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Stepping Out of Fear

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Stepping Out of Fear

Stepping Out of Fear

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

It's Monday, the day we bring you our series This I Believe. Today our statement of personal conviction comes from Vickie Milazzo of Houston, Texas. She began her professional life as a nurse, then chose to become an entrepreneur, and became a pioneer in the field of legal nurse consulting.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

In the essays that come to us, we often find that beliefs are mapped in childhood, courses are set or avoided. Vickie Milazzo believes that paths she walked when she was young continue to lead her and help to define the credo she lives by now. Here she is with her essay for This I Believe.

VICKIE MILAZZO reporting:

I believe in stepping out. I learned this from living in fear. As a child, I was afraid of everything - escalators, heights and New Orleans cockroaches the size of pralines. At the age of eight, I even became afraid of getting Halloween candy.

Normally on October 31, my twin brother and I would step out of our shotgun house and rush to every home within a three block radius. Most of the houses were only a step or two off the ground - easy. That year, when we approached one of the bigger houses, a house known to have the best candy but with 10 tall cement steps leading to the front door, my fear of heights stopped me cold.

My brother was already up the stairs while I stood frozen at the bottom. I told myself I might stumble in the dark and drop my bag of treats. I might crash to the concrete below. I might tear my homemade fairy costume. I wanted the candy, but there was no way I was going up those stairs to get it. I lost more than candy. I lost my confidence.

The fear of stepping out took me along the safe, no risk route through high school, nursing school and into a secure hospital job. After six years in nursing, unsatisfied with the career choice I had made, I woke up to a different kind of fear, the fear of becoming like the other no risk nurses -tired, burned out and old before their time. I faced a decision. Step out into the unknown or spend the rest of my life at the bottom of those steps, never tasting the best candy.

I wanted to start a consulting business advising attorneys on medical-related cases. I settled for reading business books instead. Then I thought back to the worst thing that ever happened to me, my mom dying at age 48 of breast cancer. Compared to that, how bad could a business failure be?

So, with only $100 in my savings account, I called my first attorney to offer my services as a legal nurse consultant. To my horror, he answered the phone. About to hang up, I thought, if he was wearing a hospital gown with his backside showing, I would have no problem introducing myself. I sputtered out something unintelligible and he became my first client.

Climbing the stairs of business hasn't been easy. Once I lost my biggest client. The old fears returned, but I'd tasted the candy, and the memory of my mom put me right back on those stairs.

Success is not about the achievement. Every time I step out into the unknown, win or lose, I succeed. I might break a leg or invest in a losing business idea, but I won't end up at my 90th birthday with nothing more than stale white cake and regrets. Bad things can happen when we step out, but I believe worse things happen to our souls when we don't.

ALLISON: Vickie Milazzo with her essay for This I Believe. She told us, as many have, that her greatest challenge was deciding which of her beliefs to write about, which was most important. We invite you to make that decision and write an essay for our project. Find out more and hear all the essays in the series at NPR.org or call toll free, 888-577-9977.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

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