I’ve heard tell that fear is faith that it won’t work out. It doesn’t matter what IT is – new job, new relationship, move to a new city – whatever. You’d think that the older we get, the less likely we are to be afraid. Armed with decades of life experience, various degrees of formal schooling, and a list of minor, yet not insignificant achievements that would stretch from here to the Balaton, you’d think that I’d have gotten over my fears. But no. There’s always the one remaining.
I did a quick search for the top ten fears and while Google coughed up a litany of lists, most didn’t vary much at all, so let’s use this one.
- Fear of flying (What’s the worst that can happen? I die. Am I afraid of death? No)
- Fear of public speaking (The cheapest, legal high you can get – ditto re the death thing)
- Fear of heights (It occasionally bothers me but not enough to stop me climbing)
- Fear of the dark (It has never been an issue as long as I’m not conscious that I’m in the dark – I know I am obviously, but if it’s not stated, then I’m fine)
- Fear of intimacy (Nope – not if there’s trust involved)
- Fear of death (Nope – there are worse things in life than death)
- Fear of failure (One to come back to)
- Fear of rejection (As above)
- Fear of spiders (Not afraid of them, just don’t like them)
- Fear of commitment (I grew out of it – but there was a time when I wouldn’t commit to a six-month magazine subscription)
So we have two possibles – and both are closely linked – fear of failure and fear of rejection. In 99% of my life, I fear neither. Failure is relative. What might seem like failure to you, could be a huge achievement for me. Rejection, in my book, says more about those doing the rejecting than those being rejected. Better to know the score, I say, than wonder …
But that other 1% – the dream I’ve been harbouring for more years than I care to remember, the dream of being a published author whose books sell – that small percentage is rife with fear. I have been afraid to go for it not because I am afraid that I will fail, or that my work (and therefore me) will be rejected, but because of the void it will leave if I discover that my dream won’t come true. As long as I don’t try, I will always have hope, I can always dream.
American philosopher Henry James Thoreau said: Do not lose hold of your dreams and aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live. And this is what I’m most afraid of.
I have very little in the way of ambition. I’ve never been one to want power and glory and string of initials after my name. I’ve never coveted a corner office on the top floor or wanted a private secretary, a personal assistant, and a chauffeur-driven limo. I’ve never held out any hope of winning a Nobel prize or discovering something that would change the world for the better. My aspirations are much more refined – to live as well as I can for as long as I can, doing the least amount of harm and the most amount of good. That, and to have no regrets. And yet, from the day I chose my first book from a shelf in the village library, I’ve wanted to have my own book there, too. In the intervening years, I’ve managed to be sure that I have never had the time to write seriously. And when I’ve felt the urge get a tad stronger, I’ve found other work to occupy my time, justifying it all by telling myself that I need to pay the bills.
But last week, the subject of fear came up in conversation, as did death and dying. I decided that enough was enough. I realised that I would simply hate to die wondering. So I’ve signed up with a mentor whom I believe has the fortitude necessary to deal with my excuses and procrastinations and the talent and know-how I need to help me master this craft. Watch this space. If all fails and this dream turns to dust, I can always vacuum.
This week, I’m grateful to those who utter seemingly innocuous comments and throw-away remarks that lodge in my brain and make me think. And I’m grateful that such thinking occasionally leads to action.