Monday, December 9, 2013

Fighting Our Fears

When I was 19, I decided to apply for a study abroad in London, England. (I feel that I should specify, because when I lived in the Midwest I drove sometimes drove past London, Ohio. Also Versailles, Indiana, which they pronounced Ver-sails.)

I remember thinking, "This is my one chance to see the world. After this, I will be content with the rest of my life as a humble English teacher in a small western town."

So I applied for this study abroad and wrote an essay about how reading A Tale of Two Cities changed my life when I was 15, and I made London playlists and dreamed of going to the Globe for several months. I got into the program and got my passport. I purchased a plane ticket and some new clothes.

My plane ride to London was the first I'd ever taken alone. I was going to arrive without a cell phone and without any idea about how I would get to the place where I was staying once I landed. I didn't really know the other people who would be there.

As it turned out, conquering London wasn't nearly as hard as I was afraid it would be. And after I learned how to get around London, it was easy to brave York, Durham, Stratford . . . Paris. And I remember this moment when I realized that I could do anything. I could go anywhere. The world was mine and I wasn't afraid of it.

I have since explored many cities (mostly on foot, which I think might be easier): Toronto, Edinburgh, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis, San Antonio. I went back to London. I moved to another state for grad school. I ended up in a relationship that went from long-standing friendship to romance very quickly, and it freaked me out but was ultimately so wonderful that I married him. I moved to and from Texas. I had a baby. I did so many things that I was terrified to do, and they resulted in some of the best parts of my life.

I've been thinking about fear lately. I recently went to an inspirational conference for women, and one of the speakers said that there are four types of fear.
  1. Fear of disappointment
  2. Fear of change or bad things
  3. Fear of failure
  4. Fear of success
I think we all struggle with all of these types of fear, but sometimes I think fear of success is the most dangerous. We fear we will succeed and it will be amazing, and then maybe more will be expected of us. We become our own worst enemies. We foil our own efforts because we are terrified of what we will do if we find out we can accomplish more than we think we can. Stupid, right? (And yet ironically, at this conference there were a bunch of drawings for prizes, and part of me was a little relieved I didn't win because I didn't want to scream for the jumbo-tron or find a way down to the stage from my place high in the arena. Really. That is a thing I was afraid of.) 

My favorite thing that the speaker said was something like this: Peace is not the thing you feel when you face your fears - it's what you feel right after you do. There is peace on the other side of brave. 

Never let your fears keep you from participating fully in your own life. You can listen to your fears - but if they are stopping you from doing something that has the potential to be amazing, fight them off and jump right in. You will be amazed at how the world will open up to you. 

1 comment:

2windsong said...

Megan, this is wonderful! You've really hit on something here. I've traveled a bit, too, but the greatest call for bravery came in a very different sort of situation for me. And I came away from that experience with a similar enlightenment: I can face anything. I can. I will deal with whatever. I'm not going to like some things, but I know that I can get through it, even if it literally kills me. Kind of the same thing, no? Love you.