“Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism. Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection. If you’re like me, practicing authenticity can feel like a daunting choice—there’s risk involved in putting your true self out in the world. But I believe there’s even more risk in hiding yourself and your gifts from the world. ”
– Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
I attended “The RISK of Pursing Your Passion,” a Spirit & Place panel discussion event on November 7, 2013 in Indianapolis. The event was life changing for me and touched my very soul. The panel was made up of five very talented and creative people, three of whom I know personally.
Stephanie Lewis Robertson, fabric artist and academic arts administrator, is an amazing woman, a mentor, and a loving friend to me. She has led me on many risk-taking and creative journeys over the past seven years. David Hochoy, Artistic Director of Dance Kaleidoscope, is a dynamic and yet introspective man originally from Trinidad. Lali Hess, owner and chef of a catering company, The Juniper Spoon, specializes in using local and organic foods in her cooking. Lali shared many insights on taking risks in her own life. Diana Ensign, a published author and blog writer, is a soft spoken woman with some painful yet meaningful experiences to share. Diana and I have crossed paths more than a few times over the past year. Marg Herder is the owner of Softsound and CircleWebWorks and the Director of Public Information for EEWC-Christian Feminism Today. I know Marg through her involvement with the Indianapolis Winter Solstice Singing Ritual, an event I became involved in six years ago as a choir member. Even before I attended The Risk of Pursuing Your Passion, Marg had challenged me to pursue my own passions, and she actually dared me to risk writing this blog post. Here I am!
I grew up in a household and a religion that taught me I was not good enough and I would never be good enough. My father (also my pastor for most of my growing up years) was the child of an alcoholic with little insight about his own issues and scars. The independent, fundamental, Bible-believing, New Testament-teaching, evangelical religion fit perfectly with the dysfunction, rigidity and shame-producing environment of an alcoholic home. I bought it all—hook, line, and sinker.
I could relate to so much of what the members of the panel shared about what their biggest obstacles were in risking the pursuit of their passions.
In my house growing up I couldn’t even do the dishes well enough to please my parents! This gave rise to constant negative self-talk which has led me down many sorrowful paths. I didn’t believe I had anything to offer anyone. Consequently, I have always been my own biggest obstacle. The fear of not being good enough caused me to live on the perimeter and to take negative risks, rather than positive, healthy, life-producing risks.
During the event several panel members said how important it was to risk being vulnerable by revealing details about yourself in your work. A tear or two trickled down my face as I felt the shame of believing I had nothing good to reveal about myself. Shame is my familiar companion. But within just a few minutes I found myself smiling and laughing as a panelist shared something humorous that I could relate to.
Most of the panelists agreed that through sharing yourself authentically, your audience can see themselves in your work and learn from it. My own experience has taught me that this is true. Hearing stories similar to my own has helped me to begin to heal from my childhood injuries.
It was meaningful to hear that I have to surrender to risk-taking in pursuit of my passion every day. 100% surrender. And it’s okay to be afraid. As a matter of fact, one of the panelists suggested when fear takes over it helps to call a friend and talk it out.
At the event I found myself feeling that I was in a familiar place, amongst familiar people, people of a like mind. I was exactly where I needed to be!
Stephanie passed out permission slips giving everyone in attendance permission to take a risk in pursuit of their own passion. If my biggest risk is being my authentic self, to tell a bit of my own story, then today I have taken that risk. Maybe it’s just one small risk, but my hope is that if it doesn’t kill me, I’ll be willing to take many more.
Rexene Lane is studying Studio Art and Pre-Art Therapy at the University of Indianapolis. She attended the November 7, 2013, Spirit & Place event, The Risk of Pursuing Your Passion, a panel discussion held at the First Mennonite Church in Indianapolis.