I found myself wandering down the shoe section aisles at target about a week after I first had the idea for the Story Project.
And there they were, the snow boots I had looked at the year before and decided I didn’t need them, as chances of me going up to the snow enough times to merit buying snow boots had been slim.
It was the same situation this year (2013), plus the California drought. But I had just been to visit my friend Kate in Denver, and we had hiked a 14er (Mt. Bierstadt) in far too much snow, and as I soaked through my non-waterproof hiking boots, I had thought that snow boots would’ve been a good thing to have.
And the story project idea, though new in my mind, was unrelenting. I had spent every lunch hour and after-work hour for the past week sketching out ideas and researching highway routes through the country and looking up cost of living in various middle-of-the-US cities. I knew one thing: I would move East for the project. Far enough East that I’d need snow boots.
So I bought them. In faith. A week into the idea of the Story Project. With no firm plans, just a firm will. Though a little purchase, it felt like I was investing in myself, that I was taking the first small step to putting my money where my mouth (and heart) were. That I was willing to bet that I was really going to do this thing.
I find myself doing that more and more these days. When I have an idea that I’m firm on, a desire that I’m sure of, even if I don’t have a plan, I announce my intentions. Now, I always reserve the right to change my mind, but this out-loud and out-of-wallet accountability makes sure that I don’t end up never having done something just because I never got around to it.
I used to not announce my intentions until I had a plan. I was afraid of people’s questions. “Well, when are you going to do that? How are you going to? Where will you live? With whom? What college will you go to? What will you major in? What do you want to be when you ‘grow up’?”
Those kinds of questions used to paralyze me. I was always concerned about making the wrong decision on the plans, that I forgot to even let myself uncover what I wanted my intentions to be.
It’s taken changing course a couple times, taking some detours, and letting some bombs blow up my plans — but I’m finally to a place where I don’t have to have a plan to start telling you about what I want to do. And in that, I’ve found that I find help, advice, and connections along the way that I never would have if I had my plan completely figured out already.
It took a lot of rerouting of the way I thought about life to finally allow myself to let go, and to enjoy the process of discovering what I love and am passionate about, discovering what I want to do, and then finding the plan as it comes. It takes a lot of security in knowing that I am who I am, regardless of the paths I take, and that it’s OK to share myself with the world before I’m a finished, polished, well-planned person. I have ideas, I have dreams, and I’m starting to believe the creative minds who say that it’s best to start talking about them right away. It doesn’t just give you a finished product, it lets you in on the journey.
With that said, I’m heading to San Diego this week for the first stop of the Story Project. I have a couple stories lined up, but am hopeful to find a few more while I’m down there. More practice in living unplanned when we have to. Please keep me and the Project in your good thoughts and prayers as I search for people whose stories need to be told.
I’m hopeful to find the gems in the journey.
If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support!
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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
Other places are
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