Fear is a constant, because even as the things that scare us may change, being afraid never really goes away. But as a kid, I always thought that at some point, fear is overcome. Almost as if once you breach the limbo between childhood and adulthood, you’ve grown out of fear.
After all, adults are supposed to be stronger than the children who they are supposed to protect. Adults aren’t afraid. They’ve done this before. They’ve already paid their dues. Haven’t they?
Adults bury fear. After all, they have to continue on regardless. No amount of hiding under the covers or clinging to parents can stop the inevitable bills that will come or a presentation at the office. Fear never really goes away. We just learn how to deal with it, most of us that is.
The other day at work, one of my coworkers got a phone call from her teenage daughter who had gotten lost. Everyone could hear the panic in her daughters’ voice through the phone as my coworker, very calmly, told her to take a deep breath and talk slower, please, I can’t understand you.
A few minutes later, I walked past her still on the phone and listened as she carefully navigated her daughter’s new path, naming exits and street names as if she had, had a hand in pouring the asphalt on each street herself. In the time it took for her to answer the phone, she had gone from worker to mom. Her own fear for her child’s safety set aside as she took on her daughter’s fear, smoothing it over once more.
As I listened the exchange, I thought of all the calls I had made to my own parents over the course of my life, many of them a result of fear. The road is closed. Where do I go? They told me I didn’t submit the application! I’ll never get in now! They scheduled me to work during vacation! They are going to fire me if don’t show up! Mom? Dad? I screwed up – what do I do now?
Next week, I will start a new job and move to a new place with new people, and I am scared. Even though it’s for two months, I am scared. Who wouldn’t be? It’s the unknown, anything could happen. I think at some point as a college freshman I thought that by the time I was a senior that all of this would be easy as pie, and certainly things have gotten easier, but that doesn’t mean all the butterflies are gone.
I was talking about study abroad with one of my friends when she asked me, “Aren’t you nervous?” Translation: Aren’t you afraid? A lot of people have asked me this, some just outright asking, “Aren’t you scared to go by yourself?” and some using a more indirect approach, “What if you get sick or hurt or the government takes you hostage?” Translation: Aren’t you afraid?
And every time someone asks me, I just take a minute and think about it, rolling the words around in my head. Scared? Of course I am. But, we can’t allow fear to debilitate us. It has always been my dream to travel to Europe, but the chance to live there is amazing.
There is a quote that I read once that has wedged itself into my brain, becoming the words that I try to live my life by, “Facing fear is ultimately easier than constantly navigating around situations that provoke it” (Kristen Armstrong). I don’t want to live my life navigating around the things that push me out of my comfort zone.
There is no shame in fear. Fear can be healthy in small doses. It pushes us to keep moving, keep exploring, to find new things and new experiences. Fear is a constant, but what you do with your fear is a decision that is entirely your own. We only have one life to live and there are no do-overs or take-backs. It’s okay to be afraid along the way. Do the things you only dream about doing. Say what you need to say. Drive somewhere new. Go traveling alone.
As people, we are often raised to think that fear is weakness, but I disagree. Fear is what propels us forward. It can push us up or drag us down. Fear is what you make of it, but no matter how much you try to avoid it, it will always be there.
What fears have you faced recently? Is it important to face our fears? What scares you?