Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Food for Fear

In the morning before work I generally use the internet a little bit. Check the weather, maybe my horoscope, glance at email. I peruse a bit more carefully if I’m going to elementary school that day and will thus be without internet access (or, really, time to look at the internet anyway). This morning I downloaded some stuff I had been ignoring for a while.. my winter trip flight itinerary (in case I wanted to do some plannin’ in my downtime at school), the recontracting forms I’m not sure are for me (they might be just for high-school JETs).

Those damn things are due February 4th! That’s like, way soon.

As I was driving to school today (totally against the rules, but I can’t find my bus card, and the buses would be too late to make my connections anyway because of construction down by the river) I watched the wind tear through the woods and toss leaves around, stared at the tree branches lifting over grey stone garden walls, and considered that I might stay another year. Of course this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and my leanings have changed more deeply than I’d thought they might.

Being away for another year would be hard. But for me, “it’s difficult” almost goes on the list of reasons to do a thing, rather than not do it. I’m a bit ruthless when it comes to what I expect of myself. The idea of turning away from a task, project, or anything because “it’s hard” is appalling. I expect far greater things of myself than that.

Although doing something just because it’s difficult is pretty stupid, I sometimes think that I operate that way anyway. Maybe I think things that are difficult are more meaningful because they come with struggle. You get out of a thing what you put into it.. you know, chemical equations, college, life, etc. So not only have you gotta give what you do your best shot, you’ve got to be in a place that demands a lot of you.

Until, of course, you grow out of that horrible phase of treating yourself so harshly, and give yourself a damn break.

You may recall a weekend in September when I went white water rafting. There was a point at which people got out of their boats and jumped off high rocks into the water. It took only a little coaxing from the raft guides to get me onto the third rock (the highest, I guess? I think there was one more higher) before anyone had jumped off of it yet. It was absolutely freaking petrifying. The prep, the jump, the fall, the water-hitting, every moment of the experience of flinging myself from a rock 12 meters above the river was a study of how to be EmLem, scared.

I knew it would be, because of a day I spent at the Lawrence pool when I lived there. One afternoon at the tail end of summer, I took myself there while Dre was at work. I lay about, disappointed that the lily pads were not only too small for me, but closed. I shrugged and thought I’d try the high dive. I was surprised to find that it was terrifying. There’s something horrible about the moment of free fall, when you’re not strapped to anything or belted in to any contraption, just you, mostly naked, falling through the air. I knew, logically, that it was safe. I knew this even better after doing it.. there I was, I’d survived, there was no harm (besides bathing suit wedgie). But after doing it once, the memory of that moment of midair panic was much more salient. I pulled myself out of the water, wanting to do it again; I was so interested in my own terror that I wanted to recreate that contrast between intense fear and known safety.

That day, I jumped off the high dive again and again. The midair fear never lessened, never went away. It was much more intense above the river because I had way too much time to look down, realize what I was doing, and not have a single ounce of control over any of it at that point.

And the reason I do these things to myself, I think, is partly that one of my greatest fears is fear. And I know that’s kind of played out by now. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, etc. Harry Potter and the boggart in the wardrobe, so on and so forth. But what I’ve always been afraid of is missing out on something, missing an opportunity, wasting something, something like time, like life. And I know somewhere deep that fear is one ugly bastard that will stand between you and the fulfillment of your potential, between you and the breadth and depth of experience you should be able to have in your life. And I won’t have it. I won’t stand for that shit. I have to defy fear because I need to know I can best it daily. If I can’t beat it in the little things, how on earth can I hope to top it in the big?

I’m sure that’s all very ironic. The end result is, sometimes I work harder, not smarter. Sometimes I do stuff just because it’s hard.

1 comment:

  1. Truer words were never spoken. Fear is something we all grapple with. And sometimes, you reach that point in your life when your kids teach YOU.