FEAR. It’s a very small word but it has so much power. At least, I’ve let it have so much power over me for most of my life. I’m ashamed to admit it, but am hoping by writing this post, it will lessen its grasp on me some more. My whole life, I’ve looked at people like my younger brother who never seem to be afraid to try things that seem terrifying to me.
My brother decided to ride his bike more than 200 miles from NYC to Boston one weekend. He got the idea and he did it. Just like that. Even when his first bike got stolen two weeks before his planned epic ride, he didn’t give up. He just dove right in. And when I asked him if he was ever worried he wouldn’t be able to do it as planned, he said “nope. I never did. I had that ultrarunner’s perspective the entire time.” When he first brought up the idea to do it, I thought of all the things that could go wrong. He could break down. He could get injured. He could get mugged. The list goes on and on. If it had been me, I don’t think I could have done it. Because of fear.
About 7 years ago, my brother decided to move back to the East Coast from LA where he had been living for about 8 years. He had moved cross country with a friend, with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket. Again, something I would not have done without lots of planning and more cash on me because of the fear of not getting a job soon enough and being homeless on the streets. Moving back to NY, he was in a better financial position than before, but still he didn’t have a job lined up. He didn’t have a set place to live. A concrete plan. (I would have been terrified with all the “what ifs.”) But as luck would have it, something did come through. He had a friend who managed the entertainment acts on a cruise ship running out of Australia who called and asked “do you want to come work for us for 6 months? If so, be here within a week.” And so he did. It took a lot of last minute running around, but he did it. He moved, literally, across the world. All by himself. If it had been me, I don’t think I could have done it. Because of fear.
I think back to times in my life when fear made my decision for me. When I was miserable in law school, yet stayed in because of the fear of owing $30K in student loans and not having anything to show for it, because my mind told me, “who is going to hire you after only finishing your first year?” When I was deciding where to move after I’d been laid off from my job in Philadelphia, it was either move to the West Coast or to Boston. In Boston, I had a friend. On the West Coast, I had no one. Again, the fear is what made my decision for me. Moving to Boston, while exciting in its own right, was the safer alternative. I had a place to stay when I first got there. I would have someone to lean on. I let fear have the power over my choices.
Three years ago, I made a decision that had been a long time in the making. (I know that now, but couldn’t bring myself to recognize it and acknowledge it for a long time.) I left my husband, complete with a lot of fear. I was afraid I couldn’t make it on my own. Afraid I would be too lonely to handle things. Afraid that I couldn’t handle things financially on my own (even though I knew many years before, I had done it on my own.) Afraid I wouldn’t make friends of my own (at the time, I could probably count on one hand the true friends I had who were not friends through my marriage and his friends.) Afraid I was making a mistake for leaving such a good person with such a good heart. What if we ended up never speaking again?
That was the first time I really pushed through my fear. Not without lots of tears and heartache, I assure you. I moved out, not knowing where I would live past the immediate next few nights of sleeping on my brother’s futon in his finished basement. I moved out, not knowing when I could get my cats out of boarding. I moved out, not knowing how all of this was supposed to go.
I made some missteps along the way on the friendship route. I made friends with people younger than me, and with whom I mistakenly thought I had more in common. Sometimes people told me that I tried too hard to be friends with them, or that I would share too much with them, and again, there was that age thing always thrown in there as an added bonus as to why they didn’t want to be friends with me. It go to me so badly that I started to doubt myself with everyone I came across and was constantly worried someone would “drop me” in an instant. But, over time, I’ve come to recognize the true friends I have, and that they accept me for the way I am, “older” and all. And I’ve realized those others were not true friends. My life hasn’t “lessened” just because they are gone from it. But my true friends have added to my life, and I know that even when I move away, they will still be there for me and vice versa. There is one in particular whom I love as a sister, and she’s the one I would hate to leave the most. But I also know she understands me the most too and will support me no matter what I decide to do with my life and where I choose to live it. And there are a few good other ones, who, despite a distance of at least 1,000 miles, still maintain that friendship with me, and I don’t see that changing.
When I first started writing this blog, someone told me that they liked it, and partly because I didn’t over-share too much. Again, that was a fear I had, based on the missteps of friendship I’d gone through recently. I’ve even been afraid to write too often, or to write posts that are too long, for fear that someone may not want to read through them. So, today is an exercise in breaking out of that fear, of writing when I need to write, and not worrying how it will be accepted or understood.
I’m very afraid of switching careers, and of moving to a place where I don’t have the established contacts like I do have here. I’m afraid of building my own house or owning my own property because what if something breaks down and I can’t fix it? (After all, I’m the girl who broke down in tears in the hot heat and humidity of an August day 3 years ago when I couldn’t figure out how to put a basic fan together.) What if I move out there and can’t find work? Or can’t find a place I can afford? I know that these events will be a few years in the making because I am taking the somewhat safe route of maintaining my full time job and paying down debt so there will be more of a cushion when I make the big move. But they are still out there, and I’m still afraid of failing. I think that’s what it comes down to. Fear of failing. I’m still afraid of failing at a lot of things, but I’ve made some strides in dealing with those fears over the last few years. I decided to take the CPT test through NASM, and I passed it on the first try. I’m now preparing for the CES exam through NASM so that I will have more confidence in myself and my knowledge when I try to find a personal training job for the first time. (I always feel like I have to have a lot of knowledge before I try to teach something to someone else.)
To me, those were important first steps. Not the giant leaps others might take, but I think we all work at our own speeds. And I’m hoping that Four Lights Tiny House workshop I’m attending next weekend will help lessen some of my other fears. And that it will confirm that I am now on the right, albeit scary, path. I’d be dishonest, though, if I didn’t admit that a small part of me is afraid something catastrophic could happen between now and then which will prevent me from following those dreams. See, there it is again. That little “four-letter-word.” So, in case I don’t do it enough on my own, just remind me from time to time, I’ve come a long way. I can do this. I can chase my dreams and make them happen.
Thank you for reading – this has been a blog post a long time in the making.
3 thoughts on “FEAR”
I can understand where you’re coming from and what I’m about to suggest isn’t easy for me either. Turn some of that fear on its side and look at how brave you were in those situations. Maybe even post what you come up with here in the comments. It’ll be a great exercise for you (and those of us who have similar fears) to see what you really have accomplished! Keep writing for yourself. The rest will follow.
It takes courage to write a post like this Terri.
We’re all different in our tolerance for uncertainty. It sounds as if your brother has a high value for uncertainty but I can guarantee you that he likes certainty in some parts of his life. You’ve taken many leaps in life; give yourself more credit. “Fear” is a big buzzword right now and we’re prompted to feel bad when we want certainty in areas of life. Comparing ourselves to others is dis-empowering. Taking stock of where you’re holding back in some area that you truly value and working through that hesitancy is empowering. No point in looking back . . . keep looking forward, focusing on what YOU value, and doing what’s right for YOU is empowering. You’ve got ‘the right stuff’ girl . . . go get um!
Awesome blog post!!! Terri you can do it….I often called you the most educated person that I know. You can look at the educational accomplishments you’ve made….two doctorates! Pretty amazing. You have a super solid head on your shoulders. And yes, as beachmama mentioned, I do value certainty in parts of my life for sure.
And the amazing part is that you have been taking steps, so fear in reality really doesn’t have as much hold on you as you think :).
Onward and Upward! Go for it! I’m really proud of you,
-Little Bro 🙂