Who I was four years ago was onto something.
I was seventeen; I had never moved away from home – fear seemed to be coming at me from every angle with every second that I grew older.
Half of me was afraid to leave the comfort of home. The other half of me was afraid of what staying would look like. In the end, I did what so many high school graduates do: I moved away; I went to school.
I can vividly recall my arrival to Newberg, Oregon – to the place I would call home for one year. When it came time to say goodbye to my family, I couldn’t even watch them walk away. The door closed behind them, and I stood still in my box of a room – unknowingly on the other side of the door of fear.
Leading up to that moment in my life, I had experienced fear divided between the reality of staying in the familiarity of my hometown, and the reality of starting over in a place where the future was entirely ambiguous.
I am four years removed from that first Welcome Weekend (I would actually have three more welcome weekends during my undergraduate career – but I didn’t know this at the time). I’ve knocked on plenty of doors and walked through a handful of doorways to get to this point.
As I find myself in the midst of this post-undergraduate season, I am still coming face-to-face with fears that seem to always have two sides. Life deals heavily with choosing one’s fears. Certainly there are some things out of a person’s control, yet when it comes to pushing forward in any situation, the option to choose remains.
I’m learning that there is something to be said about choosing fear and choosing it with intent.
From the time I moved to Oregon for my first year of college, up to this current season of my life where I newly reside in Los Angeles, I have been required to make fear a friend as opposed to something that I either ignore or fall paralyzed to.
Until recently, I believed that fear was a sign of weakness. I looked at others and assumed that the happiness exuded through their pictures on social media indicated that they were simply unafraid, and therefore living life to the fullest. I desired to be unafraid and uninhibited in the ways that I assumed everyone else to be.
Here’s the thing, though: People are not fearless.
Here’s something else: Fear is not an indication of weakness or of failure. Levels of fear are not synonymous with a person’s level of maturity or character. And, I’m not at all suggesting that a life lived comfortably is a life lacking depth and experience. One person’s fear is not greater or less than someone else’s. At the end of the day, fear is fear -- which brings me to my ultimate lesson:
Fear is the point.
Fear is absolutely the point when it comes to moving, and growing, and healing, and chasing, and thriving.
If we were never afraid—if I wasn’t ever afraid—complacency wouldn’t be optional, and blind comfort would be inevitable.
If I’m being honest with my beliefs and opinions, I’d go so far as to say that on the opposite end of fear is not bravery, but complacency. I always believed that bravery was on the opposite, unreachable end, but it goes hand-in-hand with fear. In fact, it thrives off of fear.
People don’t scale mountains, fly planes, build skyscrapers, start businesses, travel places, write stories, serve others, stand out from crowds, and begin new chapters of life through being complacent.
I believe that people need to be affirmed that their fears are quite possibly indications of a right choice, of something bigger. People need to be reminded that fear is contingent upon the individual and cannot be categorized within an arena of right and wrong.
I believe that people should also be told to just do the scary thing anyway –
even if failure seems to be crouching behind the door –
even if success seems too far away –
even if the door will lead to seasons of loneliness and growing pains and sacrifice.
The point is to knock on the door or barge through it anyway.
Bravery is most authentic when fear appears to be at its greatest heights.
At seventeen, I nearly forfeited my dream of college because I believed fear to be evidence that college was the wrong choice. At twenty-two, I still have to combat the lies fear wants to fill me with.
The thing is that, although I will never not be afraid of something, I am coming to terms with the character of fear. I holdfast to the truth that life is full of doors leading to unknown chapters, and that fear is not always a foreshadow to something awful, nor is it a definition for who I am as a woman.
Rather, the right choice, the different choice, the choice that feels most foreign to life as you and I know it, is bound to be scary; though it is surely the choice that will lead to something no dream can come close to conjuring up.
In every scenario, I was onto something. The hope in me was onto the notion that there was more than just the pang that fear has to offer. I’ve learned that when fear tries to sell an experience as being too risky, the truth is that the experience is actually invaluable, and the adventure ahead incomprehensible.