Fear of the Unknown: Then vs. Now

– THEN –

I sat in my bedroom thinking that this time next week, I would be waiting in a hospital room. Waiting to be put to sleep for a short amount of time so they can hopefully find out what part of me isn’t working properly. Short story: yep, I am scared as all heck.

There’s something about the unknown that is, put simply – terrifying. I am a control freak. I want to know what is happening, where, why and when. I want to know everything. I don’t like surprises – unless that surprise has four legs and barks.

My journey with doctor visits and blood tests started roughly ten months ago. I made an appointment with a GP to merely have a chat and build a rapport with a female doctor. At the time, I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with me (albeit, my family and friends like to tell me there’s plenty!) Turns out they were partially right – although, in a different way to what they suggested.

Considering I never really had any record of my health on file, my new doctor suggested I get a blood test. Little did I know that my first blood test would lead to seven more, a diagnosis of iron deficiency, an ultrasound, a brain MRI, three stool tests and (this time next week) a hospital appointment for both a colonoscopy and gastroscopy. Basically: a tube up my bum and a tube down my throat – not at the same time and not the same tube (you know, in case you were wondering). Needless to say, this was all very unexpected and I’m sitting there like:

As you can tell, I try my hardest to make light of an incredibly dull and unexpected situation. The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion. I celebrated my twenty-first birthday and started my final semester of university, but amid the excitement and celebration, I couldn’t seem to shake that feeling in the back of mind reminding me of what was just around the corner.

Time has a funny way of slowing down right before the things you don’t want to happen are about to happen. The months before your HSC exams or the days before you have to get your wisdom teeth removed – you just want it to be over, but it tends to feel like forever. That horrible and unsettling feeling inside you starts to bottle itself up. You begin to dread the days right beforehand. No matter how hard you try to direct your focus elsewhere – on happier things, it’s so hard not to revert back to consciously thinking about what is to come.

That’s exactly how I am feeling. Putting on a smile and trying to focus my attention and attitude on the positive by distracting myself by other things. But that’s all it is: a distraction. Focusing on these things isn’t going to do anything about what inevitably has to happen.

– NOW –

I arrived back home from the day surgery not very long ago and considering I was sedated about two hours ago, I am feeling pretty good. The results showed I had a 5mm polyp that the doctor froze off and due to some questions remaining unanswered, I have to complete a pill cam endoscopy test in a week’s time. While I have been feeling fairly bummed this whole time (last pun, I promise), I have learnt so much from this whole experience. The thing that put it all in perspective was the incredible sunrise on the way to the hospital and the amazing sunset that evening. The entire day I had been dreading had both begun and ended with His promise “I am with you, always” and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

sunset 2

These last ten months I have had to do things I haven’t wanted to – time and time again. I have been pushed outside my comfort zone and boy, was it uncomfortable. I whined and cried more than I probably should have, but it all boiled down to the fact that the unknown was well and truly freaking me out.

Another fun fact about me: I overthink everything. I made up situations in my head asking questions like, ‘what if they find something serious?’ or ‘what if this isn’t the end of it all?’ The biggest lesson I have learnt is that in reality, we have no idea what the future holds – whether it be tomorrow, next month or three years from now. But God is a loving and caring God and He knows. We can’t control what happens in life – no matter how much we wish to, but we can control the way we react to situations we face. Fear can paralyse you or mobilise you – it’s your choice.

I still don’t know if this hospital visit will be my first and last, and whether this pill cam endoscopy is the end of it all, but regardless, I am holding onto the promise that God is in control. I have no idea about what is going to happen in the future, but for once in my life, I am coming to terms with the fact that I am okay with that.

“Why would I fear the future? For I am being pursued only by your goodness and unfailing love.” – Psalm 23:6

Whatever you are going through right now – a relationship breakup, hurt within the family, financial struggles, work stress, health problems, battles with your insecurities, whatever – you will make it. You have made it this far already, so I promise you that you will make it. Stop dwelling on the past or the pain that you are feeling now. Focus all of your energy on the good; no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is compared to your struggles. Don’t let fear of the unknown or your doubt and uncertainties cloud your hope or positive energy. Wake up and choose happiness. Stop letting your emotions overpower you. Instead, let God’s unfailing love and abundance of grace overpower your fear.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” – Matthew 6:34

Keep smiling. x

the flip side.

I was walking down the main street in Manly looking for something to eat (standard). As I was scanning the shops nearby, my gaze fell upon an older couple, probably in their sixties. The man, with his unkept beard and smiling face, stood at the end of a strip of small fountains that shot up different heights of water. Beside him stood his wife, wearing khaki pants and a backpack and mimicking his large grin. They both stood with bare feet in front of the line of lit up fountains for a few seconds before the man grabbed his wife’s hand, gave it a squeeze and said  “come on, you’ve got to live dangerously!”

I continued to walk past them, confused yet intrigued as to what was going to happen next. The woman looked at him, raised her eyebrows and let out a loud laugh as she watched her husband begin to walk forward, over and through the fountains. Still holding her hand, he gave it a little tug and pulled her towards him. Before I knew it, I was watching an elderly couple precariously lifting their legs one by one over each fountain in an attempt to live dangerously and make it to the end.

The somewhat youthful behaviour this couple was obliviously entertaining the public with got me thinking. What if we applied that attitude to our lives on a larger scale? What if we didn’t take life so seriously? What if we weren’t afraid to give things a go or scared of making mistakes? What if we weren’t worried about what other people thought of us? What if we stopped focusing all of our attention on the reasons why we shouldn’t and start acknowledging the flip side?

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
– Jack Kerouac –

What does your mountain look like? You know, that thing you really want to do, but just “haven’t gotten round to yet”.

Mountain: You want to solo-travel. You want to explore another country and work part-time there. So what’s holding you back? You feel like you aren’t extroverted enough. That you won’t be able to make friends. That you will be lonely.
The flip side: Why not focus on the potential opportunities that could unfold if you just say yes and do it? Imagine how many connections with places and people you could create. Those types of relationships are priceless and will not only allow you to deepen your understanding of, and appreciation for, the world, but also help you learn more about yourself and grow as an individual.

Mountain: You have developed feelings for a person and you really want to tell them how you feel. But you won’t, you are too scared. You are afraid that if you do and things happen to go wrong, you will jeopardise the friendship, or worse, lose them completely.
The flip side: What if you are constantly pushing away the opportunity to deepen this relationship? You are potentially missing an opportunity to learn more about this special person in your life, while also learning more about yourself in the process. Most importantly, you may miss out on experiencing some of the best moments of your life – because, hey, what if it does work out? It could end up being an incredible surprise, because even though you never saw it coming, it turned out to be everything you never knew you wanted. (Side note: speaking from experience with this one! Escaping the friendzone is totally a thing ladies and gents, just ask my boyfriend – who is probably equally impressed that he was finally mentioned in a blog post as he is unimpressed it was in this way).

Mountain: You’re scared to apply for that internship or job you really want, because you are worried you won’t stand out and be good enough. There are so many other people that are also applying for the same role, so what’s the difference if you send in your resume or not – you’ll probably just get overlooked in the plethora of applications.
The flip side: You muster up a small bit of courage so that your initial spark of bravery allows you to potentially bring a new perspective and opinion to the table. You acknowledge the fact that your voice is powerful and holds value and it deserves to be heard. How are you going to know if you don’t try?

That last scenario hits close to home. Earlier this year, one of my best friends told me to apply for a writing position within an online women’s ministry for that quarter. Women from all over the globe who applied would be chosen to fill one of seven positions on the Daughter of Delight team with the role of writing a short devotion each week on an assigned day. The devotions would be published on their Instagram page and blog. After thinking of a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t bother, I found myself asking, “what have I got to lose?” So I applied.

I received an email a week later explaining that I had been accepted to be on the writing team for the following three months! Fast forward to now and the whole stint has come and gone as quickly as I make and eat nutella crumpets. But it never would have happened if I hadn’t stepped outside the confines of my comfort zone, threw away the excuses and acknowledged the flip side. God opened an amazing door and provided me with an opportunity to show His unconditional love – all because I was willing. Don’t get me wrong – it took a lot of effort to get there, but that made it all the more worthwhile. Let this be a reminder to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. The answer is a guaranteed “no” unless we stop being afraid of rejection or what other people will think of us.

I challenge you to ask yourself, what would you do right now if you stripped away the fear? What would you do if you weren’t scared? Together, let’s muster up the courage to overcome fear rather than letting it cripple us. Every once in a while, we need to stop being comfortable. We need to stop settling for our current position.

Considering the flipside? Easy. Making excuses? Even easier. Making an intentional decision to acknowledge your fear, but not let it overpower and control you? As hard as it is to get your hand out of a Pringle jar. But hey, I don’t know about you, but I’m up for the challenge.

Keep smiling. x

6 Things You Need to Stop Doing Once You’re Twenty.

In a few months, I turn twenty-one. While that is incredibly exciting, in the last year I have realised that this decade of life – your twenties – are, simply put, when everything changes. It is inevitably when life is going to throw you the biggest curveballs of all. Even though I have only really begun my journey into my twenties, I have made a pact with myself to try and change a few things about my thinking and behaviour. So, here are the six things I believe you need to stop doing once you are twenty.

1. Stop being a door mat.
Once you leave school, it’s different. It’s not rocket science – more time and effort has to go into maintaining the friendships you had growing up. Make time for your friends, but don’t forget that it goes both ways. All relationships work better when equal amounts of effort is put in by everyone involved. Some friendships are going to drift and you will feel one of two things: numbness or pain. If it is painful, it mattered. We are taught to stand up for ourselves and not let others use you. You’re not a door mat. Welcome people in to your life, but don’t let those people stand there and wipe their feet clean as they walk all over you. Be a kind person, but don’t let others take that for granted. You deserve friends that treat you right. Don’t you dare settle for less than you deserve.

2. Stop saying yes.
As you get older, you naturally accept more responsibility. Responsibility is great – it not only allows you to show others that you are mature and organised, but you learn how to prioritise and manage your time efficiently. However, don’t forget that you are also allowed to say ‘no’ every once in a while. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t take on so much responsibility that you are no longer passionate or enthusiastic about a certain cause. At the end of the day, those two things are exactly what drives your motivation to do well at something. If you are lacking both passion and enthusiasm, you will find that your performance will gradually decline. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to people. If someone asks you to help them out or take on a particular role, spend some time really considering it, especially if it is a weighty decision. Often if someone knows that you are a ‘yes’ person, they will use you as their go-to person. While you should not feel obliged to always say yes, it doesn’t mean you should stop altogether.

3. Stop saying no.
If you say ‘no’ too frequently, the amount of opportunities that have the potential to come your way will diminish – and it will happen fast. If you close yourself off, then you will never gain that extra bit of experience that could point you in the right direction. Don’t be scared of stepping outside of the confines of your comfort zone. Often, that is where the magic happens. It can be terrifying, don’t get me wrong, but you will always end up better for it on the other end. Whether you have learnt something new or acquired a new skill or maybe even had the opportunity to share your talents with others, you will find that you have also had the chance to grow as well. Sometimes you will get lucky and something new will land in your lap because of a person you have met or something you have done in the past. However, this typically doesn’t always happen, so you need to be open to trying new things. You may be adamant that your internship application will just be a speck in the hundreds of others that apply, but what have you got to lose? Show them you are passionate. Show them you are different from the rest and ready to tackle new challenges head on. Don’t wait for opportunities to find you, actively seek them instead. Patience can only get you so far, but eagerness and a curious mind will always lead you to open doors.

4. Stop waiting for your family to ring you.
Make a conscious decision that once or twice a week you will take five minutes out of your day to ring your family. Whether that is a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin – make it a priority. About a year or two ago,  I realised that I was constantly leaving it up to both my grandmother’s to ring and check up on me. I quickly decided that I wanted this to change. The relationship you have with your family is something so special and I was taking it for granted. Now, I make a conscious effort to ring them both at least once every week or two, depending on how busy my schedule is and what time I get home from Uni or work. Every time I end the phone call or give them a hug goodbye after seeing them, I now make sure I say, ‘love you!’ While this shouldn’t be some crazy, new phenomenon – for some reason it often feels natural to tell our partner that we love them every day, but when it comes to family, we ignore the simple ‘I love you’. Why do we find it so awkward to speak words of affirmation to our family? You don’t want it to be too late and have any regrets, so stop waiting for your family to ring you. Everyone gets busy and fitting in time to have a decent conversation can be difficult, but these relationships are incredibly special and you don’t want to lose that, because you’ll need them more than ever. Never underestimate the importance of a quick phone call or the importance of an ‘I love you’.

5. Stop worrying about what others think of you.
You know what they say – us ‘Millennials’ are experiencing the most severe identity crisis of all. Due to the emergence of social media within the last two decades, it’s pretty damn hard to argue against that. We constantly compare ourselves with the lives of those we may or may not know that appear on our screens. We pick and choose the parts of our lives that we showcase to others and we get so caught up on following the latest trends. We are growing up more socially awkward than ever, because we aren’t used to holding conversations that are not requiring us to only move our fingers and thumbs. We have become one of the most narcissistic generations in history – spending our own time (and sometimes money) trying to acquire people to be interested more in our lives rather than their own. Welcome to 2017! Placing your worth in the values that society has created will do nothing but feed the voices telling you that you will never be enough. If you keep seeking validation from people or things that don’t have the right to be dictating the way you live your life, then you will never be happy. You will find yourself temporarily happy until someone else tells you there is ‘just one more thing’ you can do or change to be even happier – it’s a never-ending cycle. Stop constantly trying to please other people rather than doing things for yourself.

6. Stop thinking you have to ‘do life’ a certain way.
It’s not hard to see why we are so easily falling into the trap of an identity crisis. Individuals asking themselves why their lives don’t quite match up to where it’s “supposed to be”. For starters – that’s a load of poo. The values and ideals that society creates to be ‘normal’ is not reality, but rather an augmented version of it that is unattainable. Stop comparing yourself to where others are in life – whether they are financially stable, have moved out of home, are in a relationship, have an amazing new job, or ha, just have a job. It is completely normal to freak the heck out when you reach your twenties! You not only have a slight existential crisis, but suddenly you realise that oh, this is where it gets real. Society tells you that in the next ten years you should basically have checked graduating, getting your first real job, finding a lifelong partner, moving out of home, potentially moving to another job, getting married, travelling and having kids, off the list. Sounds ideal, right? But who says this is the way it has to go? Set goals and have dreams that you aspire to achieve, but don’t freak out if it’s not all happening the way you planned – because, spoiler alert: it probably won’t.

While I am only skirting around the borders of turning twenty-one, I still have so much to learn when it comes to growing up. All I can say is, every year brings more opportunities to do just that and I will continue to use what I already know to help me become the best version of myself as I work through my twenties. So, to all my twenty-something year old friends out there, this one is for you. Let’s do this crazy decade together.

Keep smiling. x