Let’s talk about buts. Not in the Sir Mix-A-Lot way, although that’s equally important on some levels. No, I’m talking about buts, with one T.
How many times a day do we say or think about buts? For me, it’s pretty much all the time. You’re sitting at work, and a challenging but interesting project slides across your desk. You know you’re capable of tackling it, and yet, the worries creep in. But what if it falls through, and my boss is disappointed? But what if I get too stressed out and bomb the whole thing?
You see a running group posting about weekly runs downtown, and it sounds like maybe, just maybe, you’d have fun and meet a new friend or two. But what if I’m too slow, or no one likes me? But what if my old injury flares up and I’m knocked on my tush to heal?
Even worse, what if you’re single and ready to mingle, and a handsome and/or lovely prospect asks you out for a getting-to-know-you Freak Frappe at Boston Burger Company*. But what if the sprinkles get stuck to my chin?** But what if they don’t like me, and we have to eat in awkward silence for the remainder of the meal?
*I am in no way affiliated with Boston Burger Company. I just really, really like their frappes and sammies when I feel like testing the capacity of my stomach.
**Ben has witnessed this and worse, and still takes me to eat in public, so your odds are good.
These worries can be paralyzing, right?
This year (and throughout the recent past), I’m working on shrinking my but for good. There are so many incredible opportunities in the world, and yes, sometimes they won’t work out. Failure is a real thing, but it’s not the end of the world! Here are my strategies for my ongoing but-shrinkage. I’m not a professional and these are only my two cents, yet I hope they might help you if you’re feeling trapped in indecision.
Count to ten.
When an opportunity or challenge presents itself, sometimes my brain goes into overdrive. Take a deep breath, count to ten, then consider the prospect in its entirety before getting flustered. You’re cool as a cucumber now!
Remember your past successes.
Scared about trying out for the solo in your choir? Think about the time you and your bud slayed the duet in your last concert, and how great it felt after! You were literally Beyonce. Literally. *Hair flip*. Channel the positive vibes and use the energy from other victories to carry you through periods of paralysis or indecision.
Acknowledge the worst-case scenario. Then tell it to get lost.
Sometimes things don’t go the way we wish they would; sh*t happens, right? If you didn’t get the solo, what would be the worst thing that could happen? You join your awesome friends and sing killer backup for the song, even if you’re not taking center stage. This tip doesn’t work for everyone, but I find that realizing the worst-case outcome sometimes isn’t as bad as I think it is can help me move forward. You’re confident, smart, and capable; tell the haters and the worries to take a backseat, because you are in charge.
Think about the cool stuff you could learn/see/do!
From taking the plunge into a new career to trying that questionable-sounding quinoa-salmon-lentil soup at the cafeteria, every new opportunity is a chance to learn about yourself! Maybe you find out that you’re a phenomenal teacher, or that you have no desire to ever eat salmon again. Either way, you’ve tried something new. Your brain is sitting there, synapses firing, creating new information that you can use to inform future You.
In short, don’t get FOMO. (Not in the fratty way–I’m okay with skipping the frat FOMO). If something fills you with equal parts terror and excitement, it’s probably worth it to give it a whirl.
A Case Study: That One Time I Went to Wyoming For a Job Interview and Saw Tumbleweeds For The First Time
I suppose the heading gives away the main purpose for this excursion, but yes, I did in fact go to Wyoming on a whim in my recent job search. Before starting my current job, I was a Collections Assistant of archaeological materials for a prestigious museum in the Boston area. As many similar jobs go, it was a term-position, which meant that eventually I’d be scoping the job market yet again. I hoped to use my museum background and/or archaeological training in my next position, and I was pretty open-minded to the location and responsibilities of jobs that popped up in listservs, etc.
Anyways, the search process itself wasn’t terribly exciting. If anything, it was so stressful to the point of physical side effects. I’d apply to so many jobs, only to hear very little in response, and I felt like I was close to pulling my hair out.
Enter Wyoming, stage left. A position matching my background opened up at a state organization, and lo and behold, the hiring team seemed to think that I was possibly-sort of-almost-maybe a good fit! After a couple of phone interviews, they asked if I’d be interested in flying to Wyoming for an in-person interview and tour of the facility.
I distinctly remember sitting on the floor in the corner of my bedroom with my phone in my hand, whimpering to my mom on speaker-phone that I wasn’t sure if this was what I wanted. I’d never lived more than a few months outside of New England, and the idea of moving to a place that had rodeos and cowboy hats was so foreign to me that it made me nervous. I feared being so far from my friends, family, and Ben (who had only started dating me a few weeks prior, despite being friends for several years). I felt a lump in my throat when I considered leaving the land of Dunkin Donuts, pahkin’ my cah in Hahvahd Yahd, and autumns punctuated by startlingly neon foliage. My parents and Ben, bless them, were so patient and supportive. I was and still am grateful for their kind level-headedness during that time. They encouraged me to stop thinking about the buts and what-ifs and just….go!
So I did. I got on a plane to Denver white-knuckled, with one carry-on duffel and approximately 75 pounds of mental baggage. I had to buy a flip phone because my regular cell didn’t get service in Wyoming (I checked ahead of time…that’s how over-prepared I tried to be.) I’d never rented a car before. I’d reserved a hotel maybe a handful of times prior, and never as a solo traveler. I’d never seen a mountain…a real mountain, not the rolling hills of eastern Massachusetts. And yet, here I was, doing all of the above and more. I landed in Denver, figured out how to get to the rental car facility off-site from the airport, and was handed keys to a brand new SUV for the weekend. Okay, this is pretty solid so far. I climbed into the equivalent of a tank in my mind, and began the interstate drive to Laramie, Wyoming. I distinctly remember hitting the highway, turning my head to the left, and screaming “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD” to myself in the empty car, because I saw mountains! Real, snow-capped, movie backdrop-worthy mountains. I’m pretty sure I looked at least a little deranged to my fellow commuters, but YOLO. Also, tumbleweed…those things are crazy!
After my mild elevation-induced outburst, I continued on to my destination. On the way, I read highways signs, hoping to find something interesting to stop and see. As I crossed the border from Colorado to Wyoming, I passed signs for Happy Jack Recreational Area. I off-roaded slightly in my behemoth rental tank, parked the car on a dusty side road, and looked around a landscape so foreign and exciting that I think I stopped breathing for a few minutes. I tried to take a selfie with my shiny new flip phone (pro-tip: don’t), and remembered that I could still take photos with my perpetually-roaming smartphone. (See below).
I’ll spare you every detail of the rest of the trip, but suffice to say, it was a wild, wild western ride. I drank beer alone at a bar called The Library while texting Ben from a flip phone and looking sketchy as hell, drove aimlessly wherever looked interesting, had an entire hotel room to myself, enjoyed a phenomenal morning coffee at a local coffee shop, and met really kind folks at the organization.
The job didn’t end up being the right fit, and that’s okay. It wasn’t until after I landed back in Boston that I realized that I would have always wondered what might have happened if I hadn’t made the trip. To this day, I’m sure I’d still be wondering what Wyoming was like, and if I had lost a great opportunity because I was afraid to try. But you know what? I tried! I put on my big girl pants, hopped on a plane, drank a good beer, and have nothing but nice things to say about the experience. I’m so glad that my support system helped me shrink my concerns– my buts— down to a manageable size so that I could do something totally outside my comfort zone.
This year, I hope that my buts will continue to shrink. I hope that yours do, too…keep doing squats and lifting if that’s your thing, though, cause strong glutes are v important.
Until next time,
your favorite cowgirl,