Your Turn Challenge Day 2: Tell us about something that’s important to you

I was brought up in an environment where believing was paramount. I learned that fostering a strong faith was the point of my entire existence. I went deep inside the faith and convinced myself I was a true believer.

I started traveling and learned about all kinds of new belief systems. I met people from all walks of life: everything from surfers and backpackers to monks and whirling dervishes. We shared many conversations about what we believed. My own beliefs started to shift, slowly, incrementally, in hiding. The more people I met, the more it all started to blend together. I started to wonder, how could it be that I’ve met so many people who are saying they believe in basically the same thing, but they all call it something different. Same same, but different.

As I continued to learn, I grew more curious. I wondered about using belief as a tool to manifest my dreams. I’ve always been a wild dreamer. Sometimes, its hard for me to even believe the dreams I have when I wake up in the morning. After much experimentation, I’ve concluded that belief is the strongest tool for realizing my dreams.

The thing about belief though, is that she knows when you’re faking it. It doesn’t work so well if you’re only kind of believing. I see three types of believers. There’s those who believe with all their heart, completely and fully without a shadow of doubt. On the other end, there’s the folks who really don’t believe at all and they’re not afraid to admit it. In the middle lies suffering. This is where good folks get stuck between believing or not believing based on fear and social pressure that have little to do with what rings true in their heart. In this phase, we play dirty tricks on ourselves, inventing rational justifications for emotions. The semi-believers face a grave identity crisis that tears souls into pieces. I was one of these people for a very long time; it sucked. I went through more than a decade of denail before I could admit it.

I found freedom in believing that it doesn’t really matter what I believe, as long as I believe it fully and wholeheartedly. Its obviously much easier to believe in things that I can make sense of logically, or things that have a precedent like believing I’ll find a new friend in a town I’m not familiar with. It’s tougher to believe in things that have never happened to me before. As I kept practicing my belief muscles, they got stronger and I believed things that were seemingly impossible. It got even more interesting when I started mixing in my dreams, my desires and my personal legend into my beliefs.

I used to have a severe stutter. I couldn’t put more than five words together in a sentence. I lost faith, every single time I opened my mouth. If ten years of speech therapy didn’t work, what could possibly fix me? I reached a point where I couldn’t tolerate it anymore. I needed to speak, I was determined to teach those kids in Kibera. I was already in Kenya, found a teaching gig and forgot the minor detail that I can’t speak. I wasn’t going to let that keep me from having a positive impact on those kids though. I was determined, I knew I had it in me. I believed with all my heart.

Everyone laughed at me. A room full of sixty kids busted out laughing in my face when I started stuttering in front of them. I was terrified and drowning in self-doubt before every class, yet I kept showing up. I had to do this; there was something inexplicable coming from deep inside my gut pushing me onwards. It was beyond logic and reason. I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I didn’t have a plan for what to do when I was laughed at again and again. What I did know is that I had to keep showing up. I owed myself that chance. I deserved to believe I could make those kids smile and wonder at the same time.

I believed with every ounce of my being. I lost sight of the more probable alternatives that I”m a stutterer and I can’t communicate. I still greeted these alternatives every day, but I saw something else. I saw progress. Kids respected me, better yet they liked me as a teacher. This fortified my belief even further. Each day, I stuttered less. Soon enough, no one even noticed it anymore, not even me.

I learned to speak fluently, with less shame. I learned to believe in myself against all odds. When I came back from Kenya, I was asked to speak on various occasions in front of student groups (peers) who were thinking about going abroad. Sometimes, people came upto me in tears, exclaiming how they felt moved by my speaking. Stuff like this melts my heart. No one would have ever believed that I could do that before, especially not me.

When you decide to believe in something, don’t half ass it. Believe with all you’ve got and then some more.

I’m working on believing I can fly now. I’ll let you know how it goes.