When You Get to Nebraska, Just Keep Driving
A few years ago, I was working as an Information Technology (IT) Project Manager. While I was good at the job, it was sucking my soul dry. I was 38 years old and couldn’t I believe this was all there was to life. It was a good company; they took care of their employees; I knew people who worked there for over 30 years; and that seemed terrifying to me.
Improv Comedy was something I started doing on the side and I loved it. Performing set my soul on fire. I wanted to find out what would happen if I focused all of my time and energy doing something I loved. With the help of a supportive fiancé (we didn’t end up getting married), I quit my job, sold my home and packed everything I owned into a Penske truck to move from Portland, OR to Chicago, IL, the mecca for improv.
Of course, I was scared, but my excitement kept my fear in the back of the truck with all of my belongings. We left in April and saw thunder and lightning as we drove through the Columbia Gorge; we hit snowstorms in Idaho as we winded through the Boise Valley; we witnessed an incredible sunset as we hit the mountains of Utah and saw walls of rain showers on the wide expansive hills of Wyoming. The ever-changing landscapes and newness of it all kept me present in the moment. Then we hit Nebraska.
The landascape in Nebraska it switched to nothing but flat, dry terrain as far as your eyes can see. There is nothing new to look at, nothing exciting and my mind had plenty of time to invite fear into the front seat of the truck. "This is awful, why am I doing this? Who do I think I am? I’m too old for this. Am I crazy? I just left an amazing job I could have stayed at forever.” The road and the voices just kept going on and on. I contemplated going back to what felt safe.
And then out of nowhere we saw a glimmer of hope as we skirted around Lincoln, NE. Within a short time we saw vibrancy in the form of Omaha, NE. Before we knew it we were in the sweet, sweet hills of Iowa and could smell green grass and life. We enjoyed this new perspective until once again it became flat, only this time it felt comforting because we were getting close to Chicago, our final destination. The truth is, we wouldn't have been able to get to Chicago without going through Nebraska. (Yes, I know there are other routes from Portland to Chicago, but go with me on this one, will ya?)
It's a lot like committing to any other kind of change. When you start out, it's exciting, the landscape is new and interesting. You experience emotional rain and snow, but it's okay because you're still excited by the newness of it all. At some point though, you're going to come across your own emotional Nebraska where you'll start questioning – “Why am I doing this? Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just go back to the way things were?”
The thought of getting back into your moving truck – or doing that task, sticking to your plan, or struggling to change that habit one more time seems incredibly daunting and your ego steps in to try and save the day. It starts whispering, “You don't have to keep doing this; why don't we take a break and we'll pick it up at a later time; wouldn’t it be easier to go back to the old way of doing things?”
When you hear that voice, you’re in your own emotional Nebraska, and your ego wants to keep everything the same. So, if you really want to change, know you have to keep going forward because where you departed from changed the moment you left. You can’t go back to the way it was, you’ve changed simply by venturing out. Keep driving forward and kick fear to the back where it belongs.