When I was 28, I found myself one late night on the Greek Island of Antiparos. It was past midnight and I was sitting on a homemade wooden chair outside a small but cozy shack with two people who, in all honesty, I didn’t know. She was a female neurosurgeon from Norway and he was an elderly Greek farmer who spoke broken English and who had made the chairs we sat in. This would be the best night of my life.
He had just finished making us Greek salad from his garden (is it just “salad” there?). He used a pocket knife freshly rinsed under the spigot outside the door of his one-room home. She had subbed in as my scuba partner that day on an excursion I had booked months earlier from my laptop that still sat in my living room in Chandler, Arizona.
Three hours later, tilted back in our wooden chairs in a small circle of light from his home, we drained the bottle of Ouzo he pulled from atop his refrigerator, and we laughed so completely that tears came. I have no recollection how or why – as either the years or Ouzo had erased it. But most likely because the joy that came next simply eclipsed it.
As I leaned back and wiped my eyes, I saw a shooting star. If you’ve seen a night sky full of stars before and been moved, I invite you to imagine the magnitude of a sky on a dark farm outside an unlit village on an island in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. The layers of sparkling light against the dark blanket of sky is almost indescribable. And then one star became two, and then hundreds.
It was a meteor shower.
And it was a moment. My moment. It was when I felt most alive in my then 28 years of life.
How did a girl from Cedar Rapids, Iowa get here at this time with these people under this sky? How indeed.
Ready for the answer?
I said Yes.
This moment was born from a long series of yeses in fact. Had I listened to my little voice telling me to back out when my scuba partner cancelled, or when my hotel fell through, or when I missed the ferry to Paros, or when one by one my girlfriends backed out of the trip to Greece, this moment – my moment – would not have existed.
And tracing back each decision makes me realize the fragility of my experience, and it makes me feel sad. It’s like the strange dream we carry with us the next day. It fades as we chase it, and by day’s end only the feeling lingers. And I don’t want this to fade. I can’t allow this to fade! But sometimes it still feels like trying to grab smoke from the air.
Worse, I know the series of events and “yeses” that led me to my moment is even more fragile. It’s a strand of pearls on a stiff old yellow string. And worse, it’s one I know that I’m destined to break myself. Logical, rational, normal me would say no if faced with any of these choices again. And that is the saddest part.
Bravery is fragile. It’s unusual – especially in the face of our own fears. Fear speaks to us in a small but persistent whisper. It tells us not to go. It warns us to say no. It reminds us we aren’t ready. It prevents the impossibly beautiful moments. It yanks at the fragile string of pearls until our dreams and moments shatter, rolling on the floor in a hundred directions behind shadows and under dusty furniture.
I know you hear that voice too. Some call her reason. Some call her doubt. But I know her name is fear. When I hear her, I’m learning to pause and listen harder, and find the wish behind the fear. I ask myself to imagine the starry sky that could be on the other side of saying yes to myself right now.
Please. Listen longer. Dream harder. Give yourself a series of yesses that create your future.
Imagine a moment five years from now that you will cherish like I do. And then the sadness of finding a dusty pearl under your kitchen table instead.
Please dream for just a moment about the great things that could happen. Because great adventures start with one word.
You know what it is.