In 2003 Professor Dunsmore pulled me aside in the 4 fourth floor stairwell, “Zach, it breaks my heart watching you pursue useless things.”
I was a few hours late to class because I was busy finishing some extra work at the print shop. I paused in confusion on my way up the stairs. “What do you mean? I am a hard worker, I always…”
He broke my words with a caring smile, “You are wasting energy on the wrong things. You are a Ferrari stuck in gridlock traffic hauling groceries.”
Now 16 years later, I realize that Professor Dunsmore may have been onto something. I have been playing it safe my entire adult life. I pour energy into things that I know I can win. Simple things. Grocery things. I apologize to the weak when I attempt to excel. When I don’t get the same fair treatment others get, when I am confused as to why I scare people, when I get that ache in my chest that feels like my heart is trying to fold itself into my spine, I realize… I don’t belong here. I belong on the open road. Writing books. People can not define my reality or choose where or when I will be successful. God gave me a gift, and gave me that job. I have been foolishly handing the reins of my life to someone else. “Here take this. Define me. Guide me. Promote me. Love me. Compliment me.” I only hope God forgives my stupidity. The reins of my life have been tossed to the ground yet again. This time when I pick them up, I am going to hold onto them. I am going to get to work, and I mean really get to work.
Professor Dunsmore was an ex-FBI agent / attorney that knew a thing or two about people in the world. He saw me sticking out like a sore thumb from the abundance of mediocrity. Yes, my drawing skills were sub-par and I was average with my 3D animation skills, but he saw something in the way I could tell a story. He could sense the potential lying dormant in a safe locked up storage room deep in my heart. I though I was keeping it protected, by avoiding difficulty and potential rejection. In reality, I was killing myself slowly inside every day because I wouldn’t let my talents live. My purpose is not to play it safe, and that will always leave me skewed and disproportionate in safe places. God made me tall. God made me bold. God made me an encouraging story teller. Every second I avoid doing those things 100%, I am a thief. A despicable coward. My gifts were not given to me to be locked away in storage. They belong to other people; to inspire, encourage, and protect them.
Talent is only a tiny seed, genetically formatted to grow into something massive. A seed needs nutrients, sunlight, water, and time. A seed encased in concrete will never do anything. One day someone is going to come looking for fruit from a tree that is not there. People will be starved and without my contributions to the world because I was scared.
I ask God for things that would violate my purpose, and I get crushed when I don’t get them. All this time I have wasted chasing easy things has to stop. Writing is hard. Telling the tale of ‘what was it like to be human’ is a daunting task.
What if the 17th book I write will be the one that gives my readers a good representation of the question? Aren’t those 16 failures bigger victories than any mediocre prize I might scrounge up playing it safe. The thrill is in the journey of letting talent rise up and live. Fear and ache will dissolve with disciplined repetition, muscle memory will take over and endurance will rise.
The groceries only make me fat and slow, wasting my time. It’s time to feed this hungry Ferrari the open road it was built for.
. . .
Zachary W. Gilbert
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