Doing Your Own Thing Takes Courage
Photo courtesy of Steve Wilson.

Doing Your Own Thing Takes Courage

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

You know that moment when you feel like you’re on the brink of a big change? You had sensed it lurking inside, for weeks or even months. When it finally reaches your consciousness, you are ready for it, practically bursting at the seems to get moving in a new direction. But you’re also NOT ready for it. In fact, there are times when you feel completely unprepared, completely disoriented.

Changes are always some combination of exhilarating and terrifying. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a career change, a lifestyle change, or personal one.

I’m about to embark on some major life changes. After an incredible and revelatory summer, I’ve decided to move back to Portland, Oregon. I will be leaving Chicago in 3 weeks, driving on my own (with Grendel) across the country, across the plains and the dessert and the mountains, stopping for a couple of nights near Crater Lake to witness what I’ve been told is the otherworldly. My relationship will become a long distance one for at least nine months, but if anything, it’s for the long-term health of the relationship. Giving each other room to pursue individual goals and dreams is central to the sort of life and lives we want to lead.

When I arrive in Portland, I will begin setting things in motion for an adventure that I am not yet ready to talk about. Needless to say that it will probably confuse a lot of people (not you guys, I know you will get it). But the “normal” folk out there, the ones who don’t understand how others could possibly not want the same things that they want, the ones who determine worth and social status through the items one possesses or the boxes one has checked off.

Doing your own thing takes courage

When I got my septum pierced three weeks ago, I decided that my piercing would represent courage. Not only does it help me feel strong as I prepare for my new adventure, but making my piercing about courage actually helped me get the piercing done in the first place. Yeah, I know this is going to hurt, but it represents courage! I told myself. COURAGE! (I’m a fan of using psychological tricks on myself whenever it serves me. ;)

Your Turn

What do you need courage for in your life right now? What big changes are afoot?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.


  1. AJ says:

    This post brings me back to the time I first move to the States after college. I spent the summer doing absolutely nothing, knowing that for some reason (wasn’t even sure) thats what I wanted. It took a lot of courage. I was leaving family and friends behind and had no plan. People were looking at me weird but it didn’t stop me from doing it. I finally got the courage to ask the one person I knew that lived there if I could crash in his place. So I moved to the States with only one small bag, a place to stay and $600.
    Thirteen summers later, there are no regrets.

    Wish you the best on your trip Emilie.


  2. Brian says:

    Wow, did I really feel this post! After talking to you, Emilie, I left my job of 5 years and struck out on my own. Now I am making the transition from stable job, stable income to forging my own path, tracking down work and redefining my life…exhilarating and terrifying indeed!

  3. Nikki says:

    I can completely understand this feeling. I left my home province for a year for obvious reasons and although I have come back to be near my family, I am realizing that I do not fit here anymore. It is difficult to convince myself that moving was the right thing for me and to go back. Especially since I am fairly broke at the moment. I have decided that I will work part time while I build my own Renaissance Business and once it is off the ground, I am out of here! When I do, I will get a tattoo and I too will tell myself that it represents courage! :) Thanks for the post.

    • Emilie says:

      Awesome, Nikki. There’s no shame in going home for a bit while you set the groundwork for what’s coming next. I did that exact thing while I was getting Puttylike off the ground. Good luck with everything!

  4. Aminah Jamil says:

    Kudos for courage Emily! Septum piercings definitely take courage! As well as cross-country moves. It’s CRAZY! I’m also moving to Oregon in the next month. Corvallis though to go the OSU for art. It took me 8 years, most of which were in the military and 6 months of that post separation as a conscientious objector, to gather up the courage to go to art school after my fear of student loan debt made me not apply to Columbia College in Chicago (I lived in Bolingbrook and went to high school out there). So noooow I finally get to tell fear that I win, I’m going to effing art school!

    Courage is the shizzzz.

  5. Jen says:

    Wow… It’s a bit serendipitous you bring this topic up now, as it is one that not only has been pressing heavily on my mind lately, it has been brought up by others CONSTANTLY over the last 5 days while visiting family and my hometown.

    I am in a bad place. I suppose I am being a touch dramatic, as things both could and have been far worse. It is more of a mental place than anything, trying to basically ‘start my life’. I have been in a holding pattern through most of my 20s, holding my bachelor’s degree, entry level menial labor jobs, and a relationship with my best friend that I have known for four of our five years together isn’t, and won’t, work.

    I need to break out. I have these big, ambitious dreams and goals. I have zo many passions I want to persue. And I won’t, mentally CANT settle in my life for one steady job, white picket fence, 2.5 kids, marriage, retirement, death. I have huge plans, and I feel like if I continue in my holding pattern, that is all I will have if I want anything from life. My plans take time, time I have squandered. And, practically, money. Lots of it, incrementally as I move along. Things I want to create, businesses I want to start, charities I want to run, and my own quiet sanctuary to plot from to build.

    But enough of the pie. I am not scared of that. I have to get out from where I am right now. No meaningful job experience, no money, no prospects for any other source of income. This has to change. I can’t live like this. I am not me. I am heading to only a bad place, in terms of my own temper, on this path.

    I need the courage to break away from the piece of security I have found and start my own adventures. I would have nothing. Being a multipotential means I have accumulated lots of projects over the years, and stuff related to it. I am not one to be possessive or materialistic AT ALL… except when it comes to my project stuff. It feels like a piece of me is tied to this material things, and it makes me cringe to say such a thing. But all these projects and materials feel like the only things representing me right now, containing untapped potential like me, projects to be cracked open and allowed to bloom with me. But they also feel restricting. I have an entire Uhaul’s worth of stuff, when I wish I could pack my car and just up and move whenever I choose.

    So here I am, afraid to make a choice. Trust in my multipotentiality while fully aware of my powers of procrastination, attempting for the upteenth time to stop all distractions and make something of my projects, being strong enough to keep plugging away at trying to make lemonade from my bit of security found inside a lemon, and stay strong through the shitty relationship until I can pull myself out the hard way… or just admit this is a freaking lemon and get out of where I am, start fresh, doing something crazy like completely changing directions, working for a company I have dreamed of working at for YEARS (Valve software). Just up and move, leaving lots of projects and the little parts of me inside of them, behind so I can try a new adventure that may be a complete bust (and my inner pessimism says it most likely will be).

    It is a choice, and is taking so much courage to make it. It’s why I have been in this holding pattern, too afraid to choose. But something has to give, and soon… my wings are so cramped, it feels like if I don’t begin to spread them, they will atrophy and wither, leaving me permanently grounded and without the sky to explore as I am meant to.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, Jen. It sounds like you have a lot going on right now, and are on the brink of something big. I bet you will look back on this year, years from now, and it will hold real significance for you.

      It’s ok to wait until you are ready (though wait much longer than that, and it may be more tumultuous than it needs to be). I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe there are some small changes that you can make now? Things to set the stage both logistically and emotionally for you to take bigger steps in the future? Or maybe you do just need to make a clean break. Only you can say which approach is right for you. xo.

    • Jen, you don’t have to change everything today. But if you want a different life, you do have to change one thing today. You get to choose what that is, but here are a few suggestions:

      – Pick the project that’s closest to done and finish it.
      – End the relationship you know is going nowhere, or make your plan to.
      – Write the job description you want at Valve.
      – Figure out where you want to live, get online and start shopping for a place there.
      – Decide how much money you will need to make your move, then put $100 into a savings account for that purpose. When the account reaches your goal, you move. If you can’t put $100 in, put $10. Or $1. If the bank won’t take a $1 deposit, scrape together all your spare change and put it in a jar.
      – Give away, or throw away, or sell something you’ve been holding onto.
      – Pick one thing that frightens you and do it. Or start it. Or make a plan to start it.

      It’s easy for me to sit here and tell you what you should do. It’s much harder for you to do it. But you’re the one who ultimately has to make the change if you want something different. Nobody can do that for you.

      Sorry for the lecture. I hope you find it helpful.

      Good luck!

  6. Eliza says:

    Congrats on the big move back to Portland, and congrats on letting distance, space and the pursuit of individual goals make your relationship stronger instead of weaker (I feel like so many of us use goals and distance as a reason to convince ourself we can’t in fact have both ambition and love in our lives)

    As for me, doing my ‘own thing’ has ment FINALLY starting to write publicly and setting up a blog that showcases what I do, who I am etc. It only took me 2 years to muster up the courage to a) sit down and find my overall theme, and b) to actually post and start putting my ideas and work out into the world again. There’s something about Paris that makes being yourself really hard. At least for me. I find it way more difficult than I did back in Canada.

    • Emilie says:

      Aw hi Eliza! So good to hear from you. That’s awesome that you’re putting your work out there. And yeah, sometimes the challenge of living in a place that is NOT home is quite profound. It also makes everything you do that much more important and personal.

      This summer I spent a month in Montreal and then a month in Portland, back-to-back. The feelings I got walking around in each city were strikingly different. Montreal felt safe and nice, but that’s it. Portland felt warm but also exciting and brimming with potential. There was a ton more “movement,” if that makes sense.

  7. Julie says:

    Good luck and many adventures on your trip! I’m also in need of courage as I face my fears about leaving my comfortable but soul-numbing six-figure job to pursue a new passion that will have me starting over again. I’ve reinvented myself before, but this time, the stakes feel so much higher. All the more reason to go after it with all my heart and soul so there’s no alternative but to succeed, right? Of course. If only I possessed that confidence and, yes, the courage. I could analyze to death the justifications for why I feel afraid and stuck. But that would only allow me to keep those feelings and stay right where I am. So I’m working on them day by day and fear by fear. Baby steps.

  8. Delia says:

    Hi Emilie. All the best for your next adventure! I can relate to the energy that comes from something having reached your consciousness. I’m going to buy a section with my mum and build 2 Eco pods for us to live in. It’s going to take courage to bring this project to fruition and see it to completion!

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, that sounds amazing. I would love to hear more as your Eco pod project progresses. I actually have somewhat similar goals for the future (buying land, building structures). Please keep me posted!

  9. Emilie –

    Change takes courage, but we already know you have plenty of that. Good luck with your move, and I look forward to hearing more about your upcoming adventures!


  10. Natalie S says:

    I’m exciting to hear of your upcoming adventure, Emilie. I’ve been toying with the idea of a new (and first) tattoo… the same idea for SIX years now! (You think it’s time to just DO IT?!) All my best!!!

  11. Em says:

    I’m just looking for more convincing messages from the universe to get my ear top pierced. This is not the right one yet but it got me closer :D So far I’m seeing it as a matter of a pain for last six months or something and just like Natalie above, I’ve been thinking about it for years so I am kinda annoyed with myself for not being able to pull it off… but maybe it’s just that I don’t want it that much? I don’t know, I just hate pain… :D

    But anyway. Really excited to hear more about what’s gonna come next in your life :)

  12. Jocelyn says:

    I need courage to get off my BUTT and do something! I have been stuck for years now working at jobs I don’t like and really, accomplishing nothing! I guess I’ve eliminated some potential careers for myself, but I haven’t found the one… or even just ONE. I need courage to figure things out – it’s so frustrating!! Thanks for the post :)

  13. Lisa Leftwich says:

    Hmm, career and my old house is too much physical work. My entire income goes into my amazing little farmhouse in the mountains. Ive lived all over this planet but not sure whats up.I feel something shifting but slowly which is good for me as Ive been a bit to rapid in the past..but had a great time!

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