“To dare is to lose one’s footing; To not dare is to lose one’s self.”Soren Kierkegaard
I’ve always thought I was someone who doesn’t like to leave her two-mile radius.
I’ve always believed I was happier when close to what’s familiar.
But as I looked through the 2018/2019 photo albums my mom made our family for Christmas, I realized that was a lie.
As I saw myself in new, never-before-visited places and remembered the positive feelings I had walking uncharted streets and climbing rugged hillsides, I realized an important distinction:
Just because I do not like driving outside my two-mile radius does not mean I am someone who doesn’t like leaving her two-mile radius.
I nearly lived my whole life believing the lie.
I felt a deep release come from my chest.
Imagine if I’d continued to believe this lie – imagine the sights I would’ve missed and people I would’ve never known throughout the remainder of my life.
As I continued turning the pages of the album, I received another epiphany related to the lies I’ve believed about myself.
It was a photo of an exquisite house I’d sent to my mom while out on a walk in Arles, France six months ago.
I’d been walking along the Rhône River when I looked up and saw it.
My feet promptly stopped walking, as if I’d reached a destination I didn’t know I had.
This house spoke to me… and I knew I needed to hear what it had to say.
Windows with sky-blue shutters designed to let the fresh air in.
Flowerpots set atop the roof to ensure ample light.
Asymmetrical roof lines pointing to the heart of the home.
Ordinary stones coming together to form a beautiful mosaic.
Green vines hugging the wall to climb to extraordinary heights.
In my eyes, the house’s imperfectness was true perfection.
I stood there thinking, “If I could live anywhere, I would reside here.”
This truth struck me.
I always thought I was a neighborhood kind of gal—preferable to modern homes with shiny floors, updated cabinets, and manicured walkways.
But this house – the one with the nicks and scratches upon its unique but comfortingly familiar structure – was ME.
I felt so grateful I had the opportunity to see THIS particular house so far from anything I knew. It enabled me to uncover an important truth about where I want to reside, both literally and figuratively, for the remainder of my life.
As I continued to flip pages in the album, there was a photo of our friend, Steven Turikunkiko, founder of the Togetherness Youth Cooperative for survivors of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi. I’d met Steven on a red-dirt hillside in Gasogi with my African Road Learning Trip team. That first afternoon, he’d planned a welcome ceremony with traditional music and dance.
Steven’s first words to our group will be forever engrained in my mind:
“Welcome. Welcome. I cannot say it too many times. You’ve traveled very far, but you come here because you love us.”
I turned my head to look out over the hillside into the endless blue sky. As the harmonious voices (see video) filled my chest, I could not stop my tears.
It was the first time I’d gone further than I ever thought I could go.
And it was the first time I realized that we, as human beings, are capable of much more than we ever believe.
A distinctive thought filled my brain in that moment—
“I’ve got to tell people about this.”
At the time I didn’t know what “this” meant.
And now I know it is this: Dare to discover what you’ve never seen or experienced before.
And this is why:
When we go out of our comfort zone—going further than we thought we could go—we are able to see our greatest capabilities and our deepest truths; we discover parts of ourselves that cannot be seen when we remain planted.
I continued flipping through the photo album, stopping to study the photos my mom had selected to capture the last two years of the decade. Each photo triggered a new truth I’d discovered about myself:
I didn’t think I was someone who could feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
I am and I did, leading my first-ever weekend retreat and feeling very much at home.
I didn’t think I was someone who could stand up to a manipulative person.
I am, and it felt freeing to advocate for myself without feeling responsible for the other person’s feelings.
I didn't think I was someone who could bear to see my child suffer.
I am, and I will continue to companion her through this difficult and uncertain time of her life.
I didn’t think I was someone who could stop being a people pleaser.
I am, and I have learned to see boundaries as an expression of self-worth and their vital importance for my wellbeing.
I didn’t think I was someone who could read harsh online comments about myself.
I am, and I have been able to realize those comments say more about them than they do about me.
I didn’t think I was someone who sit for hours and work on a jigsaw puzzle.
I am, and I have experienced the wholeness that comes with giving myself time and attention to just be.
Someone recently said to me: “You’ve changed.”
Well, perhaps that is one way to look at it or perhaps I am simply discovering who I was ALL ALONG before the world told me who I was supposed to be or before I adapted unauthentic behaviors that I mistakenly believed made me worthy of love and acceptance.
I flipped back to the beginning of the album wondering if would reveal the point in which I began unraveling these truths. And I believe it began in East Africa – my first huge step out of my comfort zone, dispelling the notion that I could never journey so far from home.
Like dominoes, once the first lie fell down, more followed, clearing the way to find my true path.
As I speculated on what my first blog post of 2020 would be, I decided I need to tell people about this –
Dare to discover what you’ve never seen or experienced for that is where you may find lost parts of yourself.
And today, I have even greater motivation to share this message than I did when I sat on that majestic hillside eighteen months ago.
Since that time, I wrote a book about the stressors facing young people today and what they need most from us as relatable and authentic guides. As I researched, I continually came across the connection between knowing one’s self and discovering purpose. Without a sense of why you’re here and what contribution you’re designed to make, suffering and apathy result.
Patrick Deegan, founder and director of Project Wayfinder, an organization that partners with educators to help students navigate their lives with purpose, explains the connection:
“To have a sense of purpose, it is essential that you know yourself: what you want from your life—not what others want for you, or what is expected of you—but what actually makes you come alive. If we deny young people with the chance to really explore who they are, they lose out on their chance for purposefulness.” (source)
Patrick goes on to explain HOW these vital discoveries are typically made:
“Young people do not usually develop a specific purpose and then go become an expert in that thing. Rather, they are exposed to something new that helps them develop their own sense of purpose. In short, in most cases, experiences lead to developing purpose, not the other way around. This is why summer experiences that introduce young people to new ways of seeing the world and themselves are so valuable. If young people are exposed from 15-19 years olds to events to seek purpose, they will increasingly seek them out on their own until the end of their adolescence, giving them a higher likelihood of discovering their own sense of purpose.” (source)
My daughter Natalie has always sought out new experiences. In fact, it is because of Natalie that I had the courage and motivation to leave my comfort zone. And because of what she taught me from that place, I asked my publisher if Natalie could write a section of LIVE LOVE NOW. This was an unusual request, and I’d known other authors whose requests had been denied. But with faith, I presented my case, knowing there would be a gaping hole in the book without Natalie’s contribution.
Thankfully, my publisher agreed that Natalie’s story needed to be told by Natalie, not by me.
But I did not fully comprehend what her addition meant to the book and its message until I sent the manuscript to a prospective endorser.
The renowned author and researcher responded the same day I’d sent her the eBook, explaining that she’d opened the manuscript to get the gist of it, and she couldn’t stop reading.
Not only did she write an endorsement that was more than I could have ever hoped for, but she made a request that left me speechless.
“Here’s an idea to ponder: Could I excerpt a bit of Natalie’s written contribution for an article on my site? Her story fits so incredibly well with my research on civically-engaged youth. I’d really like to help you market this book, mostly because it needs to be read by EVERYONE!”
It took me a moment to absorb what was taking place in that moment.
Natalie had left her comfort zone and returned with an experience that illustrated a researcher’s life’s work in the most powerful way. Out of all the words contained in this book, Natalie’s words were the one this expert wanted share with her colleagues and community.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie is an unlikely spokesperson for pushing one’s self out of your comfort zones to explore, but perhaps that is what makes her invitation all the more convincing.
It is so easy to believe we are “not someone who can _______” (fill in the blank), and unfortunately, that doubt is now starting earlier and earlier, impacting the lives of young people before they even have a chance to discover who they are.
But, my friends, there is hope.
It is not too late, and it’s not too soon, to redefine who we are…
To challenge the lies we’ve told about ourselves…
To shed the labels, boxes, and coping mechanisms that don’t serve us anymore.
So, where do we start?
We start by challenging ONE lie we tell about ourselves. This opens the door to the place we’ve long resided so we can take an honest look around. We continue our soul-awakening journey by stepping through the door into new territories.
We will likely encounter naysayers also our path—voices that say things like:
But why would you want to do that?
You aren't capable of that.
That’s not you.
Well, I don’t support that idea.
We will not back down. We will stand firm in our truth and bravely say, “This is MY life, and time is much too precious to waste.”
I never thought of myself as someone who would have a Word-of-the-Year, but in the spirit of this post, it seems fitting.
Today I am embracing the word DISCOVER, which means to find something or someone unexpectedly or in the course of a search.
My friends … imagine if 2020 is your year to DISCOVER…
Discover your TRUE self.
Discover your long-lost dream.
Discover your inner child and the unmet needs that can be still be fulfilled.
Discover your inherent gifts and offer them to the world as a gift to yourself.
Discover your source of pain and heal it.
Discover your kernel of hope and nurture it.
Maybe this new year is not about changing or improving but about shedding the lies, labels, and boxes that no longer fit so you’re free to step out in courage and love.
Perhaps it will be a house
or a stranger’s hand
that will stop you in your tracks,
speaking a beautiful truth about who you are and why you’re here.
“You came here because you love us… and because you love yourself.”
And in that moment, your heart will be fueled,
Taking you further than you ever thought you could go.
What a glorious place to reside in your one, precious life.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution community, perhaps you saw my special invitation to go with my daughters and me on our second African Road Learning Trip to Rwanda this summer… and perhaps something stirred inside you that indicated you wanted to join in… but perhaps doubt was loud and gave you reasons why you shouldn’t apply. Please think very hard before you let this go. My husband and my mom both remember the moment I stood before them with a shaking voice and said, “I am going to take Natalie to Africa.” Although fear and uncertainty were present, courage and love were stronger. Natalie & I listened to the voices within, indicating this trip was something we needed to do. And now, because of the experience we had and the friendships we’ve made, our lives have changed in the most profound and meaningful ways. I believe our journey has only just begun. Please consider joining us this summer. Everything you desire to know about the trip, as well as the application, can be found here.
Live love now. It's not too late for us… and it's not too soon for the young people we love.
These words spoke to me so much: “Welcome. Welcome. I cannot say it too many times. You’ve traveled very far, but you come here because you love us.” I turned my head to look out over the hillside into the endless blue sky. As the harmonious voices filled my chest, I could not stop my tears.
I believe we need to be these harmonious voices for ourselves. I’ve been through a lot of disappointment the last 5 years and regurlarly just want to quit dreaming. But then I hear a harmonious voice from deep down in me and I get up with trust and joy, gratitude and love.
Rachel Stafford says
This is absolutely beautiful, Anna. I agree whole-heartedly. Thank you for sharing that. Keep listening to the harmonious voice within. My hand in yours.
These words found me at the perfect time. In 11 school days I will leave my teaching career of 18.5 years to move my family to Madrid, Spain for the next few years. I am scared, but more so I am EXCITED! The idea of rediscovering myself with my family and without a full-time career and suburban home to tend is invigorating. Thank you for writing this. I will be copying down some of the quotations to refer to later.
Rachel Stafford says
This is amazing, Kari! I would love to hear about your adventures someday!