“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked.” — Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Fear has guided my life for far longer than I ever imagined it would. From the time I was a child, until well into my teen years, I feared my mother. Don’t get me wrong, my mother loves me. She is a kind, generous soul, and she would never harm me. I didn’t physically fear her. I feared disappointing her. I feared her finding out I wasn’t the perfect child she once saw when I was little. This fear was best demonstrated in my inability to curse until I was an adult. To this day, I do not curse around my mother, though I no longer fear her knowing that I do occasionally let one fly.
Fear has shaped my love life as well. When I met my first husband, we were teenage kids, but it felt like the love was real. He proposed the summer after we graduated high school, and then, a little over a month later, I found out I was pregnant. He left for boot camp, and I thought things were going to be perfect. However, while he was gone, fear started to seep into my mind. I didn’t know if I wanted to marry him anymore. I didn’t know if I loved him. But, I feared being alone, being wrong and having to raise a baby by myself. So, I went through with the wedding and stayed married for several years, even though we were both unhappy, because I was afraid to leave.
Once I did leave, I move back in with my parents and started to take dead-end jobs. I never thought I’d be able to go back to school. I feared rejection. But, one day, I sent in the application, and I was accepted to The Ohio State University. My first quarter was a little tough, but after that, I took off. I got A after A in my classes, and I graduated with magna cum laude, with research distinction and several awards. I decided that I would never let fear control my life again.
I took a job at the local newspaper, and then I was offered another job at a NC publication, so I packed up and moved to NC. When I moved, I started dating, and in a short amount of time, I went out with several men, only to realize that they were only after one thing — and it wasn’t commitment. So, when I met my current husband, I latched onto him like a mollusk. I loved him, but I always had reservations because he had a sketchy past, no discernible work history, and twisted logic. But, I shoved all of that aside out of love, but also out of fear. After seven years as a single woman, I was afraid that this was it for me. So, I forced away all of the bad, and focused on the little good that rose to the surface, determined to make the relationship work.
If you’re read my blogs, you know how all that turned out. I was afraid to tell anyone about the name-calling. I was afraid to tell anyone about the holes in the walls. I was afraid to tell anyone about anything that was going on in our marriage. I didn’t want people to judge him. And, I wanted to make this work — I was afraid of letting my mother and my family down again.
When I finally did make him leave, fear rushed in again, but not in the form you would think. I was left a victim, and I do occasionally still fear what would happen if he decided to make that trip back. But that is not the fear that took over. The fear I have now is fear of the future, and I’m sick of feeling this way. I had an epiphany today – Fear has been linked to every bad decision I have made in my life. Fear does not keep something from happening. The fear of being alone did not keep me from where I am right now — sitting in a house alone, facing another divorce. Fear of disappointing my family did not keep me from doing just that as I let my ex come back again and again despite all he had done. Fear of my sister dying did not keep her from passing away on May 30 of this year. Instead, it that fear just got in the way of enjoying the time I got to spend with her before she passed.
That is what the pain of this year has taught me. Of all the emotions in my brain, fear is the one that is useless. Sure, there are legitimate things that you can attribute to fear — like locking your doors at night because you have a fear of someone breaking in. Fear for our lives and livelihoods is what keeps us safe in our day-to-day lives. But, that is not the fear that I am talking about.
I have done nothing but fear the world and the future my entire life. In return, that fear hindered me and kept me from making positive decisions throughout my last two decades. So, instead of being fearful about the coming year, I instead look at 2015 as a year of transformation and hope — a year where maybe, just maybe, everything is going to start turning around. I will walk into 2015 with no fear, a new sense of freedom and an open heart. I hope that you can do the same.