We take an awful amount of risks in this life.
Consider a baby learning how to stand on her own two feet; falling countless times until her knees lock in, and her muscles hold up her weight long enough for her brain to figure out balance.
Consider this same baby, five years later, repeatedly falling off the two-wheeled bike, dusting herself off to try again, try again, try again... until she makes it to the corner of her block.
Now seven, she floats on her back, no longer sinking beneath the surface; chest puffed up, chin pointing to the sky, arms open wide, eyes closed tight as the bright day bakes her sun-screened face.
A teenager, she applies to colleges, furiously writing essays and completing applications, hoping a school will offer her admission and the financing to begin. Those college applications soon give way to job interviews and grad school personal statements, each a bigger risk than the last.
These are all risks because they come with the fear of the unknown and a strong possibility of rejection. A love unrequited; an article unpublished; a song unrecorded; a dream deferred.
When I made the decision to leave my job and join the Peace Corps three years ago this month, I was fully aware of the risk. Perhaps I've been living off the adrenaline of it all, having jumped off the side of a metaphorical cliff (with a parachute), floating in the air of new ideas and adventure, reuniting with a dormant side of who I've always been. But now, I've hit the ground of a new mountain to climb, and it seems that all the training wheels are off, there is no turbo start, and the costs of the risk I took are piling up like a brick wall in front of me. And there is no adrenaline to push me over this time.
So knowing where I need to venture next is a bit daunting. I am working to get back into the engineering world, after almost 3 years of being away, but with a revised outlook on life and a heightened focus on how I should build and utilize my craft. It feels like I am returning home; a cliff-jumper now looking for a way back into the life she left, hoping for an open door to a familiar face with a renewed mind. This feels like the riskiest thing I've ever done, and I am scared.
I sent out three job applications for roles I really want, and the pressure to not fail sent my anxiety into a tailspin for hours afterward. I washed it down with old habits that surely die hard, if at all. But I need to find a different response mechanism; something that takes the anxiety and converts it to strength, not succumbs to weakness.
Grace. An interesting concept, sometimes hard for me to grasp because anxiety robs me of the ability to be kind to myself. I've heard often that grace is a free and unmerited gift. The grace of God is the love he offers me to accept, even when I turn to old habits in moments of risk-inducing anxiety rather than to him.
So I am choosing to lean into grace. To be kind to myself as I figure out this new stage of life while putting my dreams back out there. As I risk rejection in my career, I return to the place where this journey began. Scared as I am, I put one foot in front of the other. Poco-a-poco. Grace is the buoying force that keeps me afloat in this great wide ocean of possibility.
And, thanks to my Dad, I've been floating since I was seven.
"Grace that restores. Grace that redeems. Grace that releases me to worship. Grace that repairs visions and dreams. Grace that releases miracles."