#RealWorkTalk: Fear of Flying

Dec 12, 2018

I had this idea when I quit politics that being on the outside would be a relief.  Sometimes it was.  But mostly, I felt like a fish out of water.  So I decided to get back into the game.

Montana has a unique governing system.  Our “citizen legislature” meets for just 90 days every two-years.  This biennial schedule allows people to serve without surrendering their lives to politics.  We meet, we work, we hash out as many issues as we must/can, and then we go home.

The process of being hired to work the 2019 Session happened quickly.  I sent e-mails to three or four friends who previously worked the session or were legislators.  I forwarded on my resume.  I had a phone interview.  I had an offer.  I drove to Montana to meet my new bosses, negotiate my position and salary, and formally accept my offer.

All in 15 days.

But the path from e-mail to acceptance (while quick) was not without its issues.  I woke up every day between the offer and acceptance arguing with myself about whether I should take it.

Was this right opportunity?  Was it the right time?  Would the sacrifices be worth it?  How would this push my career path forward?  

The morning I was supposed to drive to Montana, I was standing in the shower on round 197 of the circular internal debate, when it hit me.  There was only one question that really mattered.  Why didn’t I want to take the job?

I knew why I wanted to do it.  I could list every practical pro and con.  But whenever I would feel certain that taking the job was the right thing, this nagging feeling would tell me to say no.  Where was this feeling coming from?

Standing there waiting for my conditioning mask to soak in, I realized that my decision making was being hijacked by my fear.  I was afraid of failing.  Afraid that I don’t have what it takes anymore.  Afraid that I’ll hate the job.  Afraid that I’ll wake up in May and wish I’d done something else.

The fear was crippling me.  And I was using the practical cons — living apart from Kyle, working long hours, postponing personal/blog projects, missing a trip to Paris with my parents — to give my fear a justification.

“Say ‘yes,’ and you’ll figure the rest out later.” — Tina Fey.

And, boy, is there a lot to figure out.  Housing and transportation in Helena.  Who is caring for our dogs while I’m gone and Kyle is traveling for work?  How are we moving into Kyle’s new house, closing on my house and moving me to Montana in less than three weeks?  And what the heck am I going to wear when my new, size 6-8 body doesn’t fit into any of my size 4 work clothes?

I didn’t say they were all serious concerns.  Who am I kidding?  What I’m going to wear is a serious concern.

So what’s the lesson here?  There are good reasons to turn down an opportunity and bad reasons.  Fear is the worst reason.  Whether you succeed or fail is almost entirely within your control.  Whether something is “worth it” depends on what you’re trying to get out of it.  And even if things don’t work out the way you’re hoping, failure can be a beneficial experience.

Here goes nothing.

{image found here}

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  1. Cbrett says:

    Cheering you on! And wishing you all the best in this new Adventure!

  2. Anna says:

    Yay! So glad you decided to take it. The way I see it, the worst case scenario is you’re back where you started (ok, maybe a little bit worse for wear, but still). Best of luck! And congrats on being brave!

  3. Whitney says:

    So glad you dug into it and found the real why. Fear is a real thing, but you have to live your life.

  4. gigi says:

    Best of Luck! You got this! Thanks for this post – reminding us not to let fear hold us back. our minds are very powerful, think positive affirmation in present tense. “I got this!” “everything is working out well” You feel good, and yes – life is going to unfold the way it is supposed to. Let it happen!

  5. Jen says:


    Yes. All of that. I cam read and repeat all the memes I want about “failure is simply not trying” but we all know that sometimes we try really hard and still aren’t successful on paper, where it sort of counts. No advice, just empathy.

    And I’ll be working the same session. Let’s make this fun!

  6. BTDT says:

    I’ve been there.
    Not gonna lie, it’ll be tough being away from your support system of your pup and your Man. But it’ll be good to try it out, there’s very little practical downside, you can quit or leave if you need to (people will understand), and if you don’t quit… hey! You’ll have a beautiful spring and be ready to enjoy the summer together.
    WE understand and wish you the best! Signed, Your Faithful Readers

  7. J says:

    I think we can all relate to the feeling of fear holding us back. I was in a long-distance relationship for over 4 years and made the cross-country move this year to actually be with my s/o and for a great job and i STILL was so scared to actually take it and say yes. But fear holds us back from so much and change doesn’t come from staying in the same place. You got this! Enjoy Montana.

    • Anna says:

      I’m going on three years and counting long distance. So glad I’m not the only one! I’m planning to make the move next year and make a big career change when I do so. It’s terrifying even though it’s still months away!

  8. Maria says:

    This post really spoke to me. Sometimes it’s much easier to talk myself out of an opportunity than talk myself into it. Fear of failure is so very real. Stepping into the void of possibility and failure, simultaneously co-existing, is both exciting and terrifying. Please post updates.

  9. Rebecca says:

    This post wasn’t something I was expecting, based on the title. It was much better. Good luck, and I hope you’ll do another post after the session is over, telling us how everything worked out.

  10. Margaret says:

    I am so happy you tool the leap. I’m proud of you!

  11. Krista says:

    Congratulations! I love this post! I have had a similar internal argument about taking my dream job overseas (moving in 3 weeks!) and fear is always the ‘louder’ voice in my head. But I have a quote on my work bulletin board that says “What if I fall? Oh, but darling, what if you fly?” and it always reminds me that the ‘what if’s…’ work both ways and maybe this is where I am supposed to be. It’s worth the chance and I am excited to see how everything works out! Wishing you the best!

  12. Eleanor says:

    Abra, this is so timely and well-written. I’m in the process of accepting a job offer, and having been weighing the risks of staying vs. the risks of going. Your words about failure being a beneficial experience are helping me be confident that moving forward is nothing to be afraid of. Thank you for your wisdom and candor. Best of luck to you!!

  13. MOnica T says:

    I made a deal with myself a few years ago that I would never give something up that I wanted because of fear. It can be scary to say yes and figure out the details later, but it can also end up greater than you could ever imagine. Good luck, this sounds amazing and challenging and hopefully you will surprise yourself with how much you still got it!

  14. Heidi says:

    You are going to do great! Sounds like such an amazing opportunity.

  15. JD says:

    I’m so glad to hear you took the chance! In my mind, you’ve already succeeded – no matter what happens! The very best of luck to you!

    As a long time reader (first time commenter), my favourite posts are when you have been open, honest and vulnerable about your life events. THIS is what so many of us have felt at some point but have been too afraid to share our fears, failures and worries with anyone else. It helps to know that there is someone who has gone through the same internal cycle of doubts and fears AND decided to go forward anyways! It’s one of the reason why I keep coming back to your blog! Keep up the amazing work!

  16. Jessica says:

    Congratulations, this is great news! From reading your blog over the years I know how much you care about politics and Montana, so this seems like a great decision despite the challenges.

    Living apart from Kyle for 90 days will be tough, but definitely doable. My parents lived in different countries the first two years they were together and only got to see each other a few times a year. But it all worked out and they’ve now been married over 30 years.

    It kind of reminds me of what fitness instructors say during workouts: “You’ve only got 20 more seconds of holding that plank! You can do anything for just 20 seconds!” or whatever. Living apart for 90 days is just an extension of that mentality. It’s not forever, or even close to forever. It’s just for a little while and there’s a definite end in sight. You’ve got this!

  17. Good for you, and good luck! And really, it’s only a couple months, right? If it doesn’t work out, you haven’t blown a ton of time or done anything irreversible. Hope it’s a great experience!

  18. Lexi says:

    Congrats!!! Good luck in your new job! Sure there are some things to figure out, but it sounds like a great opportunity! You got this!

  19. Pam says:

    So glad you are taking the leap.. yes there are a few logistical matters to sort out.. but if you don’t do it you will always wonder what if?? It’s a couple months and it won’t be a set back for you. There was a year of my life where, in less than 12 months I dropped out of grad school, pulled out of closing on a house, moved cross country with my dog, leaving my boyfriend behind, took a new job, got engaged (to said boyfriend) got married, bought a house and got pregnant. Other than death and divorce Ithink i covered every major life event .. it was tough – but I survived. So i get the stress of the logisticl stuff but it will sort out. I I hope this is a great experience for you and that you will be glad you did it. We are rooting for you! (I almost thought the announcement was gonna be that you were running for office!)

  20. J says:

    Infrequent commenter, but wanted to say “kudos to you!”

    My husband and I lived in different states for five months and different countries for six weeks this year. Not ideal, but also completely, absolutely, totally doable and not the end of the world in the slightest (contrary to the bizarre amount of concern/sympathy I got from most of the women in my life, excepting close friends). This unusual set up enabled us both to do things we love and are excited about, which, at the end of the day, is much more important to the health and longevity of our relationship than daily debriefs about what we ate for lunch or how my psychotic coworker kicks the printer when it jams. Would I want to live like that forever? Nah, but I also don’t want to live in my 800 sq. ft. apartment, have my current work/school schedule, or wear my current wardrobe forever. But they all either make sense for life right now or are an investment in my future, and for that, I’m wildly grateful and stoked. Good luck to you!

  21. Kathleen H Lisson says:

    Amazing! Best of luck! They are lucky to have you. I worked in the NYS legislature as a staffer for over a dozen years. I’d love to hear your take on how state dress code is different from federal.

  22. Jen says:

    Yes, go Abra! Dive in head first, we’re all cheering you on!

  23. Anne says:

    Best wishes! You’ll be great.

  24. Emily says:

    I can relate to every word. Cheering you on!!

  25. Sarah says:

    Congratulations! It’s easy to ignore nagging feelings we might have because they don’t align with our created narrative. Good for you for exploring them, being honest with yourself, and mentally preparing yourself for this awesome new opportunity.

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