“Can I ask you a question?” My colleague and I had just finished up a conversation about a student, and I looked up to discover lunchtime had arrived. Slightly unnerved, I silently wondered where our conversation was headed. Her tone exuded marked seriousness, and I immediately discerned that our upcoming exchange would involve a topic outside the realm of our normal work together. It’s funny how working with someone over the years can aid in developing a more acute listening.
“Of course,” I responded.
“Well,” she began, “you know how you’re always encouraging me to write? Like, start my own blog and stuff like that?”
I absolutely remembered. In fact, just this last fall I recalled discussing what topic or organizing concept she might start a blog around. But I knew she hadn’t started writing yet. At least, I didn’t think she had. “Yeah, I remember” I quipped.
“The truth is,” she continued, “I’ve been writing. I really haven’t told anyone here at work, but…I’ve got a story. It’s a book, actually.” She went on to describe a little of her inspiration for the book and a few of the issues her book addresses. As she spoke, I detected an uncertainty, a tenor of self-deprecation. It was familiar to me. Yes, this was in her nature, but I recognized it as part of mine as well. Creeping into her description of her writing and ideas seemed to be, for lack of a better term, doubt.
“That’s awesome!” I gushed. “But…what did you want to ask me?”
“Well, I know we are going to be hosting our guest author, Lynda Mulally Hunt, in just a few weeks. Do you think…”she paused. “Do you think I should…or could…do you think maybe I ought to ask her about her process? Like how she takes a story and gets it published?”
As you can imagine, I answered in the enthusiastic affirmative. “Absolutely you should?!” I answered. Because that’s what we need to do. We need to be there to encourage each other. To be a voice of belief for the unsure. To cheerlead one another’s ideas. Because who knows? Who knows where ideas might lead?
As my colleague exited my office that day, I thought about the fact that, well, we all have ideas, right? What if we believed in ourselves? Tried them out? Went for it? Found people who believed in us? Pushed past all the “reasonable” notions of why we can’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t. It’s that “reasonable” thinking that holds us back. Why not try unreasonable? Why not be unafraid to fail? How many times have I let that thinking hold me back? My loved ones? My students?
I hope my colleague pursues the publication of her book. I really do. And I also hope I can hang onto and spread this new resolve.
Because who knows where it might lead…