Let’s talk for a second about what I fear.
I fear I’ll always live paycheck to paycheck and will always feel tethered to my debt.
I fear I’ll be single forever. Just the other day my crush walked past me, and I stared so hard at the ceiling I almost levitated. For as extroverted as I can act, I’m shy around men I don’t know. People who are single have to take responsibility for their part in their singledom, and that’s a large part of mine. See man, hide face! He looked at me – gah! Abort, abort, abort!
I fear I’ll die with regrets. My passport will be too empty and my experiences exploring my own country will be too few. I won’t ever feel true fulfillment with my career. That if I do have a book inside of me, I’ll never write it. That I didn’t tell that one person that one thing because I was worried what they’d think of me.
I fear people (will) pity me for being single. “Such a great girl, but never found love. It’s just so sad.”
Okay. There’s the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure I have more fears, but I can’t think of them all right now. We all have plenty of them; any self-respecting overthinker has more than her fair share.
In the short-term, I’m scared of my move to San Diego. Of the trip I just booked. (Which, I’ll be honest, I’m 50/50 scared and excited every time I book a trip. Doesn’t matter where or how long or with whom.) Of my triathlon next month. Of being so active but uninsured.
So let’s get something straight: I have just as many fears as everyone else. Possibly more. I freak out. I’ve had anxiety attacks. Ever had one of those? Mine started when I was trying to figure out my move from Taiwan back to the States, but I had the most severe one of my life after my former boss fired me over the phone earlier this year. They pop up every now and again.
I hear all the time about how brave I am. People are proud of me for having the courage to do something. I inspire them to take risks in their own lives. And when they are actually inspired, and actually follow through on their big scary goals because they saw me do it, that’s awesome.
Most of the time, though, when someone calls me brave, I feel like a giant fraud. I feel like I’ve been put up on some kind of weird pedestal I don’t deserve.
There’s nothing special about me, my friends. I’m scared, too.
But my biggest fear of all is letting fear run my life. Fear can become an idol, a controlling god, and if you give it power and allow it to control you, it will take over. It will consume you. It will disable you. It will throw you into a depression and make you feel you’ve lost control over your own life.
Most people aren’t completely paralyzed by this demon of self-imposed weakness. That’s good.
What’s not good is how fear keeps people from doing what they know, in the depths of their soul, they need to do. Moving. Being comfortable in their singlehood. Finding a new job. Saying yes. Saying no. Saying stop it. Telling someone how they really feel. Going to therapy. Making that big decision that will change everything. All kinds of -ings.
I’m not belittling anyone facing any of that. Because I’m standing right beside you. You’ve got your fears, I’ve got mine. Let’s hold hands and figure this out.
I manage my fears in a number of ways. My faith helps, especially because I believe God has a sense of humor; I realize I’ll look back on my current fears and laugh at myself. My family and friends help, to, especially because they’ll let me act out my little monologue of despair and then, once I’ve gotten it out of my system, talk me off the stage.
What helps most, especially in long-term management of my fear, is realizing I’ve made whatever it is out to be much larger, much more life-altering, and far more impactful than how it will truly be. Sometimes fear is warranted, but most of the time it’s just self-doubt.
I am not brave. Bravery requires staring down death and acting despite it. I’ve never done that.
I’m just a realist. That fear about living paycheck to paycheck and always having debt – it’s probably true, but I’m not suffering for it. My debt was incurred by traveling or by doing things that bring me joy. My debt, though it seems I’ll be paying it down perpetually, has given me a better quality of life. I’m not drowning. I have control. So… yeah.
That bit about being afraid of being single, and of being a total failure at flirting: I’m doing fine as a single woman. I know what I want in a man, so I’m pushing to be that kind of woman, and the more I become that woman and get to know people in those circles, the happier I am. And for as long as I’m single, I’ll be selfish and do what I want. I’ll move to San Diego. I’ll take trips to places most people don’t want to go. I’ll focus on my career, my friends, my hobbies, my physique.
Do I get lonely? Don’t be an idiot. Of course I do. But the times I’m lonely are generally the times I’ve allowed myself to wallow. I was wallowing earlier this week, so I called my mom, had her help me give myself permission to spend money on a trip, and then booked a trip to Nepal that night.
As for the whole flirting thing, I’m just really hoping that someday I actually levitate.
The final two fears I have, of having regrets and of people pitying me, I take care of by trying to say Yes as often as possible. How else was I talked into doing triathlons, half marathons, moving abroad, eating chicken feet, trying speed dating, doing Whole30, taking last-minute trips, and getting tattoos? Either someone else asked me to, and I said yes, or my crazy brain came up with some harebrained idea and I decided to make it work.
All that keeps me busy enough that most people, at least to my face, don’t pity me for being alone. I think it’s because they realize I’m not alone. I’m just single.
So there’s my long-winded secret. I have just as many fears as the next person. I’m not brave, and that’s a rumor that needs to go away because it’s unfair to actual brave people. I just manage my fears.
After all, really and truly: What’s the worst that could happen?