Hey You, Just Keep Going

@morganharpernichols

When people find out I post consistently on the internet, I’m inevitably asked about my ‘motivation.’

How can you be bothered to write something every week?

How did you get the energy or inspiration to get started?

This came up again last week when I caught up with an old mentor. As I was updating him on all the twists and turns on my creative journey, he interrupted and said, “I guess I just want to know how you stay so motivated, week in and week out.”

I stared at him, unsure of how to formulate a simple answer to such a loaded question.

 “I just do,” I finally said, before hastily moving the conversation along.

The thing is, I don’t ‘just do.’ I suffer from a lack of motivation on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ll feel short, rapid bursts of energy where I believe I can solve all the world’s problems by noon. But it always evaporates as soon as I try to execute my plans.

Just the other day, I had to type the words ‘keep going’ into the search bar because I needed to read somebody else’s encouraging statements.  I wanted someone else to fill me with inspiration and all the reasons why I shouldn’t give up now. I’m a huge believer that we need to be our own cheerleader, but sometimes we just need to hear someone else say that we’re still a strong contender in the game of life.

We’re living in a culture that idolises motivation. As someone who used to be an avid runner and a one-time participant in a marathon, people would comment on my running photo’s asking how I got the motivation to train. To voluntarily run non-stop for 42.2 km. Every time, I would just shrug, laugh awkwardly and say something lame like ‘vision boards.’ They’d then shake their heads while making some self-deprecating comment like “I don’t even have the motivation to run 500 m. Maybe one day I will.”

The thing is, I don’t know where I got my motivation from. All I wanted to do was test the limits of my own body and own a ceremonial medal. Now that it’s over (and my knees have given up), I no longer feel inclined to sign up for fun runs every Sunday. The desire to run at all, has well and truly left the building.

I’m learning every day that I can’t wait for motivation to show up before I commit to taking action. Motivation is that flaky friend who keeps re-scheduling at the last minute. She’ll make bold declarations of how you can conquer the world together, but when push comes to shove, she’s nowhere to be seen. Consistency and Accountability have no place in her vocabulary and she’ll show up only when it suits her. You get so frustrated when she leaves you high and dry, yet you also worship the ground she walks on when she finally graces you with her presence.

Oh, and her sidekick, Inspiration? She’s even flakier.

“You can’t wait for motivation and inspiration to hit you before you start,” is what a writer friend once told me. “If this is really what you want to do, then you need to learn to create on command.”

And so, come rain or shine, I’ve learnt to show up on the page every Wednesday so you’ll never refer to me as your flaky friend.

But the reality is, there will always be mountaintops and valleys. There are weeks where I feel like my voice isn’t enough to solve the world’s problems. There are days where it takes all my energy to string one eloquent phrase together, and I suffer from comparison on an hourly basis.

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably wondered if all of this is really worth it. No matter what you want to do in life, you’ve most likely stressed over whether the striving, the long hours, or just continuously putting yourself out there, will actually count for something. If all the grand goals you’ve set for yourself will actually be met.

I know you want to do big things in this world. I know you want to leave your mark on people and accomplish everything you’ve set out to do. But when the days are long, and you feel weary about the distance between here and where you want to be, it’s tempting to give up. I don’t blame you for feeling deflated when other people are running miles ahead of you, and you’re just tying your shoelaces.

I don’t promise this page will give you the motivation you’re looking for. But if you’ve ever needed someone else to tell you to keep going, let this be it.

***

Rome wasn’t built in a day

I will throw this cliché here because it’s a reminder that grand, beautiful cities with stories woven into every cobbled stone, don’t appear overnight. The place that we flock to, to eat pasta, gawk at buildings and fall in love, wasn’t an instant creation.

Neither is your legacy.

I’m guessing you grew up in the Maccas world like I did. The one where your hunger could be satisfied with $5 and in less than 5 minutes. I’ve now been conditioned to drive 500m and expect instantaneous results. So, it’s a massive blow to the ego when I can’t see the fruits of my labour immediately. I get salty. I believe I must have taken the wrong path. I wonder if I’ve gotten it all wrong and I’m actually meant to play small.

But no matter how many convenient inventions and shortcuts the world comes up with, the only thing we can’t fast forward is our own journey. That’s something that will never be instantaneous. The reason the universal remote from Click doesn’t exist is because we were made to live out every moment. We are meant to walk through every story, feel all the feels, and experience all the triumph. This is what contributes to your becoming. This is what makes you different from the pack.

I remember calling a friend last year and complaining about how discouraged I felt. I ranted about how I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, and I didn’t know if I would ever make it.

“Maybe I’m from a different generation,” he said slowly “But four months isn’t a very long time. You’re barely halfway. We had to work far harder and far longer before we ever saw the fruit of our labour.”

As annoyed as I was by his advice, I knew it was rooted in truth. The moments I feel discouraged are the humble doses of reality I need to remind me that nothing worthwhile happens instantly. To fast forward the humble beginnings would be to short-change your transformation. To skip it entirely would be to miss out on a pivotal chapter of your story. So give yourself some grace when your dream is taking much longer than you anticipated. The slow journey is a gift and it makes every subsequent victory so much sweeter.

I’m starting to think my favourite word is Redemption because of how often I say it. I love redemption. I’m constantly praying and asking for the painful situations in my past to be redeemed with a sweeter ending. I get sentimental over dates on the calendar because I love seeing how far I’ve come in the span of 6 months or a year. I live for full circle moments where I can see the reasons why I had to endure a hard situation.

My most popular post by far is the one where I was raw and honest about the period of my life where I felt incredibly rejected and lonely. The circumstances that led to that was so painful and debilitating, that I would spend nights begging for it to be redeemed. Two years on from that fateful event, I was able to press Publish on a story I had once tried desperately to cover up. It’s now my most widely shared post. The vulnerability hangover hit me hard in the aftermath, but then people merged from the cracks to say ‘thank you for sharing, I no longer feel alone.’

And if I had to go through that angsty, dark period so somebody else would feel less crazy, then so be it.

In the same vein, I was so fearful of creating this corner of the internet six months ago because I petrified of what people would think. I wondered if anyone would really care about a 22 year old girl in Australia and all the hopes and dreams she had for this page. But last week, I got an email from a 27-year-old youth counselor in Montana telling me how glad she was that she’d found me. Someone who I never would have crossed paths with but for this corner of the internet, is glad that I’m showing up.

All that to say, if you give up now, you may never experience the joy that blossoms from seeing your journey come full circle. You won’t know who will benefit from the wisdom you have, or who needed your gift to the world. You may never experience the victory that comes from finding out why you had to endure that painful season or the redemptive ending of a story you’d rather forget.

Keep pushing forward irrespective if you believe other people are better than you. They may be, I don’t know. Someone else will always be better than you, but they sure as heck won’t have your voice, your stories or your gifts. To shut that down because someone else is playing in the same field, would be a disservice to all you have to offer the world.

Keep showing up even when you feel stuck. It’s normal to feel like you aren’t moving forward and like your circumstances are frozen in time. I used to always look for impressive signs and miracles, like fireworks in the sky or lightning bolts, to signify that I was on the right track. But the most impactful changes are microscopic. They happen slowly, consistently and gradually. Rest assured, no matter how stagnant you think you are, you’re transforming in ways beyond what you can imagine. You owe it to yourself to see that transformation through.

Keep going because you don’t know who needs you to appear in their life.

Keep going because all it takes is a smile from you to make someone’s day.

Keep going even when other people don’t believe in what you’re doing.

Keep going even when other people hate on your journey.

Keep going because it’ll break your heart if you give up now.

Keep going even if only one person cares. The ‘one person’ has to be enough for us. It’s tempting to want to live in the hearts and minds of a thousand people. But to chase validation from numbers will constantly leave us running on empty.

Not everyone is going to understand you or support you, and that’s a hard truth to accept. It hurts me now even just typing this, that the understanding I crave isn’t going to come from every single person. But I also think there’s beauty in it. Because when you find the people that do, it makes that bond extra special.

I don’t know where you are right now, but I know the story doesn’t end here. It can’t end here.

Eyes forward.

Stay the path.

Keep going.


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What People Don’t Want To Know About Self-Belief

happy girl what people don't want to know about self belief ash chow

It’s been a month and a bit since I’ve started consistently posting on Wednesday’s and actually telling people about it. I know I keep counting the weeks, but it’s just astounding to me that I’m still here. It’s astounding to me because I’m always plagued with discouragement and wonder if my stories are really worth following along.

Although- that’s not true.

I know there are people reading who benefit from this more than I ever hoped.  

On New Year’s Eve, two beautiful souls gifted me a framed collage made up of all the thoughts and feelings people felt after reading this corner of the internet. In the early hours of the 1st of January, I read the compilation of love letters people had written to me to say that they could feel the depth of emotion in my words, and they felt seen and understood. It was the most thoughtful gift I’d ever received, and a tangible expression of the impact I’d always hoped to have. At the start of a new year, I felt empowered, celebrated and motivated to keep going.

But only for two days.

The next time I had to sit in front of a blank page and figure out what to write for that week, I felt anxious again.  I would get high-key stressed about sewing parts of my heart onto the page and putting it out to the universe, only for people not to care or show up. The same thoughts would run around my mind, like a tortured hamster who was forced to stay on his wheel, and I would wonder if it would really be a big deal if I just stopped showing up to the page.  

Often, in the midst of angst, uncertainty and yet another existential crisis, the help we need comes from unexpected sources. Kindred spirits are conjured up from thin air. The hope you needed to keep going may be found in a blogpost you might not ordinarily read but felt compelled to anyway.

People and words have always been the balm that helps soothe my wounds, and I’m a sucker for calling a bunch of people when I need help wading through my emotional mess. So is it really a surprise that on the brink of giving up I would meet someone who encapsulated both of those things?

As someone who used to be fluent in the art of losing people, I’m astounded by the way God crosses our paths with the ones who help us unravel our jumbled thoughts.

We met quite by accident.

While I was waiting on the phone to vent and cry to someone else, he picked up instead. He was one of those rare, old souls that knew how to help you wade through the swamp of your emotions, but also knew how to call out the good things he could see in you. I would call him a guardian angel, but I’ve learnt it’s irresponsible to place other fallible humans on a pedestal to be worshipped. So maybe we’ll just call him a friend.

When the anxious thoughts began to invade my mind and crush my chest, I called him again to ask what I should do. I regurgitated the same thoughts about feeling discouraged and waited for him to drip feed me all his comforting wisdom.

Instead, he asked “How many people is it going to take for you to believe in yourself?”

Have you ever wanted to punch someone in the face because you know they’re right, but you also don’t want to hear it?

 All we could hear was the fuzziness of the phone line as I let the implication of his words sink in.

How many messages will it take for you to feel good?

How many people have to validate you before you feel legit?

How much affirmation and confirmation do you need to fill the holes in your Swiss Cheese heart?

“I guess it’s just easier for me to fall back on the narrative that I’m not going to succeed and that this isn’t going to be worth it,” I explained to him.

“So…it’s easier for you to not believe in yourself than it is to challenge yourself?” He said wryly.

Again, I resisted the urge to hang up the phone.

“Yes…” my voice trailed off as I contemplated the absurdity of that sentence.

And it is absurd.

I would shake the shoulders and metaphorically slap any loved one who told me that they didn’t believe enough in themselves to keep persevering. I’d give all the pep talks, hold them accountable and make sure they were implementing the baby steps that would get them off their butt and moving forward.

It’s easy to push other people out of their comfort zone, but when it comes to us, we’d rather cover our ears and stay comfortable.

I am the Queen of staying comfortable. I bet you are too. We crave comfort so much that we’d rather stay snuggled under the blanket of thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough, this isn’t going to work or it’s too damn hard, because we think it’s going to keep us safe and warm.

Except it’s not.

If you dared open your eyes and take a good hard look around, you’ll realise these thoughts are just lies designed to keep you in one spot. But even after knowing the truth, we still stay curled under those blankets. We’re a generation that longs for escapism, yet we don’t actually like the change and the challenge that comes along with it.

On Boxing Day, I bought a pair of really beautiful, high quality, tan sandals. It’s now January and they’re still sitting untouched in the box they came in. I’m still walking all over the city in my old pair of shoes where the heels are worn down and the straps are badly frayed.  You might think it’s crazy for me to attach myself to them, but I’ve worn them so many times that they’ve moulded to my feet. They’ve been with me on all my adventures. I know the exact fit and feel of them so well that trying to wear anything else would feel wrong.

While I was thinking about these shoes, I was reminded of something a mentor once told me.

“You have this habit of running back to the old things in your life that you can’t even see all the new things that are right in front of you. God has a whole new life He wants to give you, but are you ever going to reach out and take it?”

***

I don’t know how long you’ve been conditioned to crave the thoughts that keep you in one spot.

But I know that even attempting to believe anything different will feel so wrong and so weird that it’s easier to slip your feet back into the old pair of shoes. You know, the ones that carry you down the path of fear and inadequacy. Because of this, we find it hard to believe anyone who says there are good things ahead of us. We struggle to reach out and seize it because it’s easier to believe the lie that we’re not worthy rather than get disappointed yet again.

But anything that makes you into a better person will require a constant re-shifting of the things you repeat to yourself, and above all – a fight.

People will fight hard to believe in magic, sparkly vampires and the Avengers, yet they can’t imagine a reality where they believe in themselves.

Self-Belief isn’t a nicotine patch that you slap on once and expect to be cured from the addiction to your deprecating thoughts. It doesn’t come from 100 people telling you how much potential you have or 200 double taps on the screen. It’s a day by day thing. It’s waking up and choosing to wrestle with the thoughts that moan ‘come back to the blanket of lies.’

I’ve spoken to dozens of entrepreneurs, listened to every motivational speaker and every podcast host, and they all say the same thing. Self- Belief is a you thing. It’s there. It’s literally in the name. It’s an inside job no one else can complete but Y-O-U.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t lean on your people. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them to rally around you or support you. But your cheerleaders can only cheer for so long before their throats get hoarse. It’s going to be up to you to keep rallying around yourself when everyone else falls away.

My friend on the phone was right to ask me how many people I needed to believe in me before I believed in myself. All the external praise in the world won’t do anything for you if you can’t learn to validate yourself first.

People can hold up the mirror to show you the dark spots, sit with you in your mess, and hold one end of your string of jumbled thoughts. But it has to be you that does the work of untangling the lies that you’re not going to make it. No one else but you.

That’s a really scary sentence to process. Until you realise it’s actually freeing. The person you’ve always wanted to come along and save you from your deprecating thoughts has always been you babe.

No one else but you is going to know whether you’ve done the work to change your perspective and believe in yourself.

 But you’re the one who’ll get all the benefit baby.

Only you.

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THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

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How To Finish A Marathon: An Ode to Showing Up

It’s been a month since I’ve launched The Wednesday Club. A month of being consistent and making sure I show up with wisdom and encouragement in people’s inbox every Humpday.

In the grand scheme of things, a month isn’t a very long time. But that’s all it takes before a person’s commitment begins to falter. That’s not an actual statistic. I’m just trying to give myself an excuse for why I should stop showing up. We humans are notorious at finding any reason to give up. We disguise them in promises and make them look pretty by saying “we’ll start again next month.” We play the pity card and tell ourselves that things have been really difficult lately, and we can’t possibly persist while life is this hectic. We justify why it’s pointless to continue pursuing our goals by citing reasons such as ‘too hard’ or ‘no time.’ We convince ourselves that it’s better for everyone if we press pause and come back to it when we’re older, wiser or wealthier.  

People will say many things when you tell them you’re running out of steam. They’ll tell you that any goal you’ve set your sights on, or any journey you intend to take, is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m in the middle of a six year Uni degree, so I know how hard it is to see the finish line when you’re in the thick of it. If I had a dollar for every time someone threw this cliché at me, I wouldn’t need to be in law school anymore. But as much as I hate certain clichés, I know that people wouldn’t say them unless it had an element of truth. I’ve run a marathon before, so I know this particular metaphor does have some weight to it.

When we launch ourselves off the starting line, we like to sprint off and pat ourselves on the back for committing to this tremendous goal. But as the race goes on, we get winded. People will surge ahead and make us question if we’re going too slow or if we should increase our pace. The cheering spectators begin to dissipate and soon there’s just you, the track and 40 km to go. With nothing to do but run, you start to wonder if anyone cares whether or not you finish. The burning sensation in your muscles will scream at you to stop and you’ll be tempted to ask if you should keep going.

In the same vein, I started my writing journey by sprinting and initially covering a great distance. I made a promise that I would be vulnerable and honest with my struggles, so others would know they’re not the only messy ones out there. Four months later, and the shine and sparkle of a new beginning has well and truly worn off, and doubt has begun to rest in its place. I convince myself that no one will care if I show up with my words, and I should just stop running now before I pull a muscle. Any artist will tell you how hard it is to keep going when you’re putting stuff out in a void and it feels like no one can hear you.

“Should I keep going?” I texted someone, hoping they’d give me the excuse I needed to stop. “Does this matter?”

***

I binge watched four seasons of ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Elementary’ over the weekend. Occasionally I immerse myself in fictional crime dramas because I love a good mystery, but I also need a clear-cut resolution within 50 minutes.

 Every episode, Sherlock and Watson will examine every part of the deceased’s life to find out what type of life they used to lead before it all went wrong. They comb through belongings, interview loved ones and slowly piece together clues to deduce what type of person the victim was.  

Perhaps I’m being incredibly morbid and creepy, but that’s what happens when you’re a sentimental human who attaches deep meaning to every interaction.

If every part of my life were laid out on the table to be examined, I want the evidence to show that I was someone who consistently showed up. I want them to see the emotional scars and bruises that reveal I fought hard for the things I wanted. That I wasn’t passive. That my heart was for serving people and every word that came out of my lips was said with love and used for good. At the end of my life, I want the person investigating my case to say, “Here lies a girl who used all the gifts she was given to her fullest potential, and she finished strong. Nowhere was there a box marked Unfulfilled Dreams or Wasted Efforts.”

All this to say that I know it’s the easiest thing in the world to find a reason to give up on your dream, your degree or your life. It’s easy to wonder if there’s anyone supporting you or whether it’s worth it to push through the heaviness of a depressive fog. I know it’s far easier to succumb to the lie that you’re not worth a lot, rather than to fight to believe that you matter. And it’s oh so easy to believe that if you were someone different, then people would care more.

“Why did you start this again?” asked a friend. “Why even put yourself out there in the first place?”

“I don’t know,” I whined back.

“Yes, you do,” he said.

And it’s true. I do know. I know in my bones that someday, somewhere, a girl is going to scroll and read through all of my thoughts and it’s going to give her the hope she needs to keep going. I feel it within every fibre of my being.

I know because that girl was once me.

It took someone else showing up to the blank page week after week and writing out their battles to give me the strength I needed to fight my own. Now that’s become my hope for this space. That it becomes the map you use to navigate through your feelings. That it becomes the guide you need to tell you that yes, things are messy now. Things hurt and everything feels tangled together, and oh my goodness why do you have a bajillion feelings?! But you are ok and you will pull through. That this truth will etch into your bones: someone else has made it out the other side and you will too.

“Should I keep going?” I texted someone. “Does this matter?”

The answer is yes.

It’s always yes to something that you know in your heart is your purpose.

It might not be today or tomorrow, but someone, somewhere, is going to need your heart, your actions and your presence to show up for them.

Keep going.

Know someone in need of motivation? Sharing is caring!

The Wednesday Club

Need someone to show up for you?

Then The Wednesday Club is just for you!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends.  I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

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