Do Things That Scare You


I don’t carrot all if you think I look funny – I’m doing NOGood here people!

I am from Kentucky. The word “Kentucky” fills me with warm feelings, feelings of love and community, and feelings of complete wholeness. Kentucky was and still is my home, and leaving it is one of the scariest things I have ever done.

During my senior year at Lindsey Wilson College, tucked away in little ol’ Columbia, Kentucky, it became clear to me that I could stay in Kentucky and easily find a job, be near family, and continue to hear the southern accents that make me feel so welcome and at home. But I looked around and saw that there was so much need in Kentucky, and I just didn’t know how to fill that need. So I started looking for something to make me better and stronger so I might be able to help my ol’ Kentucky home.

I applied to the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship program. An opportunity to not only live somewhere new, but to learn about and contribute to a non-profit organization. An in-depth application and interview process later, I was placed in Washington, D.C. working for the National Farm to School Network as the Network and Partnerships Fellow. I love it, but it also scares me.

Everyday I feel so lucky to be able to walk past monuments on my way to work. Living in D.C. never felt like a realistic dream. D.C. always felt like an untouchable city far away from home, suitable only for a weekend visit. Yet here I am in a Fellowship I only dreamed of getting, living in the largest city I have ever lived in, meeting people from all over the country, traveling the East Coast to visit with other Fellows, attending events and concerts, walking more than I have ever walked before, working with some of the most intelligent people in the country, casually seeing Senators at the places I visit, and doing more work than I ever did in college. I love it, but it also scares me.

I am working a full time job for the first time in my life. From networking events to outreach across the country, everything feels new and sometime complicated. My days consist of research, phone calls, coordinating, networking, writing, interviewing, compelling, learning, and inspiring. Working at the National Farm to School Network, or any non-profit for that matter, passionate people are working as hard as they can to serve their people. Sometimes that means working late and sometimes that means wearing a carrot suit in front of the capital for a photo op. Our work is never ending because there will always be more people in need. I love it, but it also scares me.

For the first time in my life, I am 100% my own responsibility. I pay big bills, make serious decisions about savings and finances, cook food for every single meal, stick to a bed time, make myself work out, make myself read more, make myself get up early, take care of myself when I’m sick, remind myself to call my grandparents, make sure to keep up with old friends, challenge myself to make new friends, take time to recharge, and so on. The responsibilities are endless and the number of reminders I have in my phone are concerning. But I think I am doing a pretty good job of “adulting,” as the young people say. And as it turns out I love it, but it also scares me.

I think people will find that after being in school for 16 years, the transition into a new life can be very daunting and at times, a bit scary. (Luckily, this Fellowship has lowered that fear by giving me a community of Fellows and lots of support.) The amount of personal growth that someone can experience is astounding, but often comes at the expense of their own comfort and feelings of security. Growing up is scary. Figuring out what’s next is scary. The challenge is exciting, but I am telling you right now, I am scared and unsure of how this will all play out.

Being scared can be a hinderance. I get that. But over the last two and a half months, I have found that being scared brought out an inner strength in myself that I did not know existed before this. As time goes on, what once was fear turns into confidence. Fear of not being good enough in my work has grown into confidence and pride in what I do. Fear of being alone has grown into the confidence that has allowed me to feel comfortable attending a show or concert alone, often meeting new people along the way. Fear of not connecting with my cohort and coworkers has turned into friendships I did not see coming. Fear of involvement has turned into my attendance at numerous protests and rallies. Fear of being away from my Kentucky community has helped me find a new community to invest in while I am away. Fear of leaving home has turned into an assured feeling that I made the right decision.

Sometimes I miss my family so much that it hurts and sometimes I feel very alone and sometimes I still feel insecure about my work. This life I live is not perfect or without flaws, but I love it, despite the fact that sometimes it scares me. I know that as long as I keep pushing and allowing for this discomfort to yield growth, everything will turn out just fine. Now, I just have to keep doing things that scare me until I am fearless.

Hannah McCandless – NOF Fellow at National Farm to School Network, Washington D.C.

Featured photo is of me in my all-natural carrot habitat!