Monthly Archives: January 2014

On Being Fearless

This morning I found out the cause of death of a good friend and colleague of mine who died—suddenly, shockingly, perplexingly—about a year ago. Untreated diabetes. She had known about the diagnosis for some time, but had chosen not to treat it or share the news with anyone. What seemed like a stubborn refusal to face the truth, to acknowledge her fears, led to an untimely death that left her friends and family reeling.

The news shook me, lingered in the back of my mind even as I went about my day. It got me thinking about fear and loss: of life, love, dreams, passions. I thought about how my own fears hold me back from living a full and vibrant life, how I, in my own way, often allow fear to have the final word. I mulled over how easy it is to convince myself that what I fear is immovable and insurmountable, and how this belief leads to the loss of life.

The truth is, I want to be fearless, to go boldly where no one named Yuniya Khan has ever gone before, but…I’m afraid.

What would I do if I were fearless?

  • I would tell my mother I love her, every day.
  • I would pick up and move back to LA next week.
  • For that matter, I would pick up and move to Brazil next week.
  • Even better, I would leave everything behind and travel the world for a year.
  • I would throw myself wholeheartedly—fearlessly—into writing, maybe making documentaries, and doing my part to make the world a better place, and I would find a way to make a living doing all these things.
  • I would walk up to that guy and tell him, “You can justify things however you want, but you’re a fool to let a good thing—and a good woman(me)—slip away.”
  • I would look my dream job employer in the eye and say, “Take a chance with me. You won’t regret it.”
  • I would close up the office in the middle of the day and take some much-needed quiet time.
  • I would get a dog. And a cat. Maybe two cats.

But I’m writing this from the safety of my comfort zone, comfortably situated on my couch. Nothing is stopping me from taking on any one of these items. And yet I can feel my Day of Reckoning fast approaching, when I will stand before the opportunity to make a fearless choice.

I can almost hear my friend whispering to me as I write. Choose life, she says. Always choose life. Give it all you’ve got.  Don’t turn your back on fear; make fear your friend and go conquer the world together. And when things backfire, when you trip and fall, when someone hurts you or breaks your heart, get up and choose life again. You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Will I choose to be fearless?

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Part 2 – What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I have not followed a predictable or traditional career trajectory, by most people’s standards. Certainly not by the standards of my mother, who, as an immigrant, possessed a starkly different set of expectations for me in this country. But this unique trajectory of mine has always been a source of pride—I’m immensely proud of the places I’ve gone, the experiences I’ve had—and a source of shame.

Can you feel both proud and ashamed of the same thing?

The shame gets triggered when people ask me certain questions or make certain observations:

You move around a lot.

You change jobs a lot.

What were you planning to do with that?

You’re changing jobs/apartments/cities again?

When will you settle down and grow up?

Or, when I tell people that I have degrees in Television & Radio, Spanish, Theology, and International Development, and a perplexed frown settles on their face as they try to find the logic in that. Where’s the pattern? What’s the point?

I can hear the shame in my voice, feel it all over my body—in my lowered eyes, shrugging shoulders, and diminished posture—when I attempt to explain my actions, my unorthodox choices. Somewhere underneath is usually a hidden plea for understanding and affirmation, for someone to tell me, “Don’t worry. You’re okay.”

Okay, you know what? The pity party’s over. It’s time to nix the shame.

My Career Intention for 2014? To reclaim my past and recreate my future.

My life to this point is a reflection of who I am: insatiably curious, always wanting to learn something new. Compassionate. Deeply concerned for the underdog and those who tend to live on the margins of society. Creative. Idealistic. But pragmatic and realistic when the situation calls for it. Always in pursuit of personal growth and development. And truth. Impatient with the status quo.

It’s in my nature to take the less-traveled road. To explore new places and new opportunities. To encounter new people and cultures, to absorb their worldviews and assumptions and allow them to enhance my own. I’m driven to make connections—between people, ideas, movements, opportunities—and bring our vast and deep (and often hidden) interconnectedness to light. I could not do this without a collection of experiences to draw from.

All the places I’ve gone, the jobs I’ve had, the places I’ve lived, the courses of study I’ve pursued, have given me a richness and depth of life experience, captured and recorded in every cell in my body, and beyond my ability to fully articulate. I am very, very grateful for these experiences, and for the person I’ve become as a result.

That’s not to say there isn’t more work to be done.

Even as I reclaim and embrace my past, it’s also time to recreate my future. To take the lessons learned, the successes and failures, triumphs and losses, and use them to reshape and even redirect my career trajectory.

I will make different choices now, choices aligned with who I know myself to be. I will allow myself to be led by my strengths, my inner wisdom, my curiosity, and my limitations. Yes, I look to my limitations with respect and high regard, much as you would look upon a childhood teacher whom you experienced as unbelievably hard-assed and mean, but whose acerbic words contained truth and wisdom only your adult mind could understand and appreciate.

I will take my inklings, instincts, and curiosities seriously, allow them to direct and guide me in my career choices. And I will trust them enough to risk going a little deeper, letting myself put down roots, so to speak, in those career areas I choose. And if I trust my instincts to guide me, I will also trust that I can develop levels of skill I never dared to imagine, and choose not to dash away too quickly for fear that I just won’t be good enough. I will, instead, allow myself to be seen.

There’s a lot more work to be done on this project called Me. Still more of this mountain to scale. But I think I’m off to a pretty good start so far; a good chunk of the work has already been done.

She’s Baaaaack – Part 1

Well, whaddya know—I’m still alive.

More to the point, my blog still lives. Let’s hope I can get to more than one post per year this year!

Last year I set love as an Intention for 2013, to see it manifest in my daily life, my career, and in a romantic partner.

I got the ball rolling in a variety of ways: a surprise opportunity to manage a bed & breakfast; connecting and re-connecting with friends and family in ways I hadn’t before; and yes, experiencing a taste of romance (the full spread waits in the wings).

But this year, 2014, I’m looking to take things to another level. I’m looking for breakthroughs.

Specifically, breakthroughs in the areas of love and relationships, home, and career. And not necessarily in that order.

But I’ll start with Love, since that’s the heart and source of everything else.

For this year I set the Intention to love more deeply, open my heart wider, risk feeling more joy, satisfaction, happiness, disappointment, heartache. To live and love more fully.

I want to expand the boundaries of the love I’m capable of giving and receiving. To learn to accept and embrace the ways in which people love me, understanding that they will love as they are able, as far as their limits and imperfections allow. I’m learning to love myself better, to tap into that internal space where no judgment or condemnation exists. Only a deep, abiding love, patience, understanding and complete acceptance. In this space even the harshest truths find a soft place to land. The more time I spend in this space, the more my heart expands, giving, receiving and accepting love in all its forms, regardless of imperfections, including my own.

From this space I can continue to dream big, open my heart even wider to love in my life because love always abounds, whether I receive it from the people or circumstances in my life or not. There’s always, always another chance to love better and sweeter, to receive love more openly and graciously. And this year I strive towards this goal.

Home is a new Intention for 2014. It’s one manifestation of love I haven’t allowed to flourish in nearly two decades. I have lost count of the number of apartments I’ve lived in since leaving the home of my youth. My mother half-joked with me years ago that she has to have a separate address book just for me — by now she likely has two. I’ve lived in multiple cities and dozens of apartments, but have never claimed any of them as Home. I always seem to take with me a sense of non-commitment, a temporary mindset, when I move into a new place. Not much on the walls, just a few personal touches, and a largely impersonal feel. It’s as if I’m waiting for something (or someone?) to tell me, “Put Stakes Down Here.”

Well, something IS urging me to put down roots now. But it’s something internal, deep, telling me it’s time to claim my Home. I admit that this thought frightens me, fills me with agitation and nervousness. I’m afraid of being tied down, tethered to one place, not being able to flee when the going gets tough or boring. I’m afraid of my freedom being intruded upon in any capacity.

But I’m starting to realize that I need Home if I want to continue to grow in love and life. Home is the diving board from which I can launch myself into the world. Home is the ball of twine on the ground that allows a kite to soar in the wind, dipping and diving and having a good old time. Without this ball of twine to ground it, the kite would simply drift aimlessly away. Home IS freedom.

More on my Career Intentions in the next post.