I’m not talking about jumping off any bridges mind you.
When I was 15, I started a summer filing job with the casting office of the New York City Joseph Papp Public Theater. As a nerdy, four eyed kid from the provincial land of Chinatown just 2 miles away, I was ill equipped to function in the vibrant, social and creative world of this 3 person office.
Everyday I dutifully showed up to work on time and plugged away for 8 hours, filing hundreds of headshots in alphabetical order by last name in two 3 drawer high metal filing cabinets.
I never spoke. Maybe just yes or no, and which theater did I have to drop off the folder at? They thought I was mute or a typical shy Chinese kid. But I heard and saw everything.
In my mind was a galaxy of thoughts and observations, swirling. A Galaxy. All of these impressive headshots of people I saw on TV or in the lobby. All these names I would recognize throughout my life. How funny Tom* was and how much I wanted to talk with him, and how many questions I wanted to ask about how they got this job, what their friends were like and how was life as a grown up? But so fearful of saying the wrong thing or anything! Or not meeting his level of wit. How bored I was. I really could be doing more than filing – can’t anyway see that? How much I wanted to break free and run off into singing and acting too? But I’m 15 and my mom says hell no, you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer. How much I wanted them to help release me from my mind prison.
(Introversion, culture, socialization, gender, age, class aside – and they do play a role – the atomic level connection is fear.)
Fear is the mind killer. I sometimes wonder how life would have changed if I just spoke. Or just how that summer would have changed.
In my coaching practice, I see adults struggle in the very same way. Grown adults with Master degrees, mortgages, and pages of accomplishments. Adults who are afraid to ask. Literally ask about a different job, different responsibilities, more money, a new city, a new life. Afraid to manifest their unique hopes and dreams.
This is your world too. Fear is the mind killer. Have the fear and do it anyway. Small steps. Maybe your summer will change in a surprising way.
*names have been changed.