On fear and hope
The other day I saw the quote “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” For some reason, it touched a nerve, got me thinking about the things I have feared in my life and how I have responded to such fears. I am not talking about normal every day fears (though I still have an issue with heights where I don’t feel secure. I just don’t like it.) or severe psychological fears, but fear of life. Fear of the unknown future.
Life can be a scary thing. We go along in our comfortable situation, and something happens to shake us up, get us out of that comfort zone into an area where we feel distinctly uncomfortable, and that is sometimes scary. For example, you get laid off from your job – what is your first reaction? Well, mine was fear. I was petrified of what was going to happen next. That is probably the time I felt most afraid in my life, because the way I saw it, my whole future was in jeopardy.
That was an unusual reaction for me. Most of the time when something has happened that perhaps should have caused me to be afraid, I ignored the fear, the strange fluttering in my stomach that says “hey, you know, this could all go really wrong”. I chose instead of think that if I am going to tackle something that requires any sort of strength of character, I cannot really acknowledge the fact that I may be afraid of something going wrong. I thought that made me stronger. Sometimes it worked. Other times what it did is cause a worse reaction if the thing actually did go south – kind of beating myself up for ignoring what I “knew” would happen. But rarely did I initially sit and think “maybe I should not do this,” because I am a person who likes to seize opportunities to live, and to do.
Other times, I did not even know that I should have been afraid. Another for example – I have moved around a lot in my life, much of it since I have been an adult. I moved to cities where I did not know anyone. I was always told how “brave” I was, but I never understood why. Same thing with coming to Ukraine – people say “wow, you are brave to come here alone for two years” or they ask “weren’t you afraid to come here alone?” but it never occurred to me that this was something to fear.
Does that make me brave or stupid? I cannot tell you. Making decisions to dive head-first into the unknown has yielded mixed results for me in my life. Sometimes my desire to seize opportunities and to do things has worked out well. Other times, it has not – either way, I have had a life full of learning experiences because of it.
I do know that the times I have felt the most afraid in my life were the times I felt not like I was on the wrong path, but that I was not on any path at all. The times I was “in between” things for which I felt like I was working. In other words, when I felt like my life had no purpose.
I still have fears. I fear that I will not do the job I want to here. I fear that when I am finished with my service, that other people will not see how much I have to offer when I am searching for employment. I fear that I will live my life alone.
Are these rational fears? Maybe, maybe not. Are they justified? Absolutely. Will they keep me from moving forward? Absolutely not.
It’s a terrible thing, to live in fear. That is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies. Fear paralyzes you, makes it hard for you to move forward with your life. I have had times where I lived in fear of what would happen next – they were dark times indeed.
What is the opposite of fear? I don’t think it is bravery. I think it is hope. When you have hope, you will do things, even when you are afraid, because something inside of you believes that things will work out. Even if they don’t work out right away, they will eventually. It’s hard to see when you are in a dark corner during a dark period of your life. But from my experience, even when you are in darkness, there is still a pinprick of light, a bit of hope shining through. In my darkest times, I always looked for that light, and always followed it back out. And it led me here.
What happens next? Well, tomorrow I get up early and go to Kyiv with a woman who speaks no English for AIDS training. That’s about all I know for sure right now. After that, my future is uncertain.
And you know what? I’m okay with that. Because even though I sometimes fear for my future, I have hope that things will work out. I just need to sometimes remind myself of that.