What are you afraid of?
Spiders or Purgatory? Death or Taxes? Being alone?
The truth for most of us (all of us) is that our lives are defined more by our fears than our dreams or our joys. How many opportunities have slipped through your fingertips because you were too afraid to pursue them?
Despite what some people may think of me, I am naturally a quite timid person. At least, that’s how I imagine myself. Yet…
From a young age, I was one to face my fears head on, often to detrimental effect. This is not to say that I was a risk taker in the traditional sense. Far from it, if I am being honest (if I am being honest is always the question). My immediately older brother was the one who did stupid human tricks on his bicycle or gleefully indulged in the kind of risky behavior that inevitably earned him broken noses, ruptured spleens and other assorted injuries. I was more cautious when it came to my physical body.
Still, when it came to matters of the mind or heart, I tended to put myself out there. Well before I should have been fighting the good fight as one of God’s Good Lil Soldiers, I was trying to convert my unsaved friends to the faith. I’m talking, 2nd and 3rd grade. Now, as an atheist, I could look back at my attempts at premature proselytization as a point of shame. But frankly, I have to feel a little pride in the fact that I had the guts to stand so firmly on what I believed in (even if it was a load of horse hockey).
As for other, non-religious examples of my mostly unsuccessful bouts of bravery, there was my penchant for admitting to girls when I had mad crushes on them. This rarely (read: never) worked out for me, but I did it again and again, all the way into college. If there was a girl I liked, I would almost invariably stir for weeks (or months) with thoughts of desire as I worked up the courage to come out to them. And when I did… bam! shot down like Lincoln at a play.
I don’t think I converted a single person to my religion (thank God), and I know I never won a girl’s affection back in the day.
So what did all that ‘bravery’ do for me?
Well, it taught me that I could take a punch to the gut.
I live every moment with the fear. Every year I move, leaving behind a steady paycheck to I look for work while the bills mount up and my bank account dwindles. Every year I separate myself from friendships and relationships that have only just begun to spark into something substantial. Every day I face the very real possibility that the essentially ridiculous life path I set myself on nearly 5 years ago has no purpose and no endgame. Every day, I face the fear:
I will fall on my face.
I very well may. From the beginning, when I used to (semi) joke with my college roommates that I would spend the next 10 years after graduation being homeless, I was hinting at a reality I had only barely thought out. The truth is, I have no idea what the next month brings, let alone the next year. Let alone the next decade.
We go to college to add a layer of security to our future. We say, “At least with a college degree I’ll be able to get a real job.” We want financial security, we want to know that we’ll be able to pay rent and buy groceries, not just this month but for the next 10 years. And if nothing else, that’s the bare minimum a college degree should guarantee us. (Along with all that personal fulfillment and accomplishment crap.)
Yet, I have a college degree, and I can say honestly that I’m not sure how I’ll pay rent next month.
Boy, that’s stupid. I threw away all of my security so I could live in fear.
I honestly don’t know.
But I do know I wouldn’t give up the fear for all the security in the world. It’s when I’m not afraid that I start to get bored.
What are you afraid of?
Quitting the safe job? Moving away from your family? Ending a relationship that’s safe? Pursuing a dream?
If you’re not afraid, how do you know you’re alive?
I’m not offering advice (I have none), I’m merely asking questions.