What Not to Fear

I’m moving to Europe. London, specifically. The order just came down, actually; I start my MA in Digital Media in September of 2016, officially official as of this week. My junior year of college, when I studied and lived abroad for seven months, my heart was forever restless in the best of ways, continuously flinging itself back and forth between the cities of London and Paris, of England and France, of my new practical and my forever romanticized life; and when I left, I left without it. So going back was never really a choice so much as an obligation, obedience to a directive from my own pursuit of happiness.

Funny how some of us are born with that wonder bug. “Wanderlust,” some call it: the urge to travel and see or emigrate or bridge the gap within ourselves through geographical sojourns. I’ve known for fifteen months, since the week of my return from London Heathrow in time for the start of my senior year, to whence I’d be returning and how I’d be getting there; my only decisions have been which school, what programme, how long to wait here and build capital. And over the course of that fifteen months, my mother has been through the stages of grief: the denial, the anger, and, finally, the reluctant acceptance. Even now, her resistance stems from that same old fear of distance and danger, a fear, I realize, that cannot be mine.

When I heard of the Paris attacks, my first instinct was to not tell her. If she knew of the horrors befalling parts of the world so near to my destination, so close to the place of my heart, all of our progress would unravel, and she’d never warm to the idea of my going. She fears the dangers that lurk in cosmopolitan cities, where the malicious seek to do the most damage with the least effort, and she is not wrong to consider this. However, slowly I began to reason through the initial scare. I was gradually reminded of the dangers that lurk even here, in this cosmopolitan city, sixth largest in the nation, and the malicious intent born here within. Should I relocate to New York City or LA, the number of aggressors may increase, yes, but the truth is still the same: we need no help to offend ourselves here at home; wherever I choose to build my life, not even there am I free of danger.

These attacks came weeks after I retrieved my car from an impound lot, following the theft of my precious Honda from my own place of residence in Houston proper. In these weeks following the attacks, another member of my family awaits word on his own stolen property, taken from his home during a break-in that cost him thousands of dollars in belongings and a few scrapes and bruises. I think back to the threats in my grade school, the violence in small southern towns that have been broadcast along with slogans and protests – and all those that have gone unreported. I think of the random woman I met at an interview waiting room who spoke of surviving a vicious attack and attempted rape in Memorial, and the attacker’s other victims who weren’t lucky enough to escape with their virtue. When my car was taken and then recovered with damages, I was appalled by the senseless abuse I had to sustain on account of someone else’s criminal acts and simultaneously was made aware of the fact that the danger of theft and loss, of murder and malicious intent, are, sadly, common themes among both big and small cities. And just in the few months since I’ve graduated, two of us in my family have lost our belongings to those who chose to disregard our right to what is ours.

My sophomore year of college, I visited my cousin who works in New York City. We toured the footprints of the twin towers together and she somberly recounted to me the events of the day she escorted scores of children from the World Trade daycare center as the towers came crashing down around them. She works now as a director of education in the same part of town. When I asked her if she was afraid, she replied that she had chosen not to be; she knew where she lived; she would never forget what had happened there. But fear was not to have any limiting power over the life she was blessed enough to keep.

I’m moving to Europe next year. I’ll try my hand at a London life, rubbing elbows with half the world on the Tube to and from school. And I’m going in spite of 9/11 and the Paris Attacks, knowing exactly what I’m choosing, aware that I’m choosing what not to fear.

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