On Fear

Hello, blogosphere! I know my hiatus from this barely-began blog is inexcusable, but I’ve been a victim of Thrownness (refer to my last blog if you have no idea what I’m talking about) over the past few weeks. It’s ironic how one can so simply forget their own advice when weathering a storm.

Today I’m going to talk with you about something I know very well – that deep, dark, insurmountable sensation that creeps up quite suddenly, or perhaps never really subsides, when you’re faced with a certain situation. It can control an hour, a day, a week, a year, a lifetime. It can pull you off that path you’ve paved with positivity and faith. It can mean the difference between being who you are and being who you want to be.

ON FEAR

Everyone is afraid of something: spiders, airplanes, heights, clowns. For some people, fear roots itself in something deeper than tangible objects. I’ve known people that were afraid of going to parties, or of going to sleep, or of failing, or even of being afraid at all.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s just not like all the other emotions we have, is it? There are plenty of emotions we feel like we have somewhat of a handle on. We can hide our anger. We can embrace our happiness. We can talk ourselves out of being envious or offended – at least for a little while. But that damn Fear, It just seems to have an essence of Its own, doesn’t It? You usually can’t tell It to go away; the most you can do is try to pay less attention to It, and a lot of times that only makes you look at It more. Fear is a knife at your neck, promising to end everything if you do that one thing. You’re not always certain why Fear is so threatening, but you never think to question it twice. So often you simply obey it, and stop yourself from doing something – even something you love.

Me? I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of doing badly in school. I’m afraid of finding a new job. I’m afraid of spending money and of transferring to a faraway college and of illness and of falling in love and of scary movies and outer space and the meaning of life and – ah, life is just one big horror story!

Except that it isn’t.

There have only been a handful of times that I’ve truly had to face my fears.  The most memorable was my first semester at college; at the time, I was afraid of change. I’d just started college and so many things in my life had gone topsy-turvy. My lifelong friends had scattered all over the country. I had just started my first waitressing gig and all of my coworkers were older, meaner, and unbearably broken. Who am I, I began to ask myself helplessly. Why am I here? What do I do now? I was too afraid to go away to college – financial instability was another fear I had at the time – but even after staying home, things were still a-changing. Things were scary.

At least I had a house, though, right?

Wrong.

The months leading up to Hurricane Sandy were terror-filled. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I’d rediscovered my ability to have panic attacks – something I went through as a freshman but quickly faded, seemingly just another faze to add to the High School breakdown repertoire. If one change happens to me, I thought to myself daily, I’m certain to fall apart. I’ll lose it. They’ll bury me and put on my tombstone, “Here Lies A Girl Who Tried To Live, and Failed Miserably.” The thought process wasn’t logical, but at the time it seemed very real to me. I was afraid of change – and everything was changing.

The night the storm reared its ugly head across Long Island, I drove about the island with my parents. We sped from town to town, struggling to find a location that wasn’t barred by mini lakes in the street. Although not everything was completely realized, a few things we knew for sure: our entire neighborhood was under at least three feet of water. Our house was quite literally done for; so was our rental property. Grandma’s house was flooded, too – the 85-year-old woman was hiding in the attic with my Uncle, waiting for a rescue team to arrive. My Dad’s marine repair shop and all his customer’s boats were being washed down the street. We were homeless – and we weren’t sure how long that would be for.

In the back seat of Dad’s Ford pickup truck, I had a sudden moment of clarity:

This is it. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me – no, the worst thing that has ever happened to the East Coast. If I’m going to fall apart, now’s the time.

But I can’t. I can’t fall apart. What’s the point? I have to live. There’s no option.

I have to live through it. I have to survive.

hurricane

My sister took this picture a few weeks after the storm. Cedar Beach – one of my family’s favorite summer hangouts.

And I did. Day by day, I grew stronger. So strong, in fact, that I felt as if I could take on the world. I had even less than I started with when the fears began to consume me, but suddenly I realized just how little one needs to be happy. Confidence was the bridge that helped me cross the horror; faith was the nails that held everything together. I was a new girl with reformed ideas of the meaning of life.

If I were an idealist, I would end this blog right here. I would tell you that things get better and stay that way. I would tell you that after crossing the bridge, you run so fast you lose sight of it; you forget what it’s like to be unconfident and mortified by the future that lay ahead.

But it doesn’t.

This is something I’m currently trying to find the beauty in. I’ve crossed that bridge again – and I’ve run so fast in the opposite direction, I’ve quite forgotten what it was like to be on the other side! But that’s the game, isn’t it? Finding the bridge; rebuilding it, time after time, as you approach new fears hurdles in life. There will always be something to be afraid of, some dark essence for you to overcome.

But you know what, readers? It’s invigorating. Even when the path gets dark and lonely, even when you don’t think you’ll ever be able to overcome It, there’s a certain beauty in this world’s journey. Each time you cross a bridge, you get a little wiser. It takes longer for some people to cross them than others – but as long as you keep trying, as long as you stand to face It, you’ll suddenly find yourself on the other side.

And let me tell you – the view is magnificent.

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