With a Conscience: "Fear"

"Always do what you are afraid to do." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was about four years old. My father took us all to the "Whortekill Rod and Gun Club" annual clam bake in Hopewell Junction. We loved going each year. In this particular year, there was a race for all of the kids. I was a petite little ball of energy with no fear. None. We all lined up and waited for the "On your mark. Get set, GO." I went. Boy did I...I raced my little heart out and in doing so, watched every other kid run past me. Everyone of them ran past me. I ran though. I never stopped and by the time I reached the finish line, I decided that I would dance. In fact, even though I was last, I danced. I thought my father was going to just burst with laughter and I ran to him and he picked me up and hugged me. It never occurred to me that I had lost a thing.

As I get older, I am less fearful and more restrained about what scares me. I guess age does bring with it some amount of calmness. The reality is that we all have fears. The question is do those fears makes us stronger or simply "more fearful?" Sometimes the very things we're fear are good for us. They turn out to healthy and when all is said and done we wonder what took us so long "not to be afraid." Change is scary. It's always been scary. We fear success and we feel failure. So here's another question..."Why do we need to be afraid at all?"

Are we afraid of what other people will think of us once we change? Are we afraid that we lose something in the process of that inevitable change? When people say that, "I am not afraid of anything." Are they telling the truth or are they lying through their teeth to make themselves less vulnerable? When I was a kid, I wasn't afraid of anything which terrified my parents. They worked very hard to instill a healthy dose of fear whenever possible because well...they were fearful something would happen to me. Some of us hide our fears very well and I wonder about those people because sometimes we need to revert back to that kid who was fearless to help us succeed. Fear makes some people competitive. Fear can make us want to try harder. It make us stop from being happier too. We will run away or not decide to make a move when we know we should because we fear failure.

I would be willing to bet that fear of failure is the one tried and true fear that we all would agree is the most powerful of all the fears we may experience. The older I get, the less I fear which is ironic considering had I kept that child-like fearlessness, I could have done the following:

  • Danced for the New York City Ballet
  • Written the real sequel to Gone with the Wind
  • Passed my driver's test...the FIRST time.
  • Moved to New York City at 18.
  • Parachuted out of an airplane or perhaps flew the plane itself.
  • Appeared in the latest production of Tennessee Williams' "Glass Menagerie" on Broadway.
  • Never, EVER, run out of toilet paper!!!

When I was four, I wanted to ride the horse over at the farm that bordered my house. The horse was 30 years old and his name was "Major." I decided to grab some clothes line and grabbed an apple and some carrots out of the fridge and ran over to Major who planned his daily visit in the afternoon. He leaned his head over the fence and as he ate the carrots from my hand, I lassoed him and proceeded to figure out how I was going to climb on his back. I couldn't -- I was too small. Even the fearless know they have their limitations as my mother ran outside frantically when she saw what I was doing from the kitchen window. I would have to wait a little longer, I was told. Major could wait but could I? Perhaps fear creeps up on us when we're not looking and if it does, maybe it's more important to know we're afraid rather than deny it. My mom had been petrified at the prospect of my riding Major but for me, well...I was up for the challenge. Love makes us fearful because we don't want to lose what we love.

I hope I remember to be fearless as each decade passes and as I am faced with decisions that I am particularly fearful in making. That would be my wish for all of us.