lot of people around so you’re able to introduce yourself in peace, plus you just proved that you have good time management skills and can arrive promptly so kudos to you. I was counting on this chit chat. Naturally, I woke up with a cold & I didn’t get myself ready at the speed I usually do, I missed a turn driving there and had to sit at one of Florida’s famous two hour red lights before I could turn around, etc.
The moment I walked in the room and saw I missed that chit chat, all of the anecdotes and witty remarks I had so thoroughly planned evaporated out of my brain and I remembered, “Oh yeah! I’m Kathryn and things like this are terrifying.”
Since this was a meet up and not a “hey come listen to me talk”, he didn’t speak for very long but I truly loved every moment that he did. He talked about bravery and jumps and hustling and working. He spoke right into my fears. Sharing this blog with people scares me. Writing a book scares me. Saying, “I write and I’m good at it” is the hardest sentence in the universe for me to utter (actually it’s the second – saying something nice about Kroger is most definitely the hardest) because I’m afraid it isn’t true. In fact, at first I added a “kind of” before the ‘good’ in that sentence just as a disclaimer in case anyone read this and thought “eh, you’re really not”.
A few posts ago I wrote about the lie: ‘its everybody else but us’. It’s still very much my biggest battle with myself. Jon said today that bravery has two parts: being brave enough to do the thing (whatever your thing is) and then being brave enough to tell others about the thing. I’m plenty brave to sit here in the corner and write quietly without anyone knowing, but the bravery tends to stop there. If it even began.
Sometimes I build up the idea that people who are doing what I wish I was doing are able to do them effortlessly. Sometimes I think that it must take Shauna Niequist all of ten minutes to pound out a book that makes me laugh, cry, and swoon. And admittedly I tend to bring it back to the idea that they’re doing it so well because they’re capable and I’m not. Everyone else but me. Pity party much? It was really fantastic to hear someone who I assume works effortlessly because he works so well say, “You want to do what I’m doing? Well this is what I’m doing: I’m working and I’m figuring and I’m learning and I’m hustling when it’s hard.” He may not have actually been aware that that is even what he was saying, but it was.
So the speaking part of this morning: perfection. Right to my soul.
The time-for-everyone-else-to-share part? Sweaty. That is, my hands were because I was so nervous (and also probably because I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, a jacket, a scarf, and boots because I’m a Floridan and it was 50 degrees this morning but it was definitely not 50 degrees in that church). I had to listen to seven other people share before I was able to convince myself that no one would throw a tomato at me and it was safe to raise my hand to go. Naturally that was the same exact moment that we ran out of time.
I was lingering around (just like everybody else) afterwards to get a second chance at sharing my plight with Jon, but my tactic of not saying anything and letting everyone else do their thing before me wasn’t working. Which is weird, because prior to this morning “not doing anything” has had a 100% success rate. I had the chance to meet some other locals who are doing cool things – it wasn’t wasted time, but I didn’t do what I had hoped to do.
Because I didn’t make it happen.
And I realized that this is what I always do. This is how I live my life – passively and unassuming and waiting for everything to be perfect and clear and easy. It’s not a big deal that I didn’t assert myself to go up and meet Jon Acuff, but it will be a big deal if I never write the book that I want to write or say the things that I want to say. I need to hustle. Graciously, gently, and lovingly, but diligently.
It will be a big deal if you don’t chase the dreams that are spilling from your heart and hands. It will be a terrible shame if the things in your brain stay there. We need to hustle.