Friday, August 12, 2016

Thoughts on the Opposite of Fear

It's safe to say that the graduate school acceptance letter I got in April hit me like ton of bricks.

Which is weird, because that's usually what we say about bad things.
Yeah, Heather. "Tons of bricks" are for bad things. 
This is not a bad thing.
Get your shit together.
(that's been my broken record the past three months)

Which is probably why I haven't been writing much lately. I mean, what would I have to say?
"Yup, still scared.
Yup, still unsure how we're going to pay for this.
Yup, still feeling conflicted about this great opportunity and this incredible fear."

And again.
And again.

And that's not really an interesting read, so I've kept these things to myself. Well, myself and anyone who would listen. And I mean anyone, including--but not limited to--the nice guy who pulled up to the drive-through window where I make coffee and asked innocently enough, "How ya doing?" on a particularly rough day.

(Oh, he went there...)

But every day, in spite of my fear, I've been applying for loans.
Answering university emails.
Signing the lease for our apartment.
Interviewing for my internship.
Registering for classes.
Interviewing for my on-campus job.
Packing and re-packing our lives into boxes.
Because these are the steps I can handle.

But with one month left to go, I'm running out of steps. And I feel like I'm about to walk off a cliff. A very expensive cliff. And everyone's just cheering me on like it's the best thing ever. And I love them for it, but I legitimately do not know how to feel.

Because through their cheers and encouragement, all I want to say is:
"Yeah, but...what if we run out of money?"
"Yeah, but...what if this is the wrong master's program?"
"Yeah, but...what if it's all just too much?"
"Yeah, but...what if?"

And while, "Yeah, but...what if?" is a valid question, it's certainly not a very interesting one.

It's a defensive one.
It's a way of giving myself a soft landing in case I take this leap and it all falls apart.
And the answer to nearly every one of those "Yeah, but...what if?" questions is:
Well, then, you'll figure it out like you always do. 
Which isn't satisfying, but it's true.

It's true, because I cried when my parents left me at Union college and drove away. And it turned out to be some of the best years of my life thus far.

It's true, because every instinct told me not to go to Cambodia. And then, I did. And it was awful and hard. But it was also important and meaningful.

It's true, because I was sure I'd never make it through my student teaching. And then, I did.

It's true, because I had all kinds of worries about marriage, and now we're four years in and I've never been so loved so well.

It's true, because the panic attacks I had upon landing in Korea were not evidence that it was a big mistake, but evidence that it was just big.

The brave things are the hard things. And you can't get there without at least an ounce of fear. Fear isn't a signal that what we're doing is wrong. Fear is a signal that what we're doing is new and big and important.

And as Brene Brown says:
(found this while I was packing boxes today)

In yoga class this week, the instructor asked us to make an "I am..." statement about something we want to manifest more of in our lives. In my mind, I knew I was tired of being fearful, but I could not--for the life of me--figure out the word that meant the opposite of fear.
I am hope?
I am courage?
I am not fearful?

Like any good millennial, I Googled it and found that some antonyms for "fear" are:

But I wonder if a valid opposite to fear might also be acceptance.

Because, in many ways, fear is a resistance to what is happening or what is about to happen. And--my God--if I've been anything the past three months, it's resistant.

And I've fought a good fight.
I've come up with all kinds of reasons why this is a bad idea.
Why I simply cannot succeed.

But acceptance would be a radical approach I just haven't tried yet.
Acceptance would be saying:
Yeah, it will be hard.
Yeah, we might run out of money.
Yeah, it's a risk.
And we'll figure it out when (and if) we need to figure it out.

I can accept this.
I can be open to this.
Even though I'm scared.
I am still brave.

I am still brave.


Christoffer said...

Bravo. And I liked your sentences on what fear is and is not.