merritt-nappi

*note: the title of this blog post is my life motto and my all-time favorite song. that said, i hope I did it justice with this post.

When I first sat down to write this, I was sitting in the back corner of the Nashville airport food court, trying to finish a way-too-greasy piece of pizza that I was eating only because my stomach had been doing flips all day and I was too nervous to finish my lunch and my flight to Charlotte kept getting delayed to where I probably wouldn’t be able to eat dinner for a long time. And when I wrote my first few notes for this post, I wrote, “To be completely honest, I wouldn’t even complain if my flight just kept getting delayed until it eventually got cancelled.”

So yes, needless to say, I hate flying.

I got it from my mom. God bless her, she hates it too. She and my dad once flew to D.C. and she hated the flight there so much that she made him get a rental car and they drove all the way back from D.C. to Nashville. (That’s a lesson in love, folks – husbands/boyfriends, take note.) But my point is, that’s how much I hate flying. As much as my mom. If not more.

So why did I get on a plane, you ask? Why did I do this to myself? Was I dragged kicking and screaming? Was I forced against my will? Did I get paid? No, none of these. I got on a plane because my new best friend from Belmont lives in Charlotte, and she wanted me to come and visit her and meet her family, and there is no way I would turn down an invitation like that.

I dreaded the flight since the day we even started talking about me coming to visit. (I know, if you’re aware that the flight to Charlotte from Nashville is only 45 mins-an hour, you are laughing at me and thinking I am the biggest wimp you’ve heard of in your life. I probably am, so laugh all you want.) I don’t know what it is – I just am so terrified of being trapped in a giant flying object miles above the ground. I’ve always been claustrophobic, but usually when you’re in a stuffy classroom or a big crowd or a small car, there’s a door, a bathroom to escape to, a way out. On a plane, there is literally no way out. Unless you jump. Which might be comforting if I wasn’t absolutely terrified of heights.

Because I was dreading the flight so much, I did my research. (No, I didn’t research all the things that could go wrong on a plane – I’ve learned that that type of research is the worst possible thing for me. Ignorance is bliss in these cases, because I am the queen of the self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, if I read the possible side effects on a pill bottle and one of them is, for instance, difficulty breathing, I will cough once and literally think that my throat is closing up and I am dying. *This definitely hasn’t ever happened, has it Mama and Daddy?*) ANYWAY, I did my research in a different form: prayer. I did my research on fear and anxiety and nerves. (As if I didn’t already know enough about it.) It wasn’t as much research as it was a virtual pep talk – it was a Google search for “sermons on fear and anxiety.” It was a Max Lucado book chapter I read entitled “Fear.”(I’m a nerd, I know it.)

In the sermons I listened to and the book chapter I read, there was a common theme: fear stems from a lack of control that we are not used to. The night before I left for Charlotte, I was venting dramatically about my flight to my friends, and one of them said, “Don’t worry. I love flying. It’s the best thing ever, because no matter what happens, it is completely and totally out of your control. If the plane is going to crash, there’s literally nothing you can do about it.” And of course, I groaned obnoxiously and told her that made me feel 100 times worse.

I, my friends, am a control freak. Maybe you can relate –  if something is out of my control, I will fight tooth and nail to get it under my control. If the plane was crashing, I would probably run to the front of the plane and yell at the pilot that he was flying it wrong and that I could do it better and save us all. And if the plane did crash and I never left my seat or did anything to stop it, I would probably blame myself for not yelling at the pilot.

So essentially, that’s what fear is. Fear is that uncomfortable feeling that something bad might happen, and that if it does, you will not be able to control it. AKA fear. is. my. worst. enemy. And I am constantly faced with the choice to either give in to the fear and run far from whatever is scaring me, or to fight it. We’re all faced with this choice – sometimes my anxiety just causes me to have to face it more often.

And yes, my friends, the more appealing option is usually to run from it. Run from that job interview, run from that blind date, run from that difficult conversation with that family member you haven’t spoken to in months, run from that thing that might possibly end badly, because the thought of something ending badly just makes you so uncomfortable. The running option is always easier, always more comfortable. And we humans really like to be comfortable. But we also like to experience joy, fulfillment, and accomplishment. And these things only come from facing these fears head on.

So, that’s where my life motto comes in:

I take my chances every chance I get.

I’ve got it painted on a big canvas and hung on the wall in my dorm room. I write it on my hand sometimes. I say it to myself every time I’m faced with the choice to either give in to the fear or face it head on. And 9/10, this gives me enough motivation to take on whatever it is I’m afraid of. (I first heard the song live at the Bluebird when Don Schlitz, one of the 2 writers, sang it. I bought the Mary Chapin Carpenter version on iTunes that night when I got home, and I have listened to it almost every day since then. That was almost 2 years ago. Listen to this song.)

I Take My Chances – Mary Chapin Carpenter

I like to think I do take my chances every chance I get. I got on that plane to Charlotte. The plane could’ve crashed and I could’ve died. But I took my chances. And I had the best time with my friend and her family, and I was so incredibly glad that I hadn’t given in to the fear and stayed home. Two weeks later, another friend invited me to visit her in Birmingham. I’ve never taken a road trip by myself, and anyone who knows me knows I am a nervous wreck on interstates (sorry to anyone who has ever ridden in my car). And to make matters worse, my GPS on my phone was broken so I had to use paper directions to get there. BUT, I took my chances and I did it. And I had the best time and I felt SO independent when I got home. Back in August when school started, I hadn’t yet met said Birmingham friend, but we followed each other on Instagram, and I was SO intimidated by her. I found out we were in the same Welcome Week group, and even though I was intimidated, I reached out and texted her to ask her some stupid random question about Welcome Week. She is now one of my best friends. I like to think it’s because I took my chances and reached out.

When I was 14, I stood outside the Bluebird Cafe with 50 other people in my cowboy boots and Miss Me jeans (God bless) and auditioned for the Sunday Writers’ Night. I’m playing my own show there for the fourth time next month. About a year ago, I had a meeting scheduled at Warner-Chappell Music. I walked into that big, fancy stone building and up the big staircase and played my favorite songs I’d written for two people I had never met, two people who had immense power over the career I wanted to have in the music business. I will have been an official Warner-Chappell songwriter – my dream job – for a year in June.

And you know what song I listened to on my way to that first meeting at Warner-Chappell? Yeah, I like to think I was really taking my chances that day.

I’m not saying that taking your chances always goes well. I’ve had plenty of gigs where I didn’t practice enough and forgot half the words to my own songs. I auditioned for American Idol and didn’t make it past the celebrity judges – stayed there for 3 full days and hours and hours and not to mention the months of practice beforehand that went into it – and all they showed of me on TV was a high quality close-up shot of me crying. (They stick that camera RIGHT  up in your face. I can now vouch for all those crazy people who try and beat up the camera guy and start scream-swearing right into the lens – I don’t blame them.) I didn’t look behind me well enough and backed into my friend’s car. And my cousin’s car. And a random guy’s car in the Hill Center about two weeks ago. (Still fresh.)  I had a difficult conversation that I needed to have with a friend that could’ve either saved our friendship or ruined it, and unfortunately, it ruined it. Taking your chances does not always end well. But it’s always worth it.

I think the fact of the matter is that the way God intended us to live is by taking our chances every chance we get. “For He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). We simply cannot live abundant lives if we stay inside our comfort zones. I’m not preaching, mind you – I love my comfort zone. Sometimes I would love to just live in my comfort zone. Because hey, it’s comfy. But my biggest fear is that I will get to heaven one day and have to stand before God and tell Him, “I didn’t take every opportunity You gave me.” If I had to do that, I think that would mean that the gift of life God gave me had been wasted.

So if you’re like me, just another human tryna get to heaven and tell Jesus you lived an abundant life, then keep taking your chances. Keep getting on planes and keep having those tough conversations and keep texting those people you think you might end up being friends with and keep auditioning for reality TV talent shows. Keep talking to random people in line at Starbucks and keep being the first to say “I love you” and keep signing up for half marathons and keep approaching celebrities when you see them in public. Keep doing those things that scare you to death.

And take your chances every chance you get.

God loves you like crazy,

Caroline

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