As I see it, there are two types of challenges in the world, those created by residing in our cocoons for too long, and those created as we break free from it. Both are needed, the latter cannot happen without the former. But it’s also easy to never really crack through the first level, to never want to leave the cocoon, for fear of who you’ll become when you face freedom.
How can you tell the difference between settling into the restrictions and pains of your cocoon from the growing pains of reaching beyond your present form?
When I was younger, I was quiet. Mouse-quiet. Go red in the face if you so much as step towards me-quiet. And it served me. It allowed me to slowly work out who I was and what I thought of everyone else, in my own time, in my own space. My shell protected me from the onslaught of daily life, offered me serenity in the face of seeming chaos. But by my mid-twenties, the shell confined me beyond my needs. It had me shaking ordering a drink in public, quivering hours before parties. If I was unsure of my setting, I would prefer to stay at home. If I’d set myself to go, I’d have to do my makeup hours before to avoid throwing mascara around my face with jangling nerves. What had once offered an oasis was now more of a curse. It niggled, chaffed and resented others. It was slowly more painful to stay how I was than to embrace change.
Since then, I have spent terrifying years finding my voice. I’ve spoken at a conference and in team meetings (and yes, those are similar milestones from my cocoon). I’ve sung behind songs and ordered food for other people. I’ve been lightly mocked and critiqued, I made faux pas and uttered false small talk. But each time, the fear has been different. It’s not been a drawing in, an ossification of old ways, a sense of locking in and down. There’s been a frightful flow behind it, a new surge behind the cresting of a new wave. A momentum. And through the tears and the croaking voice, the loss of breath and the flushes of embarrassment, an assured belief in progress.
It’s taken me years to know the difference. The difference between creating a concrete chrysalis and a stable runway was imperceptible to me before. I didn’t understand because I didn’t want to change enough. So I never tuned in enough to get it. Fear was fear and fear was bad. And safely walled up I remained, new behaviours plastered on top of old motivations, patching old insecurities. The irony is, taking a sledgehammer to it, breaking down that old home, is the only way I can now see to be me. Smashing, crying, learning, flying are all synonyms in a way my brain can hardly understand, but my spirit seems to grasp. As the old world breaks down, the new one emerges and I can’t wait to try to fly with you all.