Many years ago, I watched a television programme that left an impression on me. An older woman explained why she took up sky-diving in her sixties. It was an antidote to the risk of an ever-diminishing life, as a result of living within her comfort zone. As we get older, we can be less inclined to take risks and settle into a comfortable routine. Sky-diving is a bit extreme. I considered trying a tandem skydive but the thought of jumping out of a plane terrifies me. In the 2001 film Kate and Leopold, Meg Ryan has to step off the Brooklynn Bridge, to be reunited with Leopold and to live the life she truly desires. I love that film, but every time I watch it she goes to jump and I think, I couldn’t do it. I would lose everything because I would be too afraid.
There is a parallel here to life. It’s great being comfortable, feeling calm and secure. When our world changes, establishing a routine can help us to feel in control. During lockdown, a routine helped many of us create a sense of stability in a scary world. However, over time we can become stuck, moving within the boundaries we have established. Comfort turns to discontent as we become aware of our unfilled potential. It is frightening to step out of our comfort zone: fear of failure, rejection, or disappointment. But we risk losing much more if we stay put. We risk losing the opportunity to fulfil our potential, and to discover new interests and passions. We aren’t just denying ourselves the expression of our true self and all that we can be, we are denying it to the world. We have a responsibility to fulfil our potential and that means continuing to learn and grow, whatever stage of life we are at.
In an earlier blog Welcoming change, I told you how I was letting go of a successful career as a management consultant to start a new one as an indie author entrepreneur. It was and is scary. I was very comfortable with my working life, but this meant that nothing challenged me. I had decades of experience in health and social care. I could take on any management consultancy job in my field and know that I had the skills and experience to deliver. It was a great place to be and paid the bills. Outside of my comfort zone was my unfulfilled potential. I knew I wanted to be a published author and there were other things, other versions of me that I needed to explore. I am only just discovering some of that potential, as I try out new things.
Yes, we may fail. I made my first book promotion video without looking at the camera because I didn’t know where it was on my phone. I’ll know next time, so it isn’t failure; it’s my first attempt. I like the old adage that when we mess things up we just need to use the experience as manure to nourish future projects.
The past six months have been a steep learning curve for me. I have learnt how to: commission and work with a creative team (editors and book cover designer), format a manuscript for publication, self-publish, set up and write a blog, use Mailchimp to share a newsletter, and use social media (Twitter, Instagram, Business page on Facebook). I am planning a YouTube channel to broadcast twice a week from January 2021, and I am writing and publishing another two novels next year.
I am sixty and so I have not grown up with the technology that younger people are experienced in using. Of course, I have experienced frustration and felt stupid. What happens if my investment of time and money doesn’t pay off? I have felt weary, exhausted from the effort and relentless drive to succeed. But, I am growing. I am learning. And I am transforming. I am becoming a new me. I am pushing out into the unknown and with each step into that magical terrain, my world becomes bigger. Instead of feeling the weight of fear and uncertainty, I am going to embrace each new experience and find joy in learning.
There’s just one other thing I will resolve to do. This is the scariest of all. I am going to visit my local swimming pool and jump into the deep end. It is a first step. I will not jump out of a plane, but maybe, if I can learn to do that without fear, I might just be able to jump back in time to be with the love of my life, should a Leopold beckon me one day.