LED lights and the Sweet Valley High
Last week I put up these Dioder LED lights from my IKEA. The keyword in the previous sentence is: I.
But it was not a simple process! First, it It took me three days just to open the shopping bag and peek inside. I fished out my floral napkins and I cringed at the wooden frame (I seem to collect frames but I never get around to using them). Finally, and ever so slowly, I pulled out the lights from IKEA’s over-sized brown bag. I gingerly opened the plastic box and examined its contents. Four light strips, wires, plastic clamps…my heartbeat quickened. How do these come together? I can’t do this! I hurriedly stuffed everything back in the bag and put it away under my desk where it was hidden from my view. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even try. I just assumed that putting up lights was going to be complicated and that I would naturally get it wrong. I didn’t even look through the manual!
A week later, I took a deep breath and decided to face my fears. I fished all the wires and strips out of the box and took a look at the manual. It looked so easy that I didn’t trust it. I searched the web for a YouTube tutorial and then I realized that I had to bite the bullet and do it. In less than 10 minutes the lights were up and I was switching them on and off like an excited kid who just received an awesome birthday gift. It was so painfully easy, I wanted to slap myself.
I’ve done this sort of thing before, where I’d set myself up for failure before even trying. I would assume something is harder than it actually is. Once I set my mind on the task at hand and focus, I’m surprised at how easy it is. This has been the case when I’ve applied to different programs, gone to job interviews or signed up for what seems to be an overwhelming project. Sometimes I can’t write a blog post about a particular issue, I can’t start a book, I can’t make it to the gym. The first step is always the hardest but not taking it, not even attempting, is the real failure.
When I was about thirteen, I started writing a “novel” – in hindsight it was a cross between Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-sitters Club series and Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley books. The story was long-winded with no clear plot and the characters were underdeveloped – in more ways than one. I spent about two years adding to the novel, rewriting chapters and introducing one impeccably dressed character after another. I’d close my eyes at night and imagine how my book would look across the world: in bookstores in London, in my school’s library, on an Australian teenager’s shelf, in the hands of another Kuwaiti, in the backpack of my other students in my school… the possibilities were endless! Eventually, I gave up on the book. It was just not realistic. No teenager I knew had ever published a book – why would I be the one? I had about eight main characters that I was frustrated with, a dozen subplots that were weak and didn’t come together and no clear way to resolve all the problems. I gave up. I saved the Microsoft Word document on a floppy disk, password-protected it and haven’t seen it since.
I don’t regret the time I spent working on that project. Who cares if I never finished it? In the process of working on that novel I became aware of my passion for writing; I found out that I could write for hours and enjoy every minute. I discovered new words as I poured over the dictionary and I got to use them in long, sophisticated sentences. I had fun with dialogue and bringing characters to life. I didn’t fail by not finishing that novel; I gained more by starting it.
I remind myself of positive experiences when I’m faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. I was able to start a novel, I made the best out of my Fulbright experience, I tackled the GRE – Ok, I completely bombed the latter but so what? I can re-take it, I now know how it works. I would achieve so much more if I believed in myself. One of my mentors just wrote me a kind, encouraging message saying, “…you will get over this hurdle and there will be no stopping you. Trust your heart.” And that I will.
But for now, I need inspiration. Give me that push and tell me your success stories. Have you ever feared something only to realize later that it’s within your reach? When was the last time you rose above your fear of failure and succeeded? I want to know!