…what path, then?
From the abstract to the explicit, fear has many faces, and as some of us know too well, spans great distances and knows no cutoff age. To the youngins who read RtB: any adult who tells you that you grow more courageous and clear-minded as you get older is, well, clearly not thinking clearly. And he/she is probably scared of a lot of stuff. That’s why those of us who’ve had an epiphany of sorts need to share. We’re out there. We just need a forum where we can write our stories. Hey, wait.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an intense need to be accepted, liked, appreciated: the typical right-brained, overachieving, insecure performer’s bane. It really didn’t matter what the activity was — music, writing, dancing, sports, games — where personal (outward) performance was concerned, I had to be as good or better than anyone else. As you might correctly surmise, I was disappointed on many occasions. That, in no small way, explains much about my secretly obsessive personality — and from whence/whom it originated. But that is a story for another day. Back to fear.
As a result, I spent many years in fear of being found out; discovered for the jiggly, scared-crapless mound of goo I really was. To stave off that inevitability, I added more and more mountains in my path. You know, just to prove to people that I could climb them and get across to the other side — where hopefully someone would clap. In other ways, I avoided the hard stuff, choosing instead to do things I knew I could master. The fear of being viewed as a failure was, if nothing else, an intensely effective motivator; I was an absolute slave to it. And I’m not referring to some time Long Ago and Far Away, fiends. We’re talking as recently as a stone’s throw back some months. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve decided not to allow old ghosts to rule the day so easily anymore. Fun is the priority now.
So, back to the question. I wonder what I would have/could have done had I not been completely ruled by the fear of failure and non-acceptance. Would I have risked it all and gone to New York when I had the chance in 1978? Would I have chosen English instead of music as a college major (which actually almost happened), and thrown myself into being a serious writer instead of a teacher? Those two decisions (not going to NY and choosing a music major) were both, quite honestly, made out of abject fear.
[Insert beautiful sunrise music here.]
But really, it’s all about how you look at things, isn’t it? (What would I do had Seamus and Lars, Helen and Hannah, my beautiful grandsons, my fantastic stepchildren, and the Thriller not come into my life? I shudder to think.) You can’t change the past; the best you can do is make some sense and purpose out of it, and use it to make a better future. Lucky for me, I’m doing just that. Everything in my life happened for a reason, as cliché as that may sound. Same goes for you. But I wonder, for those of us who stayed on the “safe” side:
What would you have done differently had you not been afraid of the repercussions? Do you regret taking the path of least resistance? Not taking big chances to realize the big dream?
Are you aware that it’s not too late?
Gutsy post for someone so fearful. I’ll have to give the question added consideration.
I am reminded of the Wizard of Oz who told the Lion he was confusing courage with Wisdom. Things don’t get less scary as one grows older, but if we’re just a little smarter than a box of rocks, we can acquire a little wisdom along the way.
One other thought to add: Just because you might be pretty good at something does not necessarily make it a good career choice. Do what you love. Ask me how I know.