I think the absolute hardest thing not only about circus, but following your dreams in general, is "the space between." Those hollow times in your life when you just finished one stage and are (perhaps not-so-patiently) awaiting the next. It's in these times when fear rears it's ugly head and says, "See? I knew you'd never make it. Yeah, you had a glimpse of what could be, but now it's over. Time to give up and face reality." It's also in these times that the negative comments you are usually so quick to brush off actually start to gain access to your heart, feasting on your positive spirit and darkening your hope.
In circus, this happens for me when one contract finishes and I sit around waiting for the next. I've had an... interesting go of things, in that I've been on two shows that ended too early, while I was with them. I went home defeated after each one, and did my best to productively wait for the next opportunity to arise. Even now, as I write this, I am there in the waiting zone, debating between the contract I most want but is taking forever to come to fruition (the one with the greatest pay and the best chance of a long, happy future), and the one that is safe, a guarantee of work and pay, but not necessarily what I want for the long run. And the longer I sit around hoping and praying for the former, and not seeing it happen, the more I want to just give up on it and run to the safety of the latter. I thought I was going to be home for three weeks in between shows, and now it's been almost six months.
For me, this is also a spiritual battleground. As a strong Christian, it is here that I pray some of my most fervent prayers. Dreams are hard. They take time, dedication, and all of the risk, with sometimes only some or none of the reward. I have lost some cherished friends to pursue my dreams because they didn't understand that there are no days off on tour if you want to keep your job. I have had to surrender some potentially wonderful romantic relationships because I want to travel and they want to stay. I have lived paycheck to paycheck for years and years because, apparently, "starving artist" is really a thing.
James MacDonald, a favorite Christian preacher in my family, has said that "hope is a hassle." And how right he is! It is so, so hard to keep hope alive when it seems like your dreams are dying. And yet, without hope, what do you have? In a space without light, there is only darkness. In the same sermon, James also said that "it's not the depth of the trial and it's not the darkness of the trial, but it's the duration the trial that is the hardest." Yes. Yes, yes, yes. If only we knew when the hard times would end, we would be much more able to endure. But when does it ever work that way? If I had known that I would be stuck at home for the past six months, I probably would have used this time differently. I would have gotten a second job to help with bills, or been more active in the community. But I just kept thinking that I'd "be leaving any day now," as soon as I got the call that still has yet to come. I am still waiting.
But it is in these times when hope is the hardest that we really need to fight the hardest for it!
A few weeks ago, when I had my first major bout with dark days in this particular season, my mother bought me a narwhal plushie that I had fallen in love with at the local CVS. I came home from work that day and it was on my bed, waiting just for me. It is gloriously hug-able, and on days I feel sad, I give it a long cuddle and spend time with God. I pray for strength, I pray for peace, but mostly, I just pray for answers. I look up scripture verses online about hope or anxiety, and I fight to keep my hope, and my dreams, alive in my heart. Then I remember to just sit and thank God for His goodness and grace. Then I cry out for mercy and an end to the hardship. Then I praise God that He already has an answer lined up. Like I said, it's a spiritual battle. And, unfortunately, one I fight more often than I really care to admit.
Those who chase their dreams are warriors. Those who truly fight for the beautiful future they see for themselves are rewarded with beautiful futures. They may not always be exactly as imagined, but they are real and true and amazing.
For me, the truths I find in scripture are what spur me forward the most. They are my fighting fuel. I feel the weight of the words deep in my soul, and they remind me to keep going. They revive and restore me. When I am down, they lift me back up. Isaiah 43:19, "Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?" I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." Romans 4:17b, "God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they [already] were." These verses remind me that I believe in the God of Creation, who is more than able to do all I could ever ask or dream. The God who brings dead things back to life (from Lazarus to dreams). They remind me that if I truly believe that God is real, then I really better live like I do. I had better believe for greater.
My other favorite way to fight for hope is by reading the encouraging words of others. Often, I need a little outside help from other fighters to keep me going.
My gorgeous friend Nat Box is my number one go-to for encouragement. I met her at Planetshakers Church in Australia, and it was absolutely a God-ordained match. I think she is an angel. I literally NEED her in my life. She has the most amazing heart to help and encourage others, especially when it comes to their dreams, and has a brilliant business that does just that. (Website here!) For me, though, it is her blog that speaks to me most. I read her blog or look up her Instagram (@thewritersink) when I need some light in my life. She even has a blog post called "If You Ever Want To Quit Your Dreams, Read This." (read it here!) Seriously. Read it. Nat's own story is so encouraging. She, too, has overcome so many obstacles and so many dark days in order to see her dreams become a reality. But she is a warrior princess, and an overcomer! She is a beautiful, BIG dreamer. And she has seen AMAZING things happen because she has BELIEVED!!
I also love "The Better Man Project" on Instagram. His posts remind me how important I am (in a healthy way!), and how important it is to live a life of adventure. No risk, no reward, right?
I hope this unconventional post has helped you a little. I know that in writing it, it has helped me greatly. Dreams ARE risky, but they are so worth it. Yes, we will most likely fail along the way. And sometimes the things we hope for are not the things we get. But no matter what, the fight is worth it. The hope is worth it. And the risk is worth it. The struggle and pain are worth it. Because there IS a chance that things will wind up better than even your wildest dreams, if only you have the courage to chase them. Don't play it safe. Like the Better Man Project says, "Play to win. Don't play to not lose."