Fear

Fear

Is it productive or not?

I come from a family filled with members who are terribly afraid of things. My grandmother never got on a plane in her entire life because she was afraid it would crash. My mother is worried about falling down the stairs, even though she's perfectly able-bodied and fit. They both think about the bad possibilities that could, but probably won't happen. While there's certainly something to be said about being cautious, the line of letting fear cow you out of doing something is toed far too often.

At first, I completely rebelled against their conceptions of fear. I scooted off to college a few states away, to Austria, to New York City, to Seattle without a bit of pause or hesitation. I wanted to prove that nothing could happen when fear invaded rationality. I wanted to prove that I wasn't afraid of anything because fear was counterproductive to the formation of agency and personhood.

I still believe these things. Fear keeps you tethered to your tiny spot of physical space, your tiny spot of ground in your mind from which all of your thoughts and actions spring. I believe that fear is a culture that you breed in yourself, giving yourself more and more freedom to turn away from possibilities because there's something about them that's unknown and scary.

But it's increasingly difficult for me to rationalize away my fears, and it's easier for me to recognize that fear can mean something sometimes. While it's silly to turn away a piece of food because it might still have eyes in its head, sometimes fear shouldn't be overcome; instead, the thing itself that's causing the fear should be discarded.

For a long time, I had such a solid safety net that I didn't need to worry about the consequences of something potentially scary if I failed. I knew that my mother and grandmother would be there, providing me support, financial stability and options if I failed at something I tried.

Now that I'm older, I recognize that those safety precautions are still there, but I don't feel comfortable relying on them so completely. I want to be able to make a life for myself that is secure, rather than doing something so unpredictable and difficult that I most certainly will fail. At the same time, I don't want to fall into the same trap that my relatives have--if you don't make yourself try new, scary things, you'll never be any different than you are now.