“You’ve got to follow your passion. You’ve got to figure out what it is you love — who you really are. And have the courage to do that. I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dreams.”
Since this year began, I’ve been coming across back stories of some of the successful people we have come to admire, who are dominating and creating waves in their industries. The constant in these stories is that before they broke into these spaces and industries the industry giants had told them that they won’t make it, that they are not good enough to be a success and to, therefore, try something else because they lack “this or that.” But fast forward to the future, and these same individuals who had been ruled out or not made the cut are beautifully flourishing, despite initial rejections and criticisms.
I have lost count of how many times such stories have been coming my way, and I know that when something like this happens, God is pleading for my attention and sending important, timely messages to me.
And my “aha! Moment” with regards to this came last weekend. I was invited to speak at a Youth Seminar. Before my time came to speak, I was shaking; my anxiety was at a peak, I started feeling exceptionally sick, and wanted to run to the bathroom to break down and cry because there was a persistent, lingering thought of doubt saying, “Can I really do this?”
And the answer to that? I was absolutely able to do it. I went up that stage, said a short prayer and at an instant, my fears were no longer significant, but the message I wanted to deliver became the most important thing, my audience became my focus because it was to them that I wanted to give to and not my anxiety. And that day I spoke, I spoke my heart out.
In the end, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Barely a few moments later after talking, I received another invitation to speak at another youth event, to share the same message that I had just shared. It was a truly humbling moment, even more humbling when some of the young people I spoke to approached me and shared how my story had touched them. And I went home, looked at some of the videos my mom filmed while giving my talk. And I saw Katlego that I could never have imagined I would ever become. I saw a Katlego who was no longer timid, who spoke with much confidence and clarity, a Katlego who no longer forgets her words but speaks from the heart- hardly needing notes to guide her. I embodied a speaker that I had one day dreamt of being.
“…that day was significant to me in that it proved to me how important it is not to rule yourself out from your own dreams…”
At that point, every rejection I have ever faced became insignificant. The times I could not get into my schools debating or public speaking teams because I did not have the same charisma as my extroverted peers no longer mattered. The times that I would be anxious and fumble on stage and rule myself out as incapable to ever speak in front of people, no longer mattered. The times where I believed I wrote better than I spoke and had even relegated myself to prospects of writing great speeches for presidents and politicians, no longer mattered either because I could now speak my own words.
And that day was significant to me in that it proved to me how important it is not to rule yourself out from your own dreams. I have always wanted to speak in front of people and share stories with them, but I never thought I could. I have messed up so many times in front of a crowd to a point where I wanted the stage to break open dramatically and fall through it so that I can escape the embarrassment of making a public mess of myself. But after standing in front of the young people I was speaking to, I knew that this is what I am supposed to be doing, and this is what I am certainly going to do.
It is very easy for us to question our dreams and the desires and ambitions that God has placed in our hearts. I have had many moments where I wanted to rule myself out of certain things that I wished to do. We may look at the people who are already doing what we want to do and just suddenly feel an overwhelming feeling of unworthiness because of feelings of not measuring up to them and thinking that we never will. But you see, we are never meant to measure up with anyone but rather, the fullest potential of ourselves, that is who we are ever to measure up to. I am not intended to speak like Les Brown or write like Chimamanda, but I am meant to speak and write like me.
“It is a great disservice to yourself to sleep on your dreams and talents when the world is already “sleeping on you.” “
And this comparison is something I know too well- my craft being writing and poetry. Whenever I come across potent writers and poets, I will sometimes look inward and have an internal conversation that sounds something like this, “Eehm Katli… So you say you want to be a writer and poet huh? Hehehe, like who are you kidding? Look at so and so writer. What makes you think you’ll ever measure up? Just write for yourself and keep your writings stashed away, and save yourself the embarrassment please.”
And often failing and getting rejections in the very same area that you wish to have a contribution in threatens to further push you in into that feeling of inferiority. The more “no”‘s one gets, the greater the temptation to lay down your dreams for good.
But it’s so imperative that as individuals we become one with our greatness, that we walk in it and run with it confidently, and the rest of the world will catch up with it one day. It is a great disservice to yourself to sleep on your dreams and talents when the world is already “sleeping on you.”
“…what is for you will really never miss you…”
And maybe you have dreams of becoming something that you are not yet good at. However, this does not mean you can never be good at it or even excel at it. Some things come naturally to certain people, and some of us need to put in hours of work and practice to get the same things right, but trust me, with enough work you can be in the same league as that individual who has a natural talent in what you desire to do. I am now a firm believer that our dreams are not coincidental and that we each have the capacity to embody anything that we so wish to embody. I have not always been a great speaker, but time and practice have honed me to be better it, I am not perfect yet, but I have come a long way from where I used to be. And that can be true for anything that you wish to pursue.
Another important thing to remember is this: what is for you will really never miss you. If God has purposed you to do a particular thing, trust me nobody can stop it. I really couldn’t care less who rejects you and says you’ll never make the cut because of whatever reasons they give! I have the unwavering conviction that you’ll be all that you are meant to be. Our destinies do not depend on people (even though they contribute to the acceleration of our “success”). No human being is powerful enough to stop what God intends to do with our lives or the calling bestowed upon them.
So, whatever you want to do, whatever you know in the depths of your heart you are meant to be doing, don’t stop on account of setbacks and rejections. Keep growing in your art, keep creating, keep producing, keep knocking until the world has no choice but to pay attention to you and open those doors for you that it has been determined to keep shut on your face. Never stop showing up for your dreams because all I know is that it takes one day, just one day for things to drastically change and for you to finally step into your magic. And for me, it took just one opportunity, just a few minutes on stage to step into someone that I have always doubted I could be.