Ever since I can remember, I have been afraid.
When I was little, it was the simple things, afraid of the dark (who am I kidding, still am), afraid of snakes in the toilet, afraid of a monster being under my bed, afraid of the eternal damnation of my soul, and my relative’s souls.
You know, normal stuff.
When I used to go to church, I was told to fear the world and to fear people that were not part of the church. I was told to fear Harry Potter. I was told to fear people of different faiths. I was told to fear queer people (AKA myself). I was told to fear the end of the world.
When I grew up and left the church, I still indulged in fear. I feared being raped. I feared being gay. And wouldn’t you know, those things came true.
I develop PTSD as a result of my assault. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more afraid of the world, I somehow unlocked a new level.
I became afraid of men. I became afraid and sensitive to loud noises. I feared being home alone because hearing the cats move around made me nervous that someone was in the house with me. I lived my entire life just operating on survival mode. Every time a fear diminished, a new fear would emerge to take its place.
I felt so small and afraid.
Then the pandemic happened. A million fears flickering across my brain like ticker tape scrolling at all hours of the day. I lost my job and just like that, another worst fear comes true. You might think at this point, I would lie down or scream or spiral further.
Surprisingly, I did none of those things.
Instead, I gave up on being afraid. I know that may sound odd, but it’s the best way I can describe it. I realized I was just tired of it. It was exhausting carrying this fear with me all the time, it was like a heavy burden I had never learned to set down. I began writing this blog and confronting my fears and hopes head-on.
I decided to take a two-month road trip across the country, by myself. The top question I was asked, over and over, was “aren’t you afraid?” I would smile and respond, “No, I’m excited!” The old me would never have done what I was able to do in those two months. She would have stayed home afraid. That would have been a shame.
I met so many friendly, kind, nice people on my trip. I was invited to dine with strangers, told about hidden treasures by locals, rescued from the mud by a couple with shovels. I hiked up a mountain with a nurse that had seen the worst of the pandemic and was given water by strangers on the way down when I had run out. I met two people that made sure I had the safest route home and walked me to my car because it was dark.
As a child of a single mom, I have always felt taken care of by those around me. I have seen these adults in my life as extended family. This felt like an extension of that.
The world I was taught to fear my whole life turned out not to be so evil after all.
I think the world is what you make it. It is not wholly evil and it is not wholly good. If you believe in the good intentions of others and open yourselves to them, you will be surprised at what comes your way.
If you choose to live in fear, you will walk through this world constantly seeking validation for that belief. You will close yourself off to wonderful experiences because you will be too focused on the harm that could come to you.
My worst fears came true and I am still here. I survived and I know I can survive. I don’t want to sacrifice my joy at the altar of fear anymore.