I have been learning recently to pay attention to what ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIES YOU.

For real; I'm serious.

There have been things in the past few years that have seemed like black clouds on my horizon. Black clouds of smoke, dark and ominous.

Like little wafts across my field of vision, in the distance, on the horizon, but closer than I would like.

I have to write these things with my eyes closed so that I can get in touch with a gut instinct I know is there. So that I'm not looking at the words as they flit across the pages.

Then, when I move my hands away from the keyboard in order to push my hair back from my face or take a drink of tea, my eyes are still closed, and I have to feel for the keys on the keyboard. The F and J keys have little raised indentations on them, so that the typist can always know where her hands go.

Funny -- that's a metaphor for my life, I think.

Maybe not strictly metaphorical. But, you know, they're like little guideposts, and I think that's what I'm learning to see in my way -- little guideposts. Little signboards. "You are here."

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ometimes these signposts tell me -- are indicators to me of what to look for in my life. Pay attention. Telling me, "Homegirl, my darling, sweet, precious one, pay attention here. THIS right here. To this feeling."

The feeling of terror.

The first black cloud I can remember may have been the idea of going to Texas Tech, now my alma mater. I did not want to attend this school. My whole family has done so, for generations, and I knew I didn't want to be like that. I wanted to be different, with a capital D.

Maybe I had a sneaking suspicion, in my gut, that I would end up going to Tech after all. I honestly can't remember. I hadn't learned then to pay attention.

But I ended up going, and maybe -- maybe that was the beginning of it for me.

*****

I can vividly recall it first flitted across my mind: But what if I have to take a year off?

Black. Like soot on the horizon.

I batted the thought aside. Whatever. I won't have to take a year off. That's the LAST thing I want to do.

Funny.

Funny how God seems to force you into the last things you want to do.

He paints you into a corner.

And maybe "force" isn't the right word, but it fits me now, because part of me is grateful for having to take the path I least wanted, and another part of me is a little mad about it.

Because I mean. Come on. Does this mean that all my dreams are for nothing? Does that mean all the big dreams I have are meant to be just that -- dreams?

I did take a year off. I did. And it's been beautiful-gorgeous-wonderful. It's been the best thing I've ever done.

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A few weeks ago, the thought entered my head:

What if I didn't go to graduate school?

What if I just... decided not to go?

I didn't pay attention to this thought at first. It freaked me the heck OUT. It reared its ugly head of foreboding in my heart, kicked up a dark cloud of darkness, and I know that's not a creative sentence, but bear with me here, because the only way I can describe those instances is how you feel when dread takes over your heart.

Because something in my heart knows -- that's the path I'm meant to take.

I don't know how I know or why I know it, and I'm always praying to God, please, please, please, for the love of You, don't make me do it.

It's a plea. Don't make me.

I know what other music majors think of musicians who choose not to pursue music anymore -- at least, not in the established path. I've been around them. I know.

And if I give up this dream -- do I even know who I am anymore?

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I am learning to lean into the questions that freak me out so much I can hardly move. The questions that paralyze me. When I asked myself, "What if I didn't go to graduate school this year, -- not for music, anyway?" Well, I could hardly breathe. Something froze in my chest, and I avoided the question for DAYS. I was journaling in an early morning, as I do every morning, and I was so restless and antsy that the question became impossible to ignore.

What if I -- what if I just didn't go? I finally asked myself

And suddenly my chest opened.

There was a release like a pressure valve releasing. All the built-up air flowed out.

And suddenly I felt free.

Funny how that happens.

Now that I'm actually considering that option -- the option of not going to graduate school -- well, the whole horizon seems open to me.

There are so many things I can do, other than singing, in addition to singing. So very many! Why on earth would I confine myself to just one?

The entirety of the horizon is mine.

Now that I don't have to be a musician, I can be myself.

And now I am starting to ask myself another question: if I am supposed to pay attention to all the things that absolutely terrify me, then that means I should be paying attention to the small things, the circumstances of smallness that surround me. The things that feel like the death of dreams.

I've been a big dreamer for my entire life. Do I somehow lack the tenacity to make these dreams come true? Am I only interested in the dream, and not in its coming-true?

What if my destiny, my calling is to give away what I have dreamed about, and simply -- stay small?

Is my existence supposed to be only that -- only ordinary? Only mundane?

Right now what scares me is the possibility that I live in Lubbock my entire life.

My whole time here, everyone has begged me, "Sara, YOU have to get out of here. YOU cannot stay here. Please, for the love of God, don't stay here."

And I don't want to!

It terrifies me. And what if, because it terrifies me, that's what I'm supposed to do?

I've always wanted my life to be so big. What if it is just... small?

What if my influence is small, my platform, my life? I have all these big dreams. What if my life is only ordinary? What if I'm not special after all? Not destined for greatness?

Do I keep settling for the ordinary?

Here's the deal: when I start paying attention to the scary questions, my first instinct is to ignore them in the hope that they go away. Slowly, slowly, they begin to grow on me, and I warm to them, bit by bit by tiny, tiny bit. 

Until one morning I wake up.

And I am warm, and I know.

So maybe this isn't a question for me to consider just yet.

But it is on my mind, a cloud on my heart. And whether it's a storm or simply a mist rolling in, who can say?

So maybe it's something for me to heed. To pay attention to.

You can't discount your own black clouds on your horizon. Because, I mean, they're THERE. You can ignore them all you want, but something in your heart is still foreboding.

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All I know is that it takes bravery to be small.

Bravery to take the path no one expects you to take.

It is still heroism, it is still Adventure, even when it doesn't look like it. Even when you disappoint other people because they think you are or should be) more than that.

Maybe I am more. I am more than being not myself.

I have lots of dreams. Many of them HAVE come true.

And many of them will.

But life never looks like we expected it to look. And isn't that part of the adventure, anyway?

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