What keeps you from making your mark?


By Pauline Baird Jones, {grow} Community Member

I puked on my tutu just before I was supposed to dance with the fairies in my first recital.

My mom took me, and my tutu, home in disgrace. This was my first episode with humiliation. I can still remember the feeling of all those eyes as a path was cleared for me and my thoroughly soiled, very fragrant, tutu.

Thus ended my dance lessons and any hope of becoming another Shirley Temple. I didn’t know at the time that I had  processed a life lesson.

I was five.

I got older without too much awareness that I was holding back.  I wasn’t trying to do the things I wanted to do in my life that were a little risky so that I didn’t puke on my proverbial tutu again.  I justified my life by telling myself I was being practical and doing what needed to be done. I had dreams of becoming a writer, but well … I was busy and I’d think about that later.

And then I ran across an essay by author Louise Plummer called Fear, I Embrace You (later complied into Thoughts of a Grasshopper, Deseret Book, 1992). In the essay, she asks a question that was like a thunderclap in my ordinary life:

“What keeps us from making our mark?”

I shifted a bit uncomfortably in my seat and read on, running smack into this:

“I have come to realize that becoming the self we dream of being means taking a risk that feels life threatening …”

The risk we face in the journey to becoming isn’t dying, it’s puking on our tutu. That fear feels like dying. Fear dresses itself up like the safer choice, it’s the un-puked on tutu, the path of common sense, and it smiles and soothes while it kills our hopes, our dreams, our becoming.

In the silence that followed this a-ha moment, I almost let regret do it to me again, as missed opportunities and all the pulling back from becoming raced through my head. Oh, those paths not taken.

I was 25.

I can smile now at that person. I can look back and see the places where I embraced the fear, instead of letting it hold me back. I became a playwright, a writer, a novelist and a screenwriter. Along the way I became some other things I didn’t expect that can mostly be summed up as a grown-up.

Sometimes, I still let fear sneak back in and trip me up. I can see the places where I pulled back or turned aside. Where I limited myself. It’s frustrating to realize that fear has to be faced again and again and again. It is, as Plummer points out at the end of her essay, “our companion for life.” For her, fear is a driver of her creative energy.

For me, it is the signal that it is time to suck it up, to puke on my tutu, and become.

I’m now fifty-five-ish (grin). Okay, I’m fifty-seven and going to my 40th high school reunion this summer.

So I try not to spend time with regret. When I realize I’ve wandered into the too safe zone, or that I’m pulling back, I assess where I goofed, wrap my arms around the fear, and try to get back to becoming.

I allow myself to puke on my tutu.

pauline jonesPauline Baird Jones is the award-winning author of 13 novels.  Her latest release is Relatively Risky: The Big Uneasy 1. Originally from Wyoming, she and her family now reside in Texas. She can be found becoming at www.paulinebjones.com

Top photo of the author courtesy of the author.

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  • Hi Pauline.

    So true. It’s interesting how we spend so much time and energy worrying about an embarrassing result or someone rejecting us, and yet we don’t spend much time worrying about letting fear waste our time.

    This felt like a great talk during coffee with a friend… and that’s always useful 🙂

  • Naomi Tisseverasinghe

    Wow! Reading your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in the midst of makes some serious career changes and I can tell you that fear is so real. What compelled me to finally make changes? I took heed to Einstein’s quote, ” I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” Thank you for sharing your story.

  • LorianLipton

    Thank you. I needed to be reminded of a similar life experience, when also 5 and my fairy costume got caught in the scenery and exposed my panties. I need to look at how that may be limited my life choices.

  • It is amazing how those experiences impact us in ways we don’t even realize, isn’t it? It sure shocked me when I realized! (And they were probably really cute panties, too!)

  • I have to keep reminding myself, “This won’t kill me!” Even though it feels like it will. O.O Good luck with the changes! 🙂

  • Thank you, Gary. It is so true that we spend way too much time worrying about the wrong things. And what a hard habit it is to break, too. I’m glad you enjoyed the “talk.” 🙂

  • Tara Geissinger

    This is just beautiful. I think we can all identify situations in our life when we’ve let fear keep us from becoming our true selves. I know I have. For me it’s not so much in my career, but in my personal life. I LOVE the idea of homeschooling, but am afraid to take the plunge. Your post might have just pushed me over the edge. 🙂

  • Hana

    I love this article, it reaally made me smile 🙂 Thanks Pauline!

  • Thank you so much, Tara! Do you follow Ree Drummond by any chance? She has lots of homeschool info on her blog site. There’s lots of support out there if you do decided to take the leap. We homeschooled our last child and it turned out to be the right choice for him. 🙂

  • Thank you! 🙂

  • Jolene Guinther Navarro

    Great post! Fear has been on my mind lately and how it plays a part in our life. At times we are our own stumbling block. “The danger is real but fear is an illusion.” Haha, Yes, I just quoted Will Smith’s last movie.

  • Diana Beebe

    Great post! I’ve been learning to “puke on my tutu” a lot more lately. 🙂

  • LOL! Sometimes the danger is just a change of direction, a new way of thinking or doing. What always surprises me is how bad fear can feel when it isn’t life threatening. I keep wanting to tell it to behave, but it won’t. It’s fear. grin

  • Thanks, Diana! And good for you!

  • Naomi Tisseverasinghe

    You’re absolutely correct! Thanks again for reminding me to step outside my comfort zone : )

  • Jessica

    Puking on my tutu is a daily occurrence lately and I couldn’t be happier. Great blog post! And I love the photo.

  • Alle L’Eveille

    Great post!

  • Thanks, Jessica. 🙂 Yeah, there are times when daily is about it, aye? Glad you liked the post. 🙂

  • Thank you!

  • 😀

  • Lynn Kelley

    Awesome guest post, Pauline! You are so adorable in your tutu, puke or no puke! What a great lesson for all of us. Thanks for the tip about Louise Plummer’s book. I’ll have to add that to my TBR stack. Very cool how you’ve dealt with fear head on and now have so much to show for it!

    Thank you, Mark, for hosting Pauline.

  • Thank you, Lynn. I do wish I’d figured it out sooner and I love Louise Plummer’s humor in her essays. The full essay is wonderful. (Sometimes I have to go fetal and whine before I get up and deal with the fear. LOL)

  • Lynette M. Burrows

    Fear is the mind killer. 🙂 I didn’t puke on my tutu (yup, had one at 5 years old) but I’ve made plenty of fear based decisions. But I’ve also made risky decisions based on ‘becoming.’ Guess which ones worked out best for me? It’s still hard to step up to that fear. You are so right. If _feels_ like it might kill you. And when your decision turns out not to have been the best one . . . ugh! I just keep reminding myself, fear is the mind killer.

  • I think too many of us had tutus at five! O.O. But yeah, fear just kills (if we aren’t in some life threatening situation!). I get so mad at myself when I realize I made a decision based on fear. I try to be brave, but it is something that requires our persistence. 🙂

  • This is such an awesome and refreshing post. I really enjoyed you sharing with us Pauline. It’s a lot harder to admit to fear than it is to pretend like it never happens to us. Indeed, it’s often the silent companion that keeps people on a very short leash (and routinely trips them with it just because). <3

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  • Sarah Brabazon

    I totally agree with Lynette. Fear is the mind-killer. It stops us from being the best person we can be, it pushes us to stay safe and it prevents our baby-steps into the unknown. A few years ago, I discovered that I suffered from anxiety (really, it was my friends and family who suffered. I was irritatingly ignorant). I paid a clinical psychologist to take me through the steps to end it. Now, whenever I discover a new fear, I launch towards it, knowing that the sooner I embrace it, the sooner I’ll discover new possibilities. My latest: giving blood regularly to overpower needle phobia.

  • Many thanks, Kimberly! Yeah, it is hard to admit we’re afraid. And sometimes to realize that is the problem. We can dress it up so many ways! 🙂

  • You are so brave, Sarah! That is awesome. I almost hate realizing it is fear holding me back, because then I have to do it. LOL But I also — sometimes –give myself permission not to do something because I don’t want to. I study the problem, try to look past the fear and see if it is something I really want to do. At least, if I move on, it is by choice, not by fear. You go!

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