“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~Madeleine L’Engle
I’ve talked a lot about my fear and anxiety that stems from always feeling so vulnerable in this world. I think for the greatest disappointment of growing up was the realization that being grown-up did not remove the vulnerability I experienced as a child. In fact, in many ways I became even more aware of just how vulnerable I am.
I wasn’t really all that surprised that growing up did not remove the vulnerability—after all, I had witnessed first hand as a child just how vulnerable the adults around me were—but I think I still hoped that if I made the right set of choices along the way that I could at least reduce the level of vulnerability.
I chose to marry young thinking that would help give me safety. It didn’t.
I chose a career field that I did not love because I thought the higher income from that field would help give me safety. It didn’t. Oh, the income was nice for making sure I had enough to eat, but the ill fit of the job wore away so much of me that it wasn’t worth it.
I chose to stay at a company for many long years even though it sucked the life out of my soul because it was so well know for its good pay, great benefits, and stability for employees. That didn’t provide safety either. My whole area of the company was eliminated after several rounds of downsizing that left us all feeling vulnerable and on edge for years before the final axe fell.
I’ve made plenty of other choices along the way with the aim of trying to make myself less vulnerable. Some of them have provided positive benefits, but none of them have truly been successful because all of those choices were made in the attempt to eliminate something that can’t be eliminated. Every choice was made for the wrong reason. Every choice was a reach for the impossible. Therefore, none of them allowed me to be fully me.
Madeleine claims that part of growing up is learning to accept vulnerability. In all of my frantic flailing about trying to eliminate vulnerability, I missed out of that step toward adulthood.
This journey has brought me face-to-face with the depth of my vulnerability over and over again. Each new loss along the way has been a reminder that there’s nothing that is guaranteed. I can’t say that I’ve learned to accept my vulnerability quite yet—there is still a part of me that is always looking for ways to create some safety net underneath me in case everything crashes around me—but I am at least getting better at being able to look my vulnerability straight in the eye and acknowledge it without running for cover.
The moments where I can see it and still do whatever it is my heart is calling me to do despite the obvious risk involved are slowly showing me that risk (intelligently chosen, of course) won’t always kill me. In fact, at times it opens space for the very thing I needed to come into my life when I stop clinging to my false safety blanket. Those moments when I move forward despite the fear and despite the unknown are the ones that make me feel the most alive.
Perhaps that feeling of being fully alive is worth all of the vulnerability that goes with it.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.