I realized something about myself last year that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Ever since I was a child, I have had an EXTREME aversion to getting into trouble. And even though I’m a grown-ass adult, that aversion still persists.
I have no idea where this feeling comes from. I didn’t have especially strict parents. Quite the opposite, actually — my parents were more or less absentee. And that’s not to say I was a rule-follower — I shaved my head, wore weird clothes, listen to punk rock music, even snuck out at night. But I was still an honors student, never did drugs, never even really drank alcohol until a party my senior year of high school.
I think there was something in me that knew that if I fucked my life up I’d have no chance of having a happy adulthood. I needed good grades so that I could get scholarships so that I could go to school to get a good enough job so that I could finally leave the small town I grew up in and see what the rest of the world looked like.
There’s also the fact that I really, really hate confrontation.
So let’s call this aversion what it really is: fear.
Fear is a great motivator. It’s what is currently fueling the growth of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment in the West. It’s what keeps people stuck in jobs and relationships they hate for years on end. Hell — fear sells. Probably even better than sex does.
But your fear is stupid. It’s probably the most basic thing about you. Because fear is a part of the human condition — it’s your lizard brain speaking, your ego. Not the best and highest and most awesome part of you.
Since dropping everything and moving to a new country two months ago, my fear has had A LOT of opportunities to manifest. Here are some examples:
- What if everyone in Houston forgets me?
- What if I leave my job and can never find work again?
- What if we have to turn around and move back home in a month?
- What if I don’t make any friends?
Those are all fairly common fears, right? But here are some OTHER ways my fear has manifested.
- What if I get yelled at for taking the dog on the tram? (Taking pets on public transport is 100% legal here.) What if I do it incorrectly?
- What if I go the wrong way in the bike lane and look like an idiot?
- What if someone asks me for directions and I don’t know how to respond?
- What if I upset my neighbors?
- What if someone speaks to me in Dutch at the grocery store and I don’t understand?
- What if I take too long counting out my money because money looks different here and make the people in line behind me mad?
Now it’s starting to get a little ridiculous, yes? But these are actually all fears and thoughts that I have had. Like, recently! And I’ve let them control some of the choices I’ve made, because I’m afraid of making a mistake, or looking bad, or getting into trouble.
And in some of those cases, that fear has meant missing out on something. What? I don’t know, but it could have been some cool shit. An opportunity for connection maybe. Or a fun day on my bike in the limited sunshine.
My point is that this is something I’m recognizing about myself, calling it out by name, and starting to work on it. Don’t call it a resolution. Call it an acknowledgment, a promise to do better.