Sitting across from me with her soft red curls and impossibly warm smile, she asked, "What do you do that's fun?". My answer was weak, let me tell you. For someone who had recently returned to Canada after having lived in Peru for two years, I couldn't give her a great answer. My response included things like hanging out with my sisters, playing with my puppy, and road trips. The truth was like a smack in the face. I had let insecurity rule my life for so long, making me afraid to go out and try new things and meet new faces, that in my late twenties, I wasn't living a fun life. I was living a flat life. And that realization brought me to tears.
She asked me to write a list: Fifty things that were fun to do or experience.
The list was a challenge. I really didn't know what I liked doing, aside from a handful of activities. Had she, instead, asked me to write a list of things I was afraid of or insecure about, I could have easily filled in fifty items. But things that are fun to do? Gah! That was a challenge. She offered me a second option, if I got REALLY stuck, she wanted me to write a list of things that I thought might be fun to do.
I started with my first list, and I did not get very far before I started feeling sorry for myself and going down the rabbit hole of berating myself for not being more adventurous. So I switched to the list of things that might be fun to do. This was much more enjoyable, because I got to use my imagination and think about fun things that I might do in the future.
What had been preventing me from having more fun? Fear.
Fear of being rejected by a new group. Fear of looking foolish, or not knowing how to do something. Fear of being a beginner (aka, fear of being nowhere near perfect, because I have to be perfect right out of the gate, right?). Fear of feeling like I don't belong. Fear of the cool kids not wanting to play with me. Fear of them making fun of me. Fear of not being worth loving. See where that went? Five year old Daphne appeared pretty quickly when I started digging into exactly why I was sitting on the sidelines.
The good news was that there is one fear that's bigger than all of those combined; the terrifying fear of not living my life. The fear of waking up at eighty or ninety years old and wishing beyond hope that I had just had enough courage to get up and try something. To make new friends, to go to new places. To try new activities. To laugh and dance and sing. To live.
I then made a promise to myself that I would be a little more brave each day. I would play a little more each week. I would find new activities that I adored doing. I would be open to new connection with new people. I would be brave. Brave enough to truly experience my life.
I created a whole new list of fun things that I love doing. Now my evenings are filled with salsa dancing and music jam nights. My days are filled with woodland adventures and seaside meditation. I was frequently terrified, fearful beyond words, but I stepped into new social settings that have since provided me with some of the most incredible connections I've ever had. I was nervous, but I kept going, kept stepping into new experiences. And I have grown immensely because of it.
"Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed, do not squander your life." ~ Dogen Zenji
What does your list look like?
Write out a list of the things you do for fun. How big is your list?
If your list of fun activities is pretty small, ask yourself why.
Do a little digging and if you find that you've been holding back, now might just be the time to stretch outside of your comfort zone.
Maybe, like me, insecurity has been holding you back from trying that dance class. Or maybe you feel like you just don't have enough time to finally learn how to make the best use of that expensive DSLR camera you bought four years ago. Maybe you feel that all the things you want to do cost money and you're on a tight budget.
Whatever it is, ask yourself this very important question: "When I get to the end of my life, what will I regret not trying?". It might sound morbid and heavy, but it's valid. It's an important thing to think about. In which areas are you not living richly? Which parts of your life feel flat and need some fun injected into them? Which activities do you wish you had the confidence to try?
1. Write out a list of all the things you do that are fun. Include things big and small.
2. Write out a list of the things that you think you'd probably have fun doing. Stretch your imagination here. You don't need to have a plan of how to actually do these things, just write them on your list if you think you'd enjoy them.
3. Now, take one item from your #2 list, and write it into your calendar sometime within the next seven days. Yep! DO IT! If you have to do a bit of research beforehand, go for it. Need a friend for this particular activity? Call them up! The point is, get out and do something new. Go out of your house, meet new people, and have a new experience. If you're nervous, be nervous. Do it anyway. This is coming from a shy introvert with once paralyzing anxiety; when you finally go out and meet new faces, you will realize that the nerves fade away pretty quickly. Because everyone was once a beginner at the very same thing you're learning. Everyone.
Be brave. Summon your courage, step out of the cocoon and try something you've been curious about. The experience might provide you with laughs, new friends, a new hobby, or at the very least, the confidence in yourself to go out and claim what's yours and live the life you actually want to be living.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
What's the new thing you're going to try this week?