"I’m not afraid of anything."
A few evenings ago, after 3 beers too many, I shared this idea with a new friend. For some reason, I can’t get that sentence out of my head. I say it when the windows in my car are rolled down and my hair is in my face. I’m not afraid of anything. I think it when I get to work early and have nothing to do but wait. I’m not afraid of anything. I breathe it when I thumb through old boxes of letters and photographs of a person who barely resembles me. I’m not afraid of anything.
Whether or not it is true, those few words have changed my life. A few years ago, fear was a part of my DNA. It lined the walls of my ribcage and adorned my fingers like rings. And after much digging I discovered that at the center of it all, I was afraid to be different. I had bought the lie that to be accepted, I needed to look just like everybody else. So I transformed. I hid. I survived.
I learned to hate my hair color. I grew ashamed of my voice. I despised my “jeans & t-shirt everyday” style. But did I really dislike those things? I was drowning in ideas of what true manhood was. Don’t cry, Ryan. Men don’t cry. Work out harder, Ryan. Men have muscles. Learn how to fix things, Ryan. Men don’t ask for help. It is enough for anyone to lose track of who they really are.
Because at the end of the day, I like books. I’ve never had an appreciation for whiskey. I’ve never seen Braveheart or Gladiator. I like to dance more than I care to admit. I am fairly certain that I can’t throw a football to save my life. I’ve never shot a gun or enjoyed fishing. And I’m entirely convinced that Taylor Swift and I would be great friends.
I’m not afraid anymore. I don’t fit into boxes and that is beautiful. I’ve spent my entire life wondering what my “calling” is. Am I going to travel the world taking pictures? Am I going to write a book that ends up on the Best-Seller shelf? Am I going to be a teacher who finds a creative way to show students that they are valuable? I may do all of those things one day, but for now my calling is simple. I want to give people the freedom to be themselves. I want to celebrate diversity and individuality. I want people to understand that they are valuable- just as they are.
I’ve already had 3 cups of coffee today. My hands are shaking as I try to type, which is making me laugh. I’m sitting at a picnic bench outside, singing a song from my “Guilty Pleasure” playlist. I’m “that guy” that people are tweeting about…
"Some dude is singing OneDirection outside of the coffee shop I’m at. He’s distracting me from taking artsy pictures of my latte…does he know how stupid he looks?"
So don’t forget, friends. You’re allowed to be yourself. You’re supposed to be different. The world is aching to see people act like themselves. Let’s show them what it looks like to truly live. That’s what it looks like when you’re not afraid of anything.