You know how some people are really wild sleepers, limbs hanging all off the bed and whatnot? I’m not like that. Never have been. I always make sure everything is safe and sound within the confines of my Sealy Posturpedic. When I was young (around 7 or 8), I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something lurking under that bed that wouldn’t hesitate to snap off any stray fingers or toes that tempted it. I wasn’t sure what, but in my mind it resembled an alligator. It’ s not that I actually believed anything was under there–I already knew the real deal on monsters, the Boogie Man, the Tooth Fairy and all them–but still, the feeling was there.
Even now as an adult, I can still relate to that uneasy feelings, and in more ways than the obvious. Sure, I still keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, but (on a deeper level) I also play it safe when it comes to pursuing new and important things. I think we all do. Well, not all of us. There are those fearless few who go for it and continue to go for it–despite temporary defeat– until their dreamed success becomes real (think P. Diddy, Donald Trump, Tyler Perry, Steve Jobs) but many of us remain frozen, trapped on that bed, scared to even expose a toe.
There are so many of us with ideas we’d like to enact, but you’d never know it. We keep it to ourselves, perhaps mention it as a joke here and there, and then let it whither and die. Langston Hughes already posed the question about a dream deferred, but we still seem eager to find out for ourselves. In the (modified) words of Rick James, “Fear is a hell of a drug.” And it’s not so much the fear of failure itself. It’s the fear of failing in front of THEM. “Who is ‘them’?” you ask. Them is everyone. It’s your parents, your siblings, your friends, your enemies, your Facebook fam, your Twitter followers, your husband, your wife, your boo, your neighbors, your kids, your mailman, your neighborhood grocery store bag boy… It’s everyone that isn’t you.
If we could attempt our dreams in secret and let no one be the wiser, many of us would. That way, if and when we fail, there’d be no eyes watching, no record of it ever happening. But, as we all know, that’s not how it works. When you go after something you want, and I mean truly go after it with intensity and intent, you have no choice but to step off the bed. You have to put yourself out there, taking the chance that everyone may see you crash and burn.
And why is that such a bad thing? Sure, its embarrassing, but it’s a part of life and a learning experience. In the (unmodified) words of Albert Einstein, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” So, so what if they watch you fail. Hopefully, they’ve watched themselves fail, too. If not, they’re clearly not the type of people you want to concern yourself with. “Those who spend their time laughing at and criticizing others invest little time in themselves.” I came up with that one myself, but it’s just as true.
The best of those around you will encourage you to get up and keep going. They’ll encourage you to be like van Gogh. Most everyone has seen his famed Starry Night. (We used to have a printing of it in our living room.) But, most people don’t know that of all the paintings van Gogh completed, he only sold one in his lifetime, and it wasn’t even Starry Night. Sadly, it wasn’t until after his death that he gained his current fame. I don’t tell this story to be depressing, but to exemplify true dedication. He didn’t let his many unsold paintings keep him from painting another. He didn’t let the discouraging words he undoubtedly received stop him from doing what he loved. He had a deep passion for painting, and so he did that. For this, the art world is eternally grateful. I need to have that van Gogh dedication. You need to have that van Gogh dedication. We all need it. It’s the only way to get where we want to be.