I know. This seems like an odd question. We all know what fear is, right? It’s that feeling you get when you have to speak on front of a crowd or walk along a dirt road at night. It’s the heart-pounding, blood-shivering shakes just before you walk down the aisle to get married or when your phone rings at 3 am. All these things we know. We experience. We live. We even accept them.
But there’s more to fear than that. A lot more.
My day job is the ‘ho-hum’ grind of working at a convenience store. I know. Glamorous, right? But I actually learn a lot there. Every day I see people who’ve let fear overtake them. I see clients of the local methadone clinic and businessmen who can’t get through the day without their six pack of beer. I hear horror stories of the woman who’s afraid to leave an abusive husband and see the frustration of the man who works in a factory because he was never able to finish college. I see these things, and I learn.
Here’s the gist.
Fear isn’t just that feeling of terror we get in the dark. It isn’t just the jitters caused by a job interview. Fear is an all-pervasive thing that keeps us from achieving our dreams. It’s the surety that we need the day job, that we can’t seek something better. It’s the knowledge that no one will notice if we publish that book we’ve always dreamed of writing. It’s the complacency we experience in a marriage that has long died, yet we cleave to our spouses anyway. It’s the mask we wear to be ‘professional’ and accepted. Fear is being all that we are not.
Security is a wonderful thing. Knowing that you’ll get up and go to work, that the bills will be paid, that someone will hold you while you sleep – all these are what we strive for, what we work toward, what we cling to. But, in the end, are they simply masking our fear? Do they mask a fear of rejection or of change? Do we hide behind them so we don’t have to face the unknown?
I know I do.
So, my vow to myself is this: I will not walk in fear. I will write whether anyone reads it or not. I will seek a better job. I will define my dreams, and I will reach for them, even if others stand against me. I will embrace the unknown and the unknowable, and I will be myself.