That’s what I got out of the writing retreat I just led with Emily Rapp and a whole bunch of bad ass writers last weekend in Vermont.
There was the fifteen year old who came with her mom because she thought she’d “get to miss some school.” Turns out she wouldn’t get to miss school as it was over a holiday weekend, but she came anyway. She came, and we all watched her rise to the occasion—in her writing, in her relationship with her mom and with the world.
I have everyone give each person at the retreat a note with the five most beautiful things about that person—so essentially you leave with twenty-six or forty (or however many people are there) love notes. It’s part of my 5 Most Beautiful Things Project.
The note I received from the fifteen year old blew me away, as did the email she sent me right after the retreat, which read:
I can honestly say this has been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. A few months ago, I overheard my mom talking to my dad about wanting to go on a yoga retreat. When I heard, I told my mom I wanted to go, too. I wanted to go because I thought I would miss school for it. Then about a month ago, I found out it was over fall break, and I would miss no school. But I am so glad I still came. I am only fifteen, and everyone was a lot older than me. It was a different experience, but a great experience. I learned so much from every single person there. I learned that writing is more than just words on a piece of paper. It is meaning and feelings put into a story that you can share with people or keep to yourself. Jen, you are truly an amazing teacher. Like I said in my most beautiful things about you, you may be hard of hearing, but you are one of the best listeners I know. Whenever I said something on the retreat, even if it was just a little sentence, you would give me the most amazing advice that I will keep and remember forever.”
Take risks. Do it anyway. Show up, even if you’re scared. Especially if you’re scared.
I loved watching the teenager at our retreat. She stepped out of her comfort zone and became our teacher. All of us sat watching her to see what she would say next and next and next. To be that free, that uninhibited at fifteen. How about at twenty-seven, at thirty-eight, at fifty-four? we all thought as we sat amidst our yoga mats and notebooks and blankets. To be that free.
Same with the lone guy who showed up. Twenty-five years old and the most beautiful and vulnerable man I have met. To be that free. Even if it’s scary. (Which it was, for both of them. For all of them.)
Sit down and write. (Or, whatever it is you do, do that.)
I look back on old writings of mine and see where I could have taken risks but chose not to. Why? (Who knows? Why do any of us stay in our comfort zones?) Laziness, safety, fear of what “they” will think. Who knows? Who cares.
From here on out, I am deeming myself a risk-taker, a live-lifer, an I will not take no for an answer kind of person, even when life seems to be saying No No No.
From there, I will write. From that place, I will show up, in my writing, in my life.
**this post originally appeared on Positively Positive.