As I continue to reflect on my time spent at the National Arts Strategies Creative Community House, I am reminded of the role risk-taking has had in my life. I am reminded of fear and how immobilizing it can be. At the same time, we live in a society that is fueled by fear. Our survival instincts are always on high alert.
I’m going to take you back to day one at Galusha Hill Farm Lodge in East Topsham, Vermont: We arrived at our farmhouse and were told we could relax and explore outdoor trails until we assembled for dinner. We were warned to be careful as there were black bears around the estate.
Now, I knew I didn’t go all the way to Vermont to get mauled by a black bear. I knew I was on a mission and that mission ended with me back in Keith’s arms at the Louis Armstrong International Airport. Un-mauled. However! I did develop a habit of checking over my shoulder a lot while in East Topsham. Despite my conviction, I was still quite apprehensive.
I remember being on the lake one afternoon with some of the other CCFellows when I decided to head back to the farm. People were having a great time swimming and paddle boarding, so I decided to trek solo back to the lodge…through the woods. My close family and friends know that I have a terrible sense of direction. I can literally get to a crossroads and have an out-of-body experience. I have to calm down, breathe, and visualize myself going down the right path. Getting lost through the years has helped me develop strategies to focus on locale and pay attention to my surroundings. I know I have been over-protected in this area. Getting chauffeured a lot, etc. Therefore, I intentionally have to become my own navigator in an effort to “stretch myself”.
I began my faith-walk through the woods. I thought about the bears. I came to the part in the trail where the path split in three different directions. I became anxious. I knew the path on the right was unseemly, but I couldn’t remember if I needed to go straight or veer left. I closed my eyes, did my visualization/out-of-body thing, and proceeded straight as the sun stalked me. There was more mud on this path than I remembered from the groupwalk to the lake. Should I have veered? I started thinking about the bears again. I kept thinking of every one who’d been solo-trekking this path all week long. Why couldn’t I just walk this thing out like a normal person? Why couldn’t I just enjoy nature? Why did fear keep creeping in? My heart began to race as the path started to look totally unfamiliar. I thought about turning back. I thought about the bears. And I picked up a stick.
I thought about time passing and the sun going down. I imagined what my voice would sound like echoing through the woods should I need to call for help. I started to do that thing where I get frustrated with myself for not remembering. I literally started to feel like Dory. I literally started to dislike myself.
Just as I started perspiring, a red cottage on top of a hill appeared. I was back at the farm. I must’ve shouted! I realized that I did, in fact, take the wrong path. I should have veered left, but nonetheless, this alternative route led back to the same estate. I was safe, sound and spiritually stronger.
Please allow me to bottom-line this.
Maybe you have conviction about something. Maybe you’re thinking about taking a risk. Maybe you’re challenging yourself right now. Maybe there’s some apprehension. People may not see you. You may feel alone in the world; but maybe one day you’ll open up and be heard. Maybe you’ll take the wrong path. Maybe you will break a sweat. You might even dislike yourself and wish you never took the chance to begin with. But guess what? In spite of fear, you will come out on the other side. Muddy. Free. Alive. And no bears.
Clinnesha D. Sibley is an award-winning playwright and published poet/essayist. She is the Literary Arts Instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven, MS. For more information, please visit: http://onepagerapp.com/clinneshadsibley.