Falling into purpose and out of fear

Each week the Honey newsletter includes a column from women and LGBTQ folks across the country, in collaboration with See Jane Write. We’re always looking for more stories from you. Click here to learn more about how to get published.

By Cristal Laraé Brister

Like many others during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, I was laid off from my job. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Being laid off gave me the push I needed to leave the proverbial nest and strike out on my own- full-time. While entrepreneurship is not foreign to me, up until then I’d never been all in. Although working for someone had never been the long-term, or even short-term, goal; I continually found myself settling for small pieces of joy in the job opportunities that presented themselves.

Enter Covid-19 and the following months. Four words transformed the way I viewed myself and my trajectory, “I am an artist”. That realization changed everything.

You might ask, how does someone get a degree in theatre, develop independent theatre programming for youth for over a decade, and find a way to incorporate creativity into just about everything they put their hands on even when it doesn’t seem to fit, not consider themselves an artist? My guess is as good as yours.

I launched a company two months later, reached out to my former agent, started acting again, and began facilitating Applied Theatre workshops with a focus on healing, self-discovery, and social change. Things were beautiful, for a time. Yet, sure enough, my old arch nemesis crept back in. Fear.

It seems whenever I am fully pursuing my heart’s deepest desires, fear comes to the forefront along with his friends, high-functioning anxiety, and in recent years, depression and tries to stamp out my fire, and their first cousins shame and guilt soon follow.

As I take inventory of this new space; I see that my old tools and ways of doing things are no longer serving me.

I’m hoping to give myself more grace. It’s only been two years in this full-time, artistic space. I’m writing a solo play (a 15+ year dream!) that will be produced next year, I’m working with new populations, I’m acting again, and I’ve kept the doors of my company open. There is a lot to be said for hanging in there and pushing forward, no matter how imperfectly.

What are some of the practical ways I’ve pushed forward in spite of fear? I’m so glad you asked!

For starters, I did the things that terrified me. During the height of the pandemic, I desperately needed community and a way to re-imagine and continue working. So I put out a call to work through a 12-week “creative recovery” book. I reached out to some former participants of a workshop I attended and we began meeting bi-weekly processing where we were and what opportunities there were to show up for our

communities in the midst of all that was going on in the world. I was not the most experienced person in the room, but I was the one who got the ball rolling. I also took a lot of classes.

Something else that has been helpful for me in overcoming fear is reminding myself of God’s previous faithfulness. Although working through fear has been layered, there are other struggles I’ve overcome throughout the years. I read back through journals from more than a decade ago and acknowledge how much I’ve grown; I allow the promises God has spoken over my life to bring peace to my mind and spirit in spite of my feelings.

Speaking the truth to myself has also been super helpful. Here are some of my favorite affirmations:

I am learning and growing day by day.

I will no longer shrink who I am but will fully embrace the essence of all I am created to be.

I don’t have to give into my feelings; although I may feel overwhelmed at times, I am not.

You’ve given me everything I need to be successful.

These mantras were very helpful in keeping me going. I had them printed and placed in several places and made speaking them out loud part of my daily routine. Feel free to use these and find others to get you started if that’s helpful, but I suggest writing some of your own in your unique voice to address your specific situation.

Going back to therapy has also been beneficial this season. (Yes, Black people do therapy!)

The excitement of doing my own thing, and being fully in control (eh- are we ever really in control?) of my own career carries a lot of weight for this one-woman shop, and sometimes, I think I want to go back. I quit my company like every other week! But then I’m reminded of why I do the things I do.

There are and always will be the “legitimate” things of life that come to distract me from pursuing my purpose. I plan to align my life with my vision, not the other way around.

When my anxiety decides not to be high functioning and an entire day has gone by and nothing has been checked off of my list, when all I have had the capacity to do is make sure I’ve eaten a couple of times, and write my way through, I choose to continue to fall forward into purpose.

The world needs my gifting, my passion, my wisdom; people are waiting for me to show up and be who I was created to be, in all of my imperfections, and the world is waiting on you too.

As the holidays approach and the year comes to a close, this is the perfect time to take inventory of where you are and where you want to be.

Whatever your dream is, whatever that thing was that was given room to breathe over the past couple of years, don’t let it die. Fight for your dreams, make the sacrifices, and make the necessary changes. You too can do hard things and you’re worth it.

Cristal Laraé Brister is a multidisciplinary artist who believes the arts have the power to transform people’s lives. You can catch her tweaking the dialogue for her upcoming solo show, The Love Between Us, and learn more about her work on her website or follow along on Instagram @cristallaraebrister.

Guest Voices

Authors submit these comments to AL.com and we share them with our audience.

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.