Sydney Fontaine: Embracing the Right Opportunities

September 14, 2018

Not too long ago, I found myself sorting through some storage boxes filled with items from my childhood. Beanie babies, a few sentimental letters, a couple blue ribbons from my 4-h days. I don’t tend to hang on to sentimental stuff, so the boxes mostly consisted of my old journals. I flipped through a few of them, but one journal in particular caught my attention.

 I started it when I was ten, and the thing that struck me was a list I had written about halfway through the notebook. At the top in scrawling handwriting was “Life Goals.”  I don’t know what inspired me, but I was pretty ambitious for a ten year old. Among a few vague goals, three stuck out to me. Almost eerie in light of the way my life would change over the next several years.

  • Record your own album 
  • Play a solo show
  • Go on tour 

I thought about this a lot after I read it. As far as I remember, when I was 10 I hadn’t even started learning my first instrument. I guess the only way to explain these stray longings of my ten year old self was that I felt drawn to it. It was a gut feeling. When I talk to a lot of writers and artists about their story, it was a similar experience. You didn’t deliberately step on that path. It sort of just happens to you.

As cool as it is to intuitively pick up a pen/brush/instrument/ and feel that click inside, that same intuition can make the path forward look a little confusing. Dark. Harrowing, even.

See, I didn’t flip my life upside-down after writing this list.  But revisiting these goals in light of where I am now, it called to mind some excellent advice my mother gave me when I was a kid. If your journey ahead looks a little dark and harrowing, perhaps it will help guide you like it’s helped to guide me.

Every day, when you are faced with decisions you don’t know how to make, you need to stop and visualize your goals. Then consider whether the choice you are about to make will help or hinder you in achieving those goals.

These are the words that have determined how I spent a good portion of my time. They’ve helped me confidently decline the opportunities that don’t add value to my life, and (perhaps most importantly) they have given me a powerful, yet unspoken permission to say yes to the things that in a context disconnected from my goals, would seem crazy. To take risks. To step out of my comfort zone, and to step into the things that have inched me closer to where I need to be.

So what does this have to do with you, writer?

I think we get caught in an illusion of what we consider necessary to accomplish our  goals.

I’m aware that many of us live in small towns, with small to nonexistent arts communities. We’re not presented with a plethora of obvious opportunities to flourish in our craft, or even receive validation from a community of like-minded people. But we are given eyes, we’re given ears, and we’re given a good deal of cleverness.

Sometimes accomplishing our goals is a lot less about plugging into pre-established opportunities, and more about using what you have and making the most of the right opportunities. See, when I wrote that list at ten, my entire picture of life was different. “Someday” was a long way away.

But the older we get, the more pressure there is to connect our “someday” goals to our daily reality. If that thought scares you, you’re not alone. Someday is a nice and comfortable corner to tuck a lot of hopes in dreams in, while you do normal life in the “meantime.”

That’s why that piece of advice my mother gave me was so crucial in changing how I looked at not only myself, but the world around me.

It helped me plug into the right opportunities. It made all the difference when I was given an opportunity to regularly contribute to the blog of an organization I respected. Of course, the idea terrified me. The prospect of the phone interview made me want to vomit. I didn’t really have the time for it, I would have to let something else go to make it work. But I remembered my goals and I said yes. I brought a little bit of that someday dream into my daily reality. And it was okay to let some things go in order to make that happen. Because those things were not contributing to the long-term dream.

These words also helped me learn what opportunities to create for myself. A young musician in a town with no music scene? I couldn’t just conjure up a music scene.  But I did have a spacious front porch. I had friends that played music. So, we started hosting house shows. We played at other people’s houses. Sometimes they were porches and patios, sometimes they were living room floors. Just like that, there was a bud of something that wasn’t there before. More opportunity for not only me, but others to share their art.
Do I recognize and act on opportunity perfectly all the time? No. But I will offer this: it’s less about making the most of every opportunity, and more about having eyes for the right opportunity. Success is not one size fits all. In creative work, there’s rarely a fixed way to get from point A to point B. 

But no matter what your goals are, there is so much around us that we can make much of. I didn’t up and move to Nashville, or suddenly come into money to make my dreams happen. But sometimes I said yes even when I was afraid. Sometimes I said no, to the disbelief of nearly everyone around me. And you know what? I think 10 year old me would be pleased to know that although it’s been terrifying, and hard, and so much different than I thought it would be, I can put a checkmark next to all of those someday aspirations, with a lot of time to spare for dreaming new dreams.

Walk through those doors if you can. Walk through them till they close. Build a door if you need to. You’ll get there.

Sydney Fontaine is a wearer of many hats. She is a songwriter and traveling musician by trade, but has been involved in a myriad of projects and organizations for nearly a decade of full time work in creative industries. From voice acting on Science-Fiction Podcast, The Bright Eyes Project, to being a contributor for organizations like de la Croix Christian Ministries and the RYFO network, Sydney brings her passion for communication, community, and creativity to everything she does. For more information about Sydney, the music, the podcast or her own writing projects, you can find her on Twitter @sydneyfontaine.

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  1. Sydney, I could not adore this post more. It's just what I needed to hear. <3

  2. The funny thing is, the same thing happened to me with my old journals not that long ago. I was going through them, and read about how badly I wanted to be an actress when I was 8 or 9, but then I started to get daunted by stories of how hard it was, until I let that dream fizzle out. sad. But I am fully content with my aspirations of being an author. :)


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