Let’s talk about fear.
Get a big mug of tea ready and settle in.
The other night, I was awake in bed, going through my usual routine of trying to fall asleep while worrying about my future — sound familiar? I think most of us have been there.
I was worrying about my freelance income, among other things.
Okay, so if I do want to move in with my boyfriend or another friend by like, April, what if I’m not making enough? I guess I would have to get a part-time job, maybe do some dog walking or coaching again too…oh no, everyone would look at me and think I’ve totally FAILED as a writer, right? Shit shit shit…
I managed to take a deep breath and pause for a moment. Here I was, worrying about the possibility of picking up a part-time job at some undetermined point in the future, keeping myself awake, and stressing out…but when I forced myself to relax and reflect for a moment, I realized I wasn’t afraid of that possibility at all.
After stopping to think about it, I realized that a) I had no idea what my income would be by April, May, June, whenever, and b) as long as I could still spend the majority of my time writing, it was literally a non-issue.
So, why was I staying up and freaking out over something that I wasn’t really afraid of, after all?
Because other people were afraid of that possibility for themselves. And other people might think that I had failed if I did that, even though I certainly wouldn’t consider it failing.
And I was internalizing their fears. I was allowing others to project their own worries and anxieties on to me — as if I didn’t already have enough of my own!
Here’s the thing about fear: some of our fears are totally natural and necessary. They’re human instinct hardwired into us for our survival. We’re scared to walk alone at night in the woods, we’re scared of big nasty animals with sharp teeth, we’re scared of running out of food or water.
In my opinion, most of our other fears are a product of the way our current society works.
We’re scared of being broke or unemployed not just because we need to pay for food/water/shelter (natural fears), but because we know that some people will judge us negatively, since we’ve been taught that a person’s value is based on their career.
We’re scared to be alone and single, not just because everyone enjoys love and affection, but because we’ve been taught that you’re a loser/spinster/crazy cat lady if you don’t get married.
We’re scared to take time off from work and travel, not just because we’re nervous about our safety in a foreign country, but because we’re taught that being productive, working hard, and moving up the ladder is the ultimate life goal.
We’re scared to take a pay cut for a job we love even if we know that we’ll still be able to live comfortably, because we’ve been taught that having a big house, expensive car, and other luxury goods are the true hallmarks of success.
Not everyone believes these things — but many people do.
If you’re already reading the Post-Grad Survival Guide, you’re probably learning to tune into your true values and work towards your own definition of success. But sometimes, no matter how secure we feel about our own path, we occasionally give in to the fears that other people have for us.
I’m not saying I don’t fear anything — because I do. But I’m trying to only give my energy to worries that I can alleviate through personal action.
I worry about losing my friends, parents, siblings, even my dog — so I show them love and gratitude every day.
I worry that I’ll settle into a life that I don’t truly want — so I make plans for the life I do want and work towards that.
And of course, I do worry about money — but I realized that my fear was more about becoming financially independent again, not where my money was coming from.
If coaching, serving, or working another job part-time can help me achieve that after I move out, so be it. That’s just one more step on the way to my ultimate goal of making a full-time income as a writer.
Recently, I was at a party with some of my parents’ friends. They were discussing how some of their kids were already buying condos or small “starter” homes. For a moment, I felt inadequate and anxious — I knew I wouldn’t have enough money to buy any property for decades.
But I didn’t WANT to buy a home for decades, anyway. I wanted to travel, to live in different cities, and not tie myself down to one place. I was perfectly happy with renting, so why worry about buying a house, just because other people my age were?
Consider where your fears are really coming from. I’m no Zen master, so I’m going to go ahead and say that fear is inevitable for most of us — but if you’re going worry, worry about shit that actually matters to you.
Don’t waste your time worrying about something just because other people think it matters — figure out your own priorities, and stay focused on them.