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As I already mentioned, I could not think of a fear to challenge for the #StartExp. Mainly because I’ve already looked fear in the face and laughed like a crazy person. How did you do that, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you a story of a girl. A girl with a dream.

Once upon a time, there was a girl. The girl loved to learn and loved taking classes of all shapes, sizes, and topics. When the girl got to college, she was happy – classes galore on almost every topic imaginable. She fell into four glorious years of simply learning. Eventually she did find a major, two of them in fact, and happily settled into writing, studying, and learning. But like all things, eventually college must end. The girl had met all the requirements for her degree and was told it was time to move off into the big, bright “real world” where she’d be required to get a “real job” and become a “productive citizen.”

Well, the girl thought long an hard about this. There were many things that interested her, and graduate school was on top of that list. In particular, she thought law school sounded like something she might like. But she had spent almost four years working hard and learning a lot, and she was a bit worn out from it all, yet she pushed on. She decided to start down the law school path. She took the LSAT and got loads of catalogues and info on law school. But when reviewing all the literature on law school, she hesitated. “Why,” she asked? “Why do I want to go to law school? To be a lawyer, certainly, but why?” This question stumped her, and it was something she had to answer for her own, for no mentor or professor could guide her on this particular question.

Time took care of that well enough. She ended up hesitating enough that many deadlines came and went with lovely whooshing sounds that deadlines like to make. In the meantime, the girl was confronted by inquiries of well meaning people asking, over and over again, what she intended to do when she graduated, because she must now enter the “real world” and get a “real job.”

Well, the girl was stymied. What would she do? What could she do? At the time, as a young 22-year-old, she felt a lot of pressure to have the “right” answer. Sadly, she never heard a voice telling her she could just take time off, do something non-sensical, travel, explore, learn about oneself before being swallowed by the world. But no, that was not how the girl was raised. She was raised with middle class values and morals, and the first and foremost, was to be a productive member of society. So she did what many 22-year-olds do. Felling pressured, she made a choice. She decided to go to graduate school – just not the right one.

At her university, she was known by many on campus from being active in many organizations, and as a result, had met many of the professors and deans. The assistant dean of the college of business was one such person who took a great interest in the girl’s future, for he had talked to her several times and cared about his students. In one such discussion, this dean, a great marketer, sold the girl on the idea of business school. What a better compliment to the girl’s liberal art education than to get a graduate business degree! The girl, not knowing what else to do and feeling a myriad of pressure to do something “grown-up” and reasonable, agreed. And at the end of the summer, was ensconced in the graduate business program.

Although the girl knew within weeks that the program was completely wrong for her, she had been raised to not be a quitter. Besides, she had no idea what else she could do, and everyone seemed so proud and happy that she was doing this. So she stuck it out for three miserable years. (It took her an extra year because she had not taken any business classes as an undergrad.) At the end of her time in business school, she accepted a job with a local company. After graduation, that company hired her full-time. Everyone was so proud of her for getting a “real job”, so the girl marched on, even though in her heart of hearts, she knew it wasn’t her beat she was marching too.

Six years and four promotions later, the girl had turned 30 and was miserable. Granted, she had lots of friends, she liked her co-workers, and by all standards, she had a good job, but she was still miserable. Every day she woke up and despised going to work. While she was good at her job, she didn’t care for it. She had no passion, no spark, no joie de vivre about her work. In fact, the only happiness in a job she got was volunteering with some local non-profits – one of which involved mucking stalls in a barn! To think, she was happier working in a barn than in her bright shiny office. But this was the reality the girl faced.

Well, the girl finally took a hard look around and realized she was at a cross-roads in life. She had to either accept this was her life, doomed to despise work and lack passion, or, she had to do something about it. She thought back to the happiest times in her life. She brought out the dreams she had put in that box on that shelf in the deepest corner of her heart. And she made a decision – she did want to go to law school. She wanted to be a lawyer, and this time, she knew why.

Now changing horses mid-stream, so to speak, can be scary. After so many years, one builds up a comfortableness – friends, activities, routines, security. To give all that up, or at least to put that aside, to go back to school is a huge risk. She realized she would be starting over again. She decided to run the idea by her friends and family to see what they thought. When she shared this idea, she was pleasantly surprised. While some worried for her, most all cheered her on, encouraging her to follow her dreams. Luckily, she had no negative nellies or nay-sayers to rain on her parade. But she was saddened to hear how many told her that they would “live vicariously” through her. For so many have secret dreams, tucked down deep, never to see the light of day because of fear.

The girl, however, looked at fear and said, “It may be scary to move to a new place and start over, to build a new career from the ground up, but it can’t be worse than despair. For despair is where I have been living for too long, and nothing, nothing is worse than hopelessness. I would rather lose everything in the pursuit of my passion than to ever live in despair again.”

So, the girl once again took the LSAT, and to her great surprise, did better than when she was in college. She applied to law schools, was accepted, and chose one. After she officially accepted a spot for the fall term, she turned in her notice at work, and suddenly, after years of trudging, she felt much lighter and a tremendous joy came over her. Three years later, the girl graduated law school. Despite the fact that the future was still a bit uncertain as she was starting a career over again at age 34, she felt happier than she ever had. Fear had completely receded, left to seek other targets, and despair was a place long since forgotten. The girl knew she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to, as long as she didn’t give into fear.

This, my friends, is how I laughed at fear and followed my dream.

The End.