Things I’ve Accomplished In My Twenties (so far)

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To speak like an elementary school kid, I am 24 and a half. It’s easy to look back on this decade in my life and feel like I’ve gotten literally NOTHING done. I’m “between” jobs, I’m single, don’t have my own apartment, and I don’t drive. It’s easy to feel like I’m not getting anything I want done, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t accomplished anything in the last four and half years, right? Of course not! Here are ten things I’ve accomplished in my twenties (so far):

I Graduated From College: This is probably the first big thing that comes to mind. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in English just a few days before my 22nd birthday. I completed it in four years, which not everyone does, so I guess that’s pretty awesome?? I graduated with honors, cum laude, and all that fancy stuff. And I made friends I still chat with today!

I Made Friends: Ya know, I spent a huge, and I mean huge chunk of my life believing that I was bad at making friends. Starting in elementary school I had bullies, in fifth grade I moved to a different school district (you know what THAT does for a kid’s social life), and it wasn’t until middle school that I started having “best friends.” In high school I had a few best friends, and then in college I had even more.

I have one or two friends I’ve kept in touch with from high school. And about four or five I still keep in touch with from college, so you can see how things improved! And it only took like a quarter of a century! Seriously, I hadn’t thought about making friends as an accomplishment until this moment, but it is one, isn’t it? You’re lucky if you can find good, kind friends. But it’s also something that requires effort and good habits to keep in touch.

I Embraced My Sexuality: This is a multi-faceted, complex one, the main part being that I embraced being bi/pansexual with a preference for women. I still have some anxiety here and there, but ultimately I feel really good about who I am, and I couldn’t be prouder to be queer. Learning and connecting more with the LGBTQ community has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

But there’s more to sexuality than my orientation, so it’s kind of like I’m working on phase two of my sexuality confidence. For me, this means learning to feel more comfortable in my body, and feeling sexy, beautiful and confident by own standards, not by society’s. It means conforming sometimes to my culture’s standard of beauty for women (i.e- shaving my legs), while also needing to love my body for everything it is in its natural state.

This is a big thing to work on, and honestly, it’s a no wonder it feels so daunting. The U.S has to be one of the most sex negative countries in the world. Especially if you’re a women, it can be hard to unlearn all of the toxic things we internalize. Like needing to be “pure,” waiting until marriage, slut shaming, etc.

Sooo this is a work in progress for me. Maybe I need to watch more French films. The French are cool with sex, right?

I Wrote Things: One thing I’ve definitely focused on since I graduated from college is writing. I self published six poetry books and a book of short stories, and gave a book to one of my favorite bands. I wrote articles for a magazine in Manhattan, did freelance work for a marketing agency (short-lived and under paid, but it still happened!), I started (and maintained) this blog, submitted poems, articles, and stories while facing rejection, persevering with my work like a BOSS, and I worked on bunch of other projects that only my eyes have seen.

I’ve also seen how my words have been able to move, comfort, and inspire people, whether it’s in my poetry books, or something I post on the internet. It’s confirmed that words have power, and that this is one of my gifts in this life. I’ve learned that it’s hard, I mean really hard to make money as a writer, but I’ve also learned how satisfying it is for me to take a DIY approach to this craft, and other artsy things as well. It’s a huge part of my life, and it’s one of the best things to come out of my twenties.

I Went To Vegas: It was rad. First time on the West Coast ❤

I Voted For A Woman For President: Okay, we all know how this one turned out. But still, I got to vote for a woman! How cool is that?!

I Applied To Grad School: Applying to grad school is something I considered doing for a long time. I thought about applying for something related to my current degree, like English or creative writing, but it didn’t create more job opportunities like I wanted, and needed. Eventually I decided to apply for a master’s degree in social work, and if I get accepted, I’ll be starting school next fall. Fingers crossed!

I Went To Concerts: I’ve gotten to see a few awesome artists in concert. Demi Lovato (got a photo with her, too! Thanks to my cousin), Miley Cyrus, Tegan and Sara, Kesha, DNCE, Kristen Chenoweth, Christina Perri, Kiesza, and Little Mix. Here’s to many more!

I Learned How To Navigate The NYC Subway: For reasons I can’t explain, I had this weird thing where I associated being an adult with being able to navigate the NYC subway system. I guess I felt like, if I can learn my way around Manhattan, I can learn my way around anywhere. Hit me up if you need directions to the Financial District.

I Celebrated Samhain: I didn’t do much, just made some art and had my own little dinner. I’ve been learning more about witchcraft, paganism, and other forms of spirituality. I’ve been meditating with crystals, and following different thought leaders like Mastin Kipp, Gabby Bernstein, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and the Dalai Lama.

This is a super important path for me, because I’m pursuing my spirituality on my own terms without worrying about anyone else’s dogma or approval. I’m finding my own path, and I’d say that’s important for any twenty-something.

So there it is, ten things I’ve accomplished in my twenties (so far). I’m four and half years into this decade, and I truly hope more good things are to come. I may not have everything I want, but I’m on my own journey and moving forward at my own pace. Your accomplishments are treasures. I hope you collect many on your own travels.

-Ashley

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Thoughts on 24

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I’ll be 25 in six months. I read somewhere that when you turn 25, that’s when your brain transitions more into adulthood, or something along those lines. And I can kind of see that. I feel like I’m at a point where I’m still wanting to experiment, while also looking for constants. The truth is though, being in your twenties is hard. I see this as a decade of my life that’s one big experiment. It’s filled to the brim with failure, and it’s filled with the illusions of what you think your life should look like.

By 24, lots of people in the boomer generation were married, buying their first house, and having babies. At least, that’s how it seems. If my math is correct, my parents were 25 and 27 when they got married, and less than a year later I was born. So, by that standard, I still “have time” to figure things out. Right?

Honestly, by thirty I’ll probably be single. If I’m lucky, I’ll live in a shoe box apartment in Brooklyn, and if I’m really lucky I’ll have a cat.

The thing I hate about being in my twenties is that this is the youngest I’m ever going to be, while also being independent and old enough to do anything I want. But I can’t even enjoy it because I’m too stressed about having a career, AND a relationship, AND a car, AND exercising/ eating healthy, AND earning degrees, AND having an apartment, traveling, etc. Not to mention wanting to be happy 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’ll be the first to admit I get stressed because I try to do everything at once. But maybe the truth is, we can’t expect ourselves to do and have all of those things at the same time, can we? In high school and college, the only thing I really truly had to worry about was school. There may have been jobs and skills to build on the side, but school was the one thing that was really important. It was the top priority for my time.

After graduating, it’s like everything becomes the top priority. At least that’s how I feel. Suddenly, work, relationships, and everything else needs to be number one. It’s like everything you want in life is part of a Jenga tower, and if you don’t get one thing quite right, the whole tower (i.e- your whole life), will come crumbling down.

Of course, that’s not really how life works. People I know in their 50s, 40s, and even 30s are either married or not, they have kids or they don’t, they live in their own house, or they don’t. I’m not saying people don’t stress when they’re older, or that they don’t get bummed out about not having things they want, but I do feel like there’s less pressure.

In your 20s, people want to know how you’re using that degree you just got. They want to know if you’re dating if you’re single, or if you’re gonna marry the person you’re dating, or if you and your spouse are gonna have kids, or if you’re gonna breast feed the kids you already have, etc, etc, etc. It’s endless. If you don’t have a job, people want to know if you are looking. If you’re earning a degree, they want to know what you’ll do with it. It’s like being a young adult gives everyone permission to watch you under a microscope, and to make sure your decisions and answers align with whatever can make them the most comfortable.

I always thought my twenties would have a sense of adventure, but instead, it just feels like a long climb toward stability. Now that I’m halfway to twenty-five, it just makes me think. I don’t want to spend the rest of this decade feeling stressed and sad and inadequate. I don’t want it to pass me by while I’m drowning in job applications or worried about being “forever alone.”

But unfortunately, as much as I want to live my life to the fullest, I don’t really know how. I want to do what makes me happy, but it doesn’t always feel that simple. I’ve learned the hard way that no one but you cares if you’re in a lane that makes you unhappy. You have to fight for that on your own. And sometimes that fight is exhausting, or it has to wait.

The past five years have been transformative. I’ve been through a lot, accomplished a lot, and learned so much. It hasn’t all been failure and sadness, but it can feel that way at times. I remember the anxious times more than I remember the good times.

I want the next five years to be better. I hope they are. I hope happiness can be less elusive.

Where do English Majors Work? A Guide to Finding the Best Environment for You

Hello there 🙂 Welcome to another post where I discuss the possibilities for people with English (or other humanities) degrees ❤ English degree holders can be found working in a variety of different settings, filling a variety of roles. Understanding which environments you would thrive in can help give you clarity on your career path. So, where do English degree holders work? Here are some options:

Magazines: What English major wouldn’t want to work for a magazine? Chances are, you’ve already worked for one on campus. Writing is the first gig that comes to mind, but there are other positions, too, like being an editorial assistant, ad sales rep, PR specialist, photo editor (if you have skills in digital photo editing), column editor, editor in chief, and more.

This is a creative field and the publishing world is small, so of course you can expect a lot of competition. You may have to relocate to a major city if you don’t already live in one. However, sometimes local opportunities in suburban areas can still be found. You may also be able to work as a freelance writer.

Newspapers: This is of course the natural fit for someone who enjoys journalism. If you’re curious, enjoy uncovering the truth, and like working in a fast-paced, busy environment, then this could be a good career path for you. In addition being a reporter, you can also find a position as a copy editor, column editor, editor in chief, art director, data scientist, fact checker, news assistant, marketing specialist, videographer (if you have film and video production skills), and others.

Like magazines, this is a creative and, consequently, a highly competitive field. There should be local opportunities, but of course the best jobs will come from high profile papers (i.e- The New York Times). Like with magazines, it is possible to write for different newspapers as a freelance reporter.

Publishing Companies: Book publishers are probably the first thing that come to mind when thinking of English major careers. All of us probably dream of working for a big company like Simon and Schuster at some point or another. This is one field where networking is your best friend because, as you probably guessed, it is super competitive. Positions at publishing companies include working in: editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, subsidiary rights, management, design, and public relations. This is another field where you usually have to live in a major city, like NYC or Boston, to find opportunities.

Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations Agencies: All three of these agencies have distinctly different functions, but these days those functions tend to overlap, especially when it comes to digital media. One thing all of these companies have in common is that they need good writers. Getting your foot in the door, and working for an agency for a few years, can also make it easier to get a job later in the marketing or PR department of a larger company.

Ad agencies are notorious for their “company cultures,” often having fun, colorful offices and allowing their employees to work on comfy couches. That said, it’s a lot of work with tight deadlines, and working overtime is common. Like with the fields mentioned above, you can expect a lot of competition for jobs. Managers in these companies can make six figures, which makes working up to those jobs desirable for many. Freelance writing and design opportunities can be found here as well.

Human Resources and Staffing Agencies: Breaking into the HR world can be a challenge. Most jobs want you to have several years of experience, some require you to have a background in accounting or knowledge of payroll, and entry level positions are hard to come by, even for people who have degrees in Human Resources Management.

However, finding a position as a recruiter, specialist, or generalist, especially for a staffing agency, is not impossible. Networking, informational interviews, and having conversations with people already doing what you want to do are you best bet for getting in. You may also consider pursuing a masters degree in HR Management if you feel it is the best path for you.

Law Firms: English degree holders often find positions in law firms as administrative assistants, legal secretaries, and sometimes as paralegals. If you have attention to detail and can handle an environment where each case is important or urgent, this career path can provide you with stability and decent pay. You may also consider earning a certificate in Paralegal Studies, or pursuing a law degree. Keep in mind that the job market for lawyers is a bit over saturated these days. Check the employment rates in your state to learn more about the likelihood of finding work where you live.

Nonprofits and Government Agencies: Like many for-profit companies, nonprofits also need good writers. You may find a position working on grant proposals or fundraising letters. There are also jobs for fundraisers, social medial managers, communications specialists, administrative assistants, public relations specialist, program coordinators, community outreach specialists, managers, and others.

Smaller, local nonprofits may not be able to pay you, but getting volunteer experience could be a good way to network and add to your resume. Larger nonprofits in major cities are your best bet for finding full-time work. The key is to find an organization with a large annual budget (think over $1 Million a year).

Software, IT, and Technology Companies: It may seem like technology and English don’t mix, but the truth is, some English degree holders do pursue careers in this field. Writing is both creative and logical, and web design and development can be similar in this way.

If you minored in computer science, or simply have an interest in math and computers, you may be able to work as a technical writer, web designer, or web developer (some of these positions may require you to further you education, whether this is by earning another degree or developing the skills). You may also find an entry level position as an administrative assistant, marketing assistant, or tech support specialist.

Language Schools: You may have to further your education a bit for this one. But if you want to invest the time and money into earning a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, it could be worth the effort. (The most common certificate is the CELTA, and it’s an intensive program that takes one month to complete full time, and about two or three months to complete part-time).

On the down side, teaching positions at language schools tend to be part time, causing some to work two or three jobs at different schools to make ends meet. On the plus side, full time work is still possible to find, and possessing a CELTA with your English degree can allow you to work in almost any country in the world. It’s a perfect option for people who want to travel. Some countries, like China, will allow you to teach English with just your bachelor’s degree. It would be an adventure, that’s for sure, and just think of the stories you could tell your grand kids.

Financial Services Companies: Working for a finance or insurance company is not exactly your typical English major’s dream job, but jobs in this field tend to be open to people with any degree, typically as general office clerks or phone reps. Not the most exciting option, but it’s out there.

Schools and Universities: If you decide to pursue a masters or PhD, working as a university professor is competitive, but possible. Adjunct professors don’t earn much money, but it can be a good way to get teaching experience. You may also get a masters degree in Education if you want to teach preschool, elementary, middle, or high school. Sometimes schools will also hire administrative assistants, marketing or fundraising specialists, social media managers, or PR specialists.

Graduate School: You may wish to pursue a master’s or PhD if you want to find focus or open more doors in your career. You can study anything provided you’re willing to spend a couple semesters earning the prerequisites you need, but degrees that work well with a foundation in English include: English, Creative Writing, Education, Law, Social Work, Marketing, Public Relations, Business Administration, and Nonprofit Management. Pursuing a degree in medicine, computer science, engineering, or accounting is not unheard of for humanities degree holders either.

There are many career paths you can pursue with an English degree. Writers and communications experts are needed in every industry. The downside to this, of course, is that writing is a popular job, and so there is a lot of competition. Networking and talking to people in your industry is the best way to find opportunities. Be persistent and don’t settle. You deserve to find work you love ❤

Liberal Arts, STEM, and the best degrees for jobs

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Figuring out your career path can be tough. After all, who can possibly choose what they want to do for the rest of their life? It’s a lot of pressure to put on someone, especially an 18 year old. Heck, I’m 24, and it’s still a lot of pressure! I like writing about career paths because there’s soooo much I didn’t know when I was an undergrad.

While I don’t think there should be this huge divide between Liberal Arts and STEM degrees, I do feel that most people end up choosing one path over the other, and that these preferences reflect the kinds of careers one would be happiest in. Below, you’ll find a list of the best degrees for employment in each of these paths. This list is more general, and it is by no means all-inclusive.

Let’s start with Liberal Arts. 

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Now, this isn’t exactly a list of the best liberal arts degrees. Instead, it’s the best paths of study for people who gravitate toward broad science and humanities subjects. One thing you’ll find is that people who want to study more general subjects, like math, biology, English, or History, will find more opportunities if they pursue masters degrees or PhD’s. Specifically, if they pursue advanced degrees that will increase their chances of finding a job.

Here are some degrees to consider:

Education – I know, there’s nothing more cliche than asking a liberal arts major/degree holder if she wants to be a teacher. We’ve all been asked this at some point! But education is still a great career path for the right person, and a masters degree in this subject will give you an edge. The job outlook is especially good for preschool and elementary school teachers. Elementary school pays more, and so there’s more competition. The jobs are there, though, especially if you are willing to relocate.

Law – I include law school on this list because it’s hard not to. Everyone knows lawyers have some serious earning potential. Unfortunately, many people get law degrees these days, and so competition is fierce, especially if you want to work for a major firm. More jobs are opening up in corporate settings, but it’s not a guaranteed paycheck the way it used to be. Law school is a lot of work, and it’s expensive. Pursue your dreams, but be informed of the reality of the job market.

Social Work – You’ll have the most opportunities in the field with a masters degree in Social Work (MSW). There are many specialties in this field, including: family and children, schools, mental health, and healthcare. There are also many opportunities in nonprofits, the government, universities, politics, and business.

Salaries vary based on specialty, the type of organization you work for, and years of experience. Social Service managers have the highest earning potential. Many positions in this field can lead to burnout, so you have to take good care of yourself. But if you want to help people, and do your research on the realities of your specialty, this can be a worthwhile degree to pursue. The job outlook for a MSW is very good.

Mental Health – Like social work, the job outlook in mental health is good. A bachelor’s degree in psychology may make the job search a bit of a challenge. But a masters degree in mental health counseling, social work, (and maybe psychology or sociology) can often help you find jobs in counseling and therapy. If you have a degree in psych, a PhD can help you start a career as a psychologist, researcher, or professor.

Business – Like law, I add business to this list with a grain of salt. It can provide excellent opportunities as a career path, but as a degree? It depends. Many people get MBAs, have experience, and still struggle to find work. I think part of this is because many jobs in business don’t require a degree in the subject. One can also argue that this degree fits under the STEM umbrella. I include it in this Liberal Arts list because I feel that many creative, lib arts people are drawn to business as well.

This is one field where your bachelor’s degree in art history or philosophy can still pay off. You can find careers in management, marketing, sales, public relations, customer service, and human resources. Some, like marketing, are especially competitive, but these careers can be worth the effort for those who don’t wish to pursue an advanced degree. (Tip: Don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up.)

Economics – Another degree that can fit under the STEM umbrella, economics is probably the highest paying liberal arts subject. Your challenge: advanced classes in math and statistics, and a love of research and data. Are you up for it?? If so, great! A bachelor’s degree in this subject could be the start of a lucrative career with a fair job outlook. You’ll need to get a masters or a PhD for the best opportunities.

Okay, those are a few advanced degree options for my liberal arts loves 🙂 ❤

Let’s move on to STEM. 

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In the U.S, everyone is told to get a STEM degree. But even people who eat, sleep, and breathe math and science can choose a less than lucrative degree path. Unlike people who prefer to study the liberal arts, people who study STEM have more options to make money with an associates or bachelor’s degree alone (how fancy!!).

Still, people who major in math, biology, chemistry, or even computer science may still struggle to know what to do after graduation. Here is a broad, if not a bit self-explanatory, list of the best degree paths to choose:

Medicine – As far as years of education go, the medical field is by far the most versatile. You can get an associates degree to be a rad tech or ultra sound tech, a bachelor’s degree to be a nurse, a masters to be an advanced nursing practitioner, healthcare administrator, or physician assistant, and of course you can go to medical school. If you enjoy helping people and are comfortable in hospitals and medical offices, a degree in the healthcare field can help you get an in demand job.

While associates degrees or even certificates can be a great way to start your career, keep in mind that they are less versatile than a bachelor’s, making a career change later on a bit more of a challenge. Medical careers also often require you to pass an exam to be certified in your state. Some jobs require you to be on your feet all day, and to sometimes lift and move patients. If you go to medical school, do your research. Specialties with a poor job outlook do exist!

Computer Science – We all know technology is a booming industry. Programmers, web developers, web designers, software engineers, and junior developers are all in demand, and make a good paycheck. Most jobs will want you to have a bachelor’s degree in CS, but some people in the field are self taught, or have a degree in another science, like physics.

This field can be challenging because your degree program won’t teach you many things you need to know for the job, like programming languages. As someone who’s dabbled in learning HTML, CSS, Python, Java, and Ruby, I can say it can be a bit exhausting. It’s an ever changing field, so you need to always learn and stay up to date. Jobs with startups and agencies can lead some people to feel burned out. But if you can dedicate yourself to learning code and staying current, this field can definitely be worth it.

Engineering – Ah, engineering, arguably the coolest STEM career path. It’s one of those areas where many people in the U.S say we’re “falling behind.” Despite these claims, most specialties in engineering have a slower than average job outlook according to the BLS. The job outlook isn’t great for: mechanical, environmental, electrical, and chemical engineers.

I’m not saying you can’t find a job in these subjects. I don’t have an engineering degree, so I can’t say fully. But based on what I’ve read, Civil Engineering offers the most job growth, and you’ll have the best opportunities with a masters degree in the subject. Petroleum engineering also has a good outlook (10% job growth), but I know this specialty depends on the economy and the industry as a whole. Be prepared to study math and physics!

Accounting – Good old, stable accounting. Of course the job outlook here is good. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, but still want to be an accountant, fear not. There are a select few masters programs that are designed for people with BA’s in unrelated subjects. It’s also possible to take core classes at community college, and to apply for a masters after. The best opportunities are found if you sit for the CPA (certified public accountant) exam.

If you pursue this path, you should love numbers, because you’ll be looking at financial records all day! A few months out of the year, such as during tax season, work hours can be long and stressful, but after that, things settle down. Competition is tough to work for a major accounting firm, and those first few years may be stressful, but stick with it! Things get better, especially if you can branch out to work for smaller firms. Many people find having a specialty, like helping small businesses or families with their taxes, to be very rewarding.

Finding a balance between following your passion and paying your bills can be tough. But educating yourself on the best options, and the not so great options, can be a big help. If your heart isn’t in pursuing a new degree, or if you’re no longer in love with your field, don’t worry. Just be persistent. Believe in yourself and find support ❤

Whether choosing a new degree path or exploring career options, knowledge is your key. Learn all you can, be wiser than you were yesterday, and always try your best. You’ve got this ❤

-ATL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams

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Dreams don’t fall into your lap

They’re too light

Content to float through the sky

Like clouds

.

College degrees, plans, lists

Hopes, wishes, ideas

None of these things

Will make dreams fall into your lap

.

You have to start small

Brick by brick

Taking steps

Working your way up

.

And eventually after building

And climbing and trying

And falling and getting back up again

You’ll get farther than you dreamed

.

Because you’ll be higher than the clouds

Seeing the bluest sky and the brightest sun

Because all along, you’ve had the ability to climb

And to rise until your dreams were your home.

Secret Door

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There’s a secret door inside your soul

It leads to your most sacred dreams

A unique world of your own creation

A place where joy freely flows

.

Float above the fluffy, white clouds

Stand on top of the highest mountain

See a sky full of constellations

Believe in your wildest dreams.

 

……….

Thanks for reading! Do you like this post? Then you’ll LOVE my poetry books. Check them out on Amazon ❤

https://www.amazon.com/Ashley-Tiara-Lilly/e/B01AAXMC16/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1504539163&sr=1-2-ent

 

Follow Your Fear

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“Always do what you are afraid to do.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ah, poets. They give the best advice, don’t they? For the past few years of my life, I’ve found this to be the most important piece of wisdom I could ever follow. There’s so many things that we never do because we are afraid. But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that years later, you look back and that thing you were so afraid of is a lot less big and scary in hindsight.

It’s like the shadows you used to be afraid of when you were alone in your room at night as a kid. In the moment, it’s terrifying. When you have some distance from it, you realize you had nothing to worry about.

Often, when I face a fear, when I do something that feels like it will make the world crumble around me, the results are, more often than not, unremarkable. In most cases, the sky doesn’t fall, my life isn’t ruined, and sometimes, nothing extremely bad or extremely good comes of it.

Nothing, except that I’m a little braver, bolder, stronger, and more myself than I was before. The thing about facing fears is that, no matter how many times you do it, there’s always something else to be afraid of. There’s always something else to face. When something scares me, it almost feels ridiculous at times. Because I can look back on my life and think, ‘I’ve been through this, I’ve overcome that, I’ve faced this other thing, and I’ve gotten through that.’

Somehow, it never gets any easier to face a fear. But every time you do it, it makes you better.

What are you afraid of? What is that thing? You know exactly the thing I’m talking about.

Go do it. You’ll be all the better for it.