Last week, a friend of mine, having heard that I am pursuing a writing career, introduced me to another friend of his who is an author-illustrator. She in turn invited me to come out and join a group of writers and illustrators who were meeting at a coffee shop this morning. "That would be wonderful!" I replied, but secretly I was worried. I'm new to this whole thing and not that comfortable in groups at the best of times, let alone groups of people I don't know.
This morning came and as the minutes passed before I was due to head out to the gathering, my mind began generating excuses. Say you're sick, say you had something come up, my mind suggested, seemingly forgetting that (for a drama major who really should have some talent for it) I'm a terrible, and reluctant, liar. Just before the school bus was due to arrive to pick up my daughters, my little one fell and scraped her knee and I thought, "Well, she'll have to stay behind so I can fix her up and then I'll have to drive her to school and then I won't be able to get to the coffee shop in time" and I'll admit that I was relieved that a legitimate excuse had presented itself. But then, the bus pulled up and my daughter trotted off undaunted and I was like...well, shit. Now I have to go. So I showered and dressed and bucked up and got in my car.
I spent the drive alternating between being calm and collected, and practicing what I would say, how I would convince them that I was good enough to be in their company or, failing that, charm them into accepting my presence as an apprentice eagerly feeding at their table of knowledge and experience.
I got there, walked in, and introduced myself to the loveliest, most welcoming group of people I may have ever come across.
I expected to be there for an hour at most, to listen quietly as others talked around me and lay low absorbing their words, as I do, but three hours later I found myself in awe of and in deep conversation with the man next to me, a well-known, award-winning (like, Governor General's Literary Award winning) children's book author and illustrator. He recommended links I should check out, publishers I should talk to. He advised me to walk away from any naysayers in my life, noting that we're all critical enough of ourselves already. He talked about how he'll notice the one thing he doesn't like in his illustrations while everyone around him points out what they love, and I practically shouted Yes! and commiserated, marveling that even Governor General's Literary Award winners doubt themselves. This was revelatory and reassuring. I told him, with some hesitation, that I had quit my day job to pursue a writing career, quickly adding (in order that he not think I'm crazy) that I have no delusions that I'll be a published author by the end of the year. To which he replied, "But you could be."
I had a thoroughly enjoyable time chatting with everyone there this morning and left feeling inspired and with a strong sense that I had finally found my people. And could maybe even consider myself one of them.
This morning, I nearly let my self-doubt and a bad mood talk me out of an opportunity that turned out to be more impactful than I can fully express. Over the past two months, as I've prioritized my dreams and spoken them out loud, I've been inundated with the support of encouraging friends who have gone out of their way to throw doors open for me. It's not easy, but I'm learning to say yes, shake off the fears and doubts clinging to my legs, and walk through them.
Because more often than not, the other side is a warm place full of smiling faces, and more open doors. And sometimes it's the place where four short words change your life.
But you could be.