New Year’s Eve/Day is my favorite holiday. If you’re like most people, then you probably raised me a furrowed brow when you read that. Yes, the infamous night of amateur drinking, loud music, fireworks that keep you up, and confetti-covered, hazy decisions is my favorite holiday. Though the moments before and after the clock strikes midnight may be blurry, the days leading up to and after the start of a new year are full of clarity – calling all of us, equally, to examine who we have become and challenge ourselves to strive for something better. To most people, this looks like taking better care of themselves, ditching a bad habit, or finally tackling that bucket list item that’s been in the back of their mind for years. Much like my fellow wide-eyed optimists, I entered 2017 with a mission in my heart and a trendy name to accompany it – “2017: The Year Without Fear.”
I did not approach this with the lackadaisical flair one typically talks about their resolutions with. This was no half-assed effort…there were spreadsheets and calendars! I meditated for several weeks before the new year and made a list of things that I have always wanted to do, or always felt I should do, but never have due to some stigma of fear or anxiety surrounding it. These ranged in degree of difficulty and level of intensity. Some things on the list would be intimidating for anyone (get a tattoo, reconnect with a former enemy, move to New York City). Other things that I found intimidation in, others may find humorous (hold a baby, participate in a classroom discussion, graduate college). In any case, my list was 52 items long, and my grand plan for 2017 was to accomplish one each week. Predictably, the year picked up, finals stacked, we entered our busy season at work, and before I knew it, it was summertime.
The months between May and August were when I finally had the time to go after these fear items with intention and planning. I was able to make time for them and prioritize them financially, and it was the best summer of my life! I rode in a hot air balloon! I got a psychic reading done! I tried therapy! I got my tragus pierced (and bled everywhere)! I went skinny-dipping! I left the country for the first time! Unfortunately, when I moved to New York at the end of August, a lot of these came to a screeching halt. Mostly because of the financial commitment. I soon realized that a lot of my fear items were expensive!
Even though I didn’t finish my list, it didn’t matter because I was able to experience so many exciting moments, by myself and with other people, that went beyond conquering a fear. In fact, I learned the difference between fear and intimidation. Getting a tattoo is scary, but if I had a legitimate FEAR of getting a tattoo, I would not do it. It would be so rationalized in my brain that I would do anything to avoid it, because that’s what we are programmed to do. When we sense we are in danger, we run. If we foresee a hazardous situation, we avoid it. The concept of “fear” is not involved in executing an event or activity. That is simply intimidation, which is very different.
What I’ve learned is that true fear isn’t something that you choose to face, it’s something that faces you.
Things like being honest with yourself about the person you are, trading in comfort for courage in hopes that a better life resides on the other side, and standing up for what you believe in even if it means turning your back on all you’ve known… THESE are the fears with which I’ve become well-acquainted with in the final month of 2017. Fearlessness is finding yourself in circumstances you never could have imagined living through, and persevering.
To face paralyzing unfamiliarity, to lose so much of what you always thought would be there, to find obstacles in things perceived to be navigable, to hit rock bottom only to be pushed further down…to face all of that and continue to wake up each day, put new clothes on, leave your apartment, and face the world, THAT’S being fearless. That’s braver than any height, any newness, any destination, any creature, any challenge you could ever CHOOSE to face. It’s easy to step into foreign waters with a dense support system, enthusiastic well-wishers, and a thought-through plan of attack, but to face the unknown completely alone and unprepared, THAT is an act of fearlessness.
I end 2017 with less than I began it with. I feel emptier, I am more tired, and I have given myself entirely to too many people and too many aspects of my life. Somehow though, I still have hope. I have hope that faith will persevere and I’ll be able to grasp the things that I know are currently just outside my reach. I have hope that the energy I put out will come back to me in the wildest, least-predicted ways. I dream of a life even better than the one I long for now. I dream of perfect hindsight, and the ability to see that everything is as it ought to be in this moment and every moment.
I spend my remaining hours of 2017 hoping and dreaming.
In 2018, fruition begins.
I hope everyone has a joyful and prosperous new year. Be kind to others, release that which you cannot change, but most importantly, take care of and protect yourself – your body, your mind, and your heart.