Digging In To Your Dreams
I am a type 4 on the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a personality test with nine numbers, each number possessing unique traits and needs. It is the Enneagram’s belief that we all fall into one of these personality types and, honestly, figuring out your number will rock your world. Each number comes with a label that gives a general description of what types of qualities that number possesses. 1 is “The Perfectionist,” 2 is “The Helper,” 8 is “The Challenger,” and my beloved 4 is endearingly labeled “The Romantic.”
I have never read a truer headline for my life. Chelsey: The Romantic seems to fit better than any memoir title I have previously scribbled down in my journal. And while I do love a good, sappy rom-com and admittedly went through a Twilight phase in early high school, my romantic nature goes much deeper than the way I interact with love and relationships. It bleeds into the way that I do work and the way I build community. It is the excitable, dreaming part of me. It is the part of me that falls in love with each and every idea I have and then idealizes it into extinction. It is the part of me that needs a rush of emotion to accompany a situation or life plan, and once that rush of emotion is gone, I run away to find something new. It is the voice that whispers, No, this is too hard. I don’t have those warm, butterfly feelings anymore. It has lost its new car smell. Let’s move onto something else so we can be excited and charmed again!
It means that I have about a five-minute attention span for an idea until I am running off to the next one. Most people would say that I lack follow-through, but I would say that I lack digging in. I can dream about the garden I want to plant. I know what kinds of flowers and vegetables I will watch sprout out of the dirt. I have done all the research, made all of the to-do lists, drawn up the blueprints. I am excited and ready and nobody can tell me that this garden cannot be planted. But then fear pops into my head. What if I don’t have time to tend to the garden? What if this part of the yard doesn’t nurture it well? What if a tornado comes in and wipes out all of it and I have to watch as my precious hard work goes up in flames? Fear steps in and steals away all of those hard and fast emotions that were propelling me forward.
I want to write songs. These words used to not be so scary to say out loud. When I got my first guitar at 15 and started taking songwriting seriously, I would scream from the rooftops about how I was going to move to Nashville someday and sing in bars until I finally got to sign on the dotted line and write full-time. I spent all of my time after school in my parent’s basement, growing calluses until my fingers bled and recording songs into an eight-track recorder. I was free to dream about all that I would accomplish in Music City, but I was held in the safety net of not actually being there. I didn’t have to live in the reality of my warm butterfly feelings being traded in for rejection and thankless work just yet. I was safe and unafraid.
Now, almost ten years after I received my first guitar, I am living in Music City and I am letting myself say those words out loud again. I want to write songs. I have lived in Nashville for almost six years, but I have spent most of that time bouncing from life plan to life plan, searching for a new rush of emotion, running when things got too hard and I got too afraid. A couple of months ago I had a moment where the sky parted and manna rained from Heaven and I realized that songwriting was actually the thing I wanted to spend my time doing. I landed back on my first love, the thing I abandoned when the water got too deep and fear convinced me that I would drown if I dared to stay in it.
It was easy to take songwriting back—my arms swung wide and those warm feelings returned as I embraced an old friend. But now I no longer have the secure job that cradled my fears about finances and what I would tell people when they ask what I do for a living. I no longer have a backup plan or a safety net or a proper response when people tilt their heads at me and ask—I’m sure harmlessly—“How do you even do something like that?”
I am at a crossroads. As fear rushes in to shake me awake from my idealizing, I can plant my feet, dig in and learn to share workspace with very real fear, or I can run. I want to be the kind of person who tends a good garden. I want to get my hands and jeans messy with all kinds of dirt and then watch as roots spring to life before me out of the once-barren ground. I want fear to stop sitting in the driver’s seat of my life. I want to stay when things get hard, plant roots and dig in deep.
As somebody who lacks the digging in, I know there can be a lot of shame attached to what people think about your follow-through. That person thinks I’m lazy or this person thinks I don’t know how to work hard. I have felt all this shame before in abundance. What I have learned about myself, and what might be helpful for you if you also identify with this mentality, is that it has nothing to do with hard work and it has everything to do with fear. I can spend my whole day writing music but when it comes to actually sharing it or getting it in front of important people my fear kicks in and I become paralyzed to move forward. If you can identify your fear and learn to work alongside it without giving it a platform, you will be able to step into the harder parts of your work. (And now I heavily suggest you go listen to Fear by Ben Rector on repeat for the rest of your life.)
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