We’re all just winging it

A few months ago I was asked by some friends to take part in a video series entitled “Transformed People, Transforming Our World.” I was a bit reluctant, primarily because I hate being on camera; I get jittery and awkward. While it’s hard enough for me to speak live, in front of an audience, at least when it’s done, it’s done and there is no chance of re-watching it. But with the belief that stories and lives are meant to be shared, I agreed.

I went in for what I thought was a brainstorming session, only to learn that we would in fact, be filming that day—they tricked me with the hope that I’d be less nervous and more candid. (I have sneaky smart friends.)

The interview itself went well enough—there were some rough patches indeed, but for the most part, while I found it uncomfortable talking about myself for an hour and a half, I had a good time.

Then I went home. And completely melted down. I am talking full panic heart-beating-out-of-my-chest-I-am-going-to-throw-up-all-the-tears kind of meltdown.

I felt like a liar. Because the truth is, I feel like I have no idea what I am doing, where I’m going and often, how I even got to where I am now. There has been no real method to my madness and much of this life I’ve been given always feels like a heartbeat away from disappearing. So to be praised for my efforts, deemed “transformed” or looked upon for answers as though I have any sort of handle on things feels like a big fat lie.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I love my life. I consider myself lucky to get to do what I do—but some days all I can see are the mistakes of the past and question marks of the future and it’s terrifying to think that if dissected, people might see what a colossal mess I am.

I am fortunate to have great friends who helped talk me off the ledge that night and the following day…and the day after that. And while I wish at this point I could tell you I’ve come to some great resolve within myself, I haven’t. I still feel all those things I’ve mentioned above.

But instead of running from them or letting them run me, for now, I am choosing to identify these feelings and let them be used to push me toward compassion—for myself and for those around me.

Because I suspect I am not alone in this. Perhaps we all feel a bit fraudulent as we post and pose ourselves for others, knowing full well we’re actually fumbling our way through life, hoping and praying something good sticks.

In talking with others, I’ve found there seems to be two prominent responses to this feeling. The first is to apply the fake it ’til you make it method, relying on appearances of perfection to guide our self-worth. We exhaust ourselves, trying to appear as though we have it all together, until we break.

Which then seems to lead to the second; quieting down our victories, for fear the cracks in our facade will show. To confuse shame with humility and allow it to lead us into hiding.

Neither seem to work all that well.

Maybe instead, the answer is simply a little more honesty and a little more grace. Letting ourselves celebrate the good stuff, knowing full well it came through a whole lot of trial and error. Keeping the perspective that we are imperfect and unsure, while also capable and equipped to change our families, our communities and our world.

“We’re all winging it, Rachel,” one friend consoled me with, “None of us know really where we’re going. Doing something successfully, rarely means doing it perfectly and without error. The sooner you can accept that in yourself, the sooner you’ll be free to actually enjoy the process that is, well…life.”

Argh. Okay. That sounds hard, but I’ll try.

Now. If you promise to be gracious, you can watch the video linked below.

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