Fear is an impetus — a forceful train hurtling through the air, always hurrying, never arriving.
As a child, I was afraid of everything.
My parents encouraged me to become an avid reader from an early age. What they didn’t know was that the very books I began poring over for hours on end would only spiral my imagination even further out of control, giving me more reasons to stay awake at night. I became petrified of the many ways I could be murdered, kidnapped, or eaten by bloodthirsty creatures. Darkness was a particular object of dread for me; even my older sister’s gentle snoring across the room, her bed inches from mine, could not appease the violent churning of my stomach at the mere thought of the dark and and all of the mysterious forces I was convinced lay within its depths. If only there was a way to store up sunlight during the day to release it into my room at night like a sponge, I thought. Then I wouldn’t be so afraid.
The slightest sound — the rustle of a small animal outside my window, the creaking of a floorboard, the caw of a distant crow — left my heart racing with adrenaline. Dreams, which eventually came after hours of valiantly fighting away fatigue, provided me little solace. In them my fears simply manifested in more visual, more hyperrealistic ways through my subconsciousness. Many nights I would be jolted awake from a nightmare, my pillowcase drenched in sweat.
My parents tried valiantly to help me fall asleep at night, often to no avail. My mother tried to wait it out. She sat outside our shared bedroom with the door open solving Sudoku puzzles, the heavenly, warm hallway light trickling onto my face like a godsend. With the haunting unknowns of the darkness banished and my mother’s comforting presence only a couple feet away from my twin sized bed, I fell asleep peacefully, only to be woken up a few hours later to the absence of both light and mother. Abandoned and alone, it was then that the icy tendrils of fear would grip my 5-year-old chest once again, sometimes so powerfully that — with a sudden rush of momentary conviction — I would leap out of bed and flee to the refuge of my parents’ room. Taking great pains to avoid waking them in the midst of my cowardice, I would carefully maneuver my way underneath the covers until I reached the center of the bed, where I could curl up in fetal position and pretend as if I had re-entered the womb.
I have since outgrown most of my childhood fears, as one should. In fact, my guess is that ‘afraid’ is not a word many would use to describe me — someone who was enough of a daredevil to jump out of a plane 14,000 feet above ground only a couple months ago.
But fears never go away, they simply evolve into different forms. Most of my fears are now less of an acute panic I once was too familiar with as they are a low-grade buzzing in the distance, a constant humming that perturbs the silence of an otherwise peaceful evening. Only occasionally does the humming spike in intensity, when it slowly threatens to erupt into a roar that could engulf me at any moment.
These fears act as motivation, pushing me forward even when my instinct is to freeze up or do nothing at all. The fear of my own finitude, the fear of failure, the fear of not doing enough — they repeatedly force me awake and into action. And yet, while an effective impetus, fear is a cruel master: it demands much but gives little. It leaves you paralyzed, mocking you in your most vulnerable state; it makes you feel as if you’re on a decaying piece of driftwood, thousands of miles away from any form of human life, on the cusp of sinking into oblivion. As a child, I was keenly aware of the immense power of fear and how it could distort my reality into becoming a nightmare-ish hell.
Many years later, I still struggle to not let my fears overcome me. I once heard a song lyric that serves as a good reminder, a reminder that I am not destined to be controlled by fear.
“Peace will win, and fear will lose.”
It is one of my favorite lyrics, and I try to make it my anthem.