What are you afraid of?

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screamI had been thinking about this post for some time: the idea of fear propelling your life decisions and the choices that you make. In light of various recent things, I thought this would be a good time to tackle this topic.

I first started thinking about fear when I had a discussion with a colleague about grad school. We were talking about the bump in salary following completion of a graduate degree. She made a comment to the effect of: “Well, I have my boyfriend so I figure even if I don’t make a lot, I have him to rely on.” I’ve never really outrightly said this before, and I don’t think it’s necessarily that controversial, but one of the main reasons I went back to school was for the potential of a higher salary but mainly b/c I don’t really know if I’ll ever have a man that I can rely on. It might just be me. And if it’s just me, given the high cost of living, I need to make sure I make a salary high enough that I can take care of all the life things that will happen. It also made me wonder if without that fear, if I was just super comfortable, whether I would take half the risks in my life. My guess is probably no. And in that vein, I wondered: is failure of being afraid pretty much a guarantee of failure– as in failure to get ahead? Or am I being terribly indulgent in my analysis?

I just attended a conference the past week. It’s in the same industry as my previous job and I knew that inevitably I would run into my former coworkers. And that I did: over and over throughout the conference. In these moments, it just sucks. There’s no nicer way to put it. When I ran into the boss that had laid me off (and I suspect had slowly decreased my workload to the point that I was redundant by design), I said hi. No hug (that would be overboard) but I said hello and I gave a smile. And I knew that I had to go see the company’s booth– not because I cared that much what it looked like. But it presented to me that challenge– the challenge that you have to prove to yourself that you’re not afraid of things and that you can push yourself to do the things that you know you have to do. Incidentally, when I got to the booth, my former coworker (the one that had been taking credit for some of my work) pretended to be on her phone the entire time, not even looking up once. I guess my takeaway from that experience is you have to push yourself and be the bigger person. This individual continues to disappoint me but I also know that these deficiencies will only continue to impact her in her life.

The third thing that made me think about fear is my friend’s recent launch of a clothing ecommerce site. She had written on her facebook something to the effect of: I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t afraid of what lies ahead on many fronts. Risk necessarily implies fear: you are taking what is likely a scarier road, but one that you have to take because you know that the result might be wonderful (on the other side, obviously, it could be a disaster). But you push through the fear, you try to arrange it so that success is the outcome, and then you work your ass off. This is true for my friend and I can say it has been true for a lot of the things I have tried in my life. Fear is that bugger that nips at your bottom. It pushes you forward b/c you know that you can’t possibly slow down and let it have its way with you.

So I guess I finish this entry with the question that starts the piece: What are you afraid of? What is the thing that is going to push you forward in life and make you take those choices that are full of risk, but also potentially full of reward?

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