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The scary side of chasing your dream

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Over the summer I decided that I wanted to be a journalist, and let me tell you, it’s been quite the journey.

All my life I’ve enjoyed writing, but my future always felt vague. I never thought about how I would concretely work toward building a writing career until this summer. I guess something about being a rising senior really propels you forward in planning your future. Go figure. Suddenly, I realized that if I wanted to pursue writing, I had to start as soon as possible. Getting into journalism seemed like a good place to start.

In the days leading up to the start of the quarter, I was so psyched about this new pursuit; I planned to take journalism classes, apply for the Stanford Daily (and here we are!) and apply for the Coterminal Master’s Degree in Communication. Everything seemed to fit a neat and perfect mold, but I didn’t anticipate the other side of chasing my dream.

The nerves. The anxiety. My heart racing and stomach churning every time I thought about actually writing for the world to see.

Last Wednesday, the night my first Daily article was due, I sat at my laptop writing and rewriting and overthinking my every word. I was writing about passion and purpose, something that had been on my mind for a long time. I had so many thoughts I wanted to share, but every word I wrote was laced with doubt. I finished the piece feeling like I’d just shared a dark, secret side of myself with the world.

Being my debut piece, I put so much weight on it. Is this too dark a topic for my first piece? I thought. Is it too existential? Simply too much? I tried to let it go, but the thought of that piece being published really made me nervous.

Over the weekend I received a Google notification that one of the Daily editors had begun editing my piece, and my heart skipped a beat (which it does at the smallest hint of alarm). Even though I knew the editors were making style edits and not commenting on content, my hands shook as I reopened the document.

I spent the rest of that weekend procrastinating on all of my work. Maybe I was lazy, or maybe there was a deep-rooted fear of failure that was pushing me away from productivity. Because most of the work I was doing this quarter actually meant something. I wanted to write the perfect news story for journalism class, the perfect poem for poetry class and the perfect article for the Daily. Yet every time I took even the smallest step in either of those directions, I was paralyzed with fear and doubt. It was a vicious cycle: I’d procrastinate, write something in a rush, then resent every word I’d written.

That Monday, as I scrolled through the Daily digest in my email, I saw the title of my piece sitting comfortably among the others, as if it belonged there. But I did not dare click on it. I couldn’t bring myself to face the proof of its existence.

Usually I’d be excited to share my writing with my mom and hear her feedback, and I’d promised to send her my first article. But my finger hovered over the share button. After pausing for a second, I just dropped the link in our WhatsApp chat, closed the app and moved on. I didn’t preface it with anything, or follow up asking what she thought. I was too scared.

A minute later my heart dropped to my stomach when I saw a notification from a friend who’d shared the link in a group chat. This is too much, I thought, and my heart can’t take it!

How could something be so equally exhilarating and terrifying?

Today, I attended an event that I needed to write about for my journalism class. I knew I should try to talk to people, but even though I had a solid 20 minutes of mingle time before the event actually started, I stayed glued to my seat. I thought, It would be so easy to turn around and introduce yourself to the group sitting behind you. They seem really friendly. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Instead, I impulsively ate three slices of pizza and checked my email.

How am I going to make it in the journalism world if the most basic interactions scare me?

I’ve never had something I love push me so far out of my comfort zone. I can’t take a step forward without overcoming a wave of insecurity about who I am and what I’m pursuing. There’s a quote that says something along the lines of “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.” Well here I am, dreaming big, and it scares the heck out of me. Yet it’s that intoxicating combination of fear and excitement that keeps me going and keeps me writing.

 

Contact Astrid Casimire at acasimir ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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