You Must Go

black hanging bridge surrounded by green forest trees
Photo by Kaique Rocha on

I can’t recall if we were wandering the packed streets of the Fremont’s Sunday market or inside Shilling Cider tasting our flight of eclectic ciders, but I do remember my friend’s pointed encouragement: “If it is fear that is holding you back, you must go.”  When has fear not held me back, I thought to myself?

We were discussing the possibility of attending a writing workshop I’d learned about a few months back.  And at that time, it was nothing but a far-off dream I laughed about.  But now, as I’ve continued to devote time to writing, the roots of my desire have only seemed to deepen, such that the idea of a writing workshop is not only compelling, but even feasible.

And so, my friend’s encouragement propelled me forward.  Within weeks, I decided that the writing workshop in Santa Fe was indeed a step worth taking.  I knew full well that all kinds of anxieties would present themselves to me in choosing to go… and present themselves, they did.  I felt like a fraud my first few days of the workshop and anxiety cut into my ability to sleep all week, as has happened innumerable times throughout my life.

What I was not prepared for, however, was the difficulty of my return.  After eight days in the state of unending chilis, art galleries, and rich cultural heritage, I was grateful to return to my home in the pacific northwest.   I reveled in the joy of returning to friends and the familiarity of home, but by the time the plane touched down at SeaTac, something within me had already died.

It’s been weeks now since my return, and they’ve been some of the most confounding and unpleasant weeks of the past couple years.  I’m facing the breadth and depth of discontent—or shall I say disconnect—in my life.  It’s as though something deep within and all around me, is pleading for my attention.  If I’m honest, this provocation has been present for months, even years.  But, like a trip to Mississippi I risked over 10 years ago, some experiences can do nothing but leave us changed.

And so, here I am smack in the middle of this liminal space… still.  It is space which has proven faithful to itself (despite my continual wish for it to lessen my dis-ease with the status quo).  Can I blame it?  The steps I’m taking are adding fuel to the fire that was lit long ago.  It is high time I take ownership of the life that longs to be lived through me and allow the false ground to burn.

Two days ago, I was sitting in the lunchroom at work, when I received a couple text messages from a friend who used to be a coworker at this very same workplace.  She’s been working on a collaborative project the two of us came up with: a letterpress print of my words and her art.  It is finished, and this is what she had to say:

“I’ve loved doing this.   Your poem is beautiful and really resonates with me and with others who have reached out to me about it.  I’d love to take more snippets and do more work if you are ok with that?”

Photo and Artwork by Nikki Barber

Tears welled up in my eyes right then and there in the lunchroom at work.  My heart felt as though it had ascended into my throat, and I was undone.  Joy, anticipation, sadness, and hope—all manner of emotions—unfolded at the realization that my words, that something I created, might actually impact another.  I know of no greater feeling.

If it is fear that is holding you back, you must go.  Truly, you must go.


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