Once upon a time a fabulous young lady named Melanie Tozzi (now Hicks) wrote a beautiful letter to her younger self and entered it in a Marie Claire magazine contest that was promoting If I’d Known Then, my second book. A shortened version of her letter appeared, along with a few others, next to a beautiful photograph staged to fit with the theme of her letter.
Her letter was about fear. As she said to her younger self: “When I peer into the looking glass that illuminates you, I see a shy, quiet girl who is critically afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, afraid of loneliness…and all these things are holding you back like an anchor holds a ship near a shoreline.”
That was 2008. Fast forward to just a few weeks ago in 2013 when I got the most inspiring update. Melanie is living fearlessly, thanks to her decision to gradually open up to what life presents.
When I received Melanie’s note I had just completed a motorcycle riding course in order to use a cute green Vespa that is on loan to me for a few months. Having stepped so far outside of my comfort zone (and having tolerated much head-shaking on the part of my husband), getting Melanie’s note felt as though I was getting a giant green light for Vespa-ing and more. Everyone I have shared Melanie’s words with has felt so encouraged and uplifted that I wanted as many people as possible to read it.
Melanie, thank you for letting me publish this–and for the reminder to say YES to the rich opportunities that come our way. Here’s what she wrote:
“Despite the fact we barely know each other I feel like you are a piece of how I got here and so I share this with the utmost gratitude.
The last few years have been an interesting journey; a divorce, a new career, a new city, a couple of serious relationships. But the last year is really where things have started to change.
Just over a year ago I boarded a plane to Portland, Oregon. It was a work conference but I had decided to extend it a few extra days and try an experiment of traveling alone. I had traveled for work alone many times but never just for fun. I believe anxiety and excitement were equally matched in my soul.
My life at home at this point was feeling empty. I had a great career and some wonderful friends but something in me was restless. I made a promise to myself on the plane to just open up to any and all that was brought to my plate. To talk to strangers, slow down and really listen to what was going on around me.
And amazingly the universe seemed to open its doors. It sounds crazy even to meas I write this, but there is no other way to describe it. It began at baggage claim with a chance meeting and an invite to join strangers for a wine tour…which I accepted. Then a yoga studio with a literal open door, a small lighting store where a Korean couple taught me to make rice paper lanterns, an art street fair I stumbled into when a cab was suddenly nowhere in sight. The adventures became increasingly remarkable yet each step out of my comfort zone felt less frightening than the last.
A week later I sat on the plane home marveling at all I had experienced and I began to understand the power of being fearless and open. I made a vow to go a year turning down no adventure I found interesting – especially if it scared me – just to see what life had to offer.
I started slowly – a painting class accompanied by a familiar bottle of wine
dragging a friend in tow. Then a pottery class, a motorcycle license, a gun range lesson, a glass blowing class, a half marathon, the Tough Mudder….I stayed loyal to my promise to never say no. And each experience seemed to release this great wave of empowerment in my soul. I began to feel a bravery I have never felt before so I began to push my limits – scaling an 80-foot wall at the Marine boot camp in Parris Island, booking a solo trip to Europe, gunning for a career
promotion I didn’t feel was possible. When I had a random urge to buy 5 old windows and turn them into art, I coincidently met a woman looking to put art into her coffee shop and mine seemed to fit her need. When I decided to learn how to use power tools, I built my own bedroom set – imperfect but functional. Nothing I was doing was perfect – it was all an experiment and some was certainly more successful than others but none of that mattered. It was not what was being created outside that mattered. It was only what was happening in my soul. The entire act of fearlessness was intoxicating.
I began to see a change in my own day-to-day behaviors. I began to have true sense of calm and center and happiness. I began to purposefully smile in places no one was smiling – the grocery store, the airport. I began to take myself
less seriously and stop worrying about what others might think and realized I was laughing a lot more. I would strike up conversations with strangers and inevitably end up sharing the story of my year and then be blessed by their willingness to open up and share their stories. It was a remarkable occurrence. And I started to wonder what we are all so afraid of anyway? Failure? Others perceptions? How does worrying about all that help us live better?
So the solo trip to NYC marked the year anniversary of my Portland trip, the year anniversary of that promise and I am a completely different woman. I’m not at all sure where life is going to lead me in the next year but I am confident it will be an adventure.”