Updated: Nov 28
Last summer my younger cousin was accepted into an elite school of music for his undergrad program.
Amidst the congratulatory texts that followed the announcement from my aunt, my older brother responded, “What’s he going to do with that degree?”Interpreting his message as condescending and dismissive, I immediately became angry and defensive knowing how much courage it takes to chase a creative dream. “Probably more than you’re doing with your first degree!” I shot back.
The flurry of texts that followed included a retort from my brother asking what I was doing with my first degree (nothing, absolutely nothing, with no shame at all), orders from our mom and aunts to calm down and be nice, and genuine apologies from me upon realizing that my brother was simply asking what field my cousin wanted to go into after graduation.
In my apologies I stated that I didn’t want anything to dampen the day for my cousin, but in reflection I realized that my uncharacteristic outburst went much deeper than that. I mean, my cousin wasn’t even involved in the text thread so there was certainly no reason to lose my temper to protect him.
I didn’t take the straight and narrow path out of high school, or any year since for that matter.
I quit college my junior year to travel, returned after a semester off and graduated with a degree in Leisure Services (it’s a real degree, I promise). My daydreams of moving to Hawaii to become a park ranger were sidetracked when I met the super cute (Iowa) baseball player who ultimately became my husband. I took a job at a bank while Josh finished college and burst into tears upon being offered a much sought after (by other team members) promotion because I hated it so much before returning to school for massage therapy.
My intense reaction to my brother’s innocent inquiry was based upon years of answering that same question, or a variation of it so many times myself.
Sometimes the question was laced with well meaning underlying concern, occasionally with genuine curiosity, and sometimes with outright disdain, like the time a friend of my Grandmother’s stopped me in a bar (only in rural Iowa) to loudly ask “why would you do something so stupid as leave a good job at a bank?!”
To be clear, I don’t think any one of those moments, or even the cumulation of ALL of those moments, would have any impact on me if I didn’t hold the same uncertainty within myself.
Earlier that same summer I left a secure position with a state government agency and as I walked away the old familiar voice screamed out, “What the hell is wrong with me? Why would I go and do something so stupid as leave a stable job with the state? With benefits! Why can’t I be happy doing anything normal?!”
Every time the answer was the same, even to myself: “I don’t know.”
It was my response even though I knew deep down exactly what I wanted to do.
Sometimes I was too scared to say it out loud, and many times the dream I was chasing simply felt too new and too fragile to hand over to anyone else.
To ease the transition back into entrepreneurship as I walked away from that good, stable job, I took a bartending position in the Okoboji Lakes area. Not to brag, but I’m SUPER good at bartending and serving. It’s a skill that’s served me well time and again as I found my way through life. As I finished up my last shift before fall, I fielded familiar questions from the regular customers, “What are you doing next? Will you be back next summer?”
I took a deep breath, remembered my friend Katy Thomsen’s advice from Rural Kind Co’s first women’s conference to “scream your dream” and responded: “Actually, by next summer I intend to have an online business helping women achieve their highest potential in life and business."
I actually smiled, shrugged and said vaguely, “I guess I don’t really know what’s next.”
Nearly a year later, that big, scary, new dream doesn’t seem so fragile anymore. My chest doesn’t tighten at the mere thought of releasing it into the world. I have the words to explain it to family and friends. And I need you to know that no matter where you are on your own journey, there WILL come a day that you won’t be able to hold yourself back from screaming your own dream.
Kelly Bay is a strategic planning and mindset coach for entrepreneurs. She lives in northwest Iowa with her husband and three kids. Kelly is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, and writer, and is the author of Beer and Junk, Adventures in Parenting. In her spare time, Kelly enjoys not cleaning her house and showing unwilling participants photos of her two dogs.