I believe in the power of fear — nauseating, slick-palm inducing, tear-welling fear.
Growing up, I was the scared kid. I wasn’t afraid of spiders or worm, but at the first day of school and sleepovers. My parents received more “Can you come get me?” calls in the middle of the night than most. Why was everything so scary?
Years later, I sat in a dark uptown Minneapolis café late on a Friday night with a friend, discussing the times ahead, our first year of college. We were sharing our overwhelming fears, hoping we’d be strong enough, when we hit upon a realization: The best things are worth being scared for.
We discussed the aspects of the past year that had frightened us. College visits. Opening night of the play we had leads in. Spending two weeks in France. Asking out the current boyfriend. Our faces reddened, our palms dampened, our pulses quickened, and at the time we wanted more than anything to back out.
We don’t need college, plays, or foreign countries. What made us think they were worthwhile?
But we knew. We knew we had to, and we did them. Those experiences changed us into wiser, better, happier people. Was it the fear that made it so rewarding? I don’t think so. The fear, the sweat, was what signaled importance.
Hey! Don’t miss this! Pay attention!
The fear is what forces attention to the details. What the trees look like in the wind on that campus on the hill. The mysterious hairspray and egg smells on the Métro in Paris. The patchy stubble on the boy who just agreed to a date. Fear grabs you by the most uncomfortable body part and tells you to take notice.
So if fear is what tells us to pay attention, and we know we have to overcome this fear, where does that leave us? It means take a TUMS and go for it. Once I know it’s important, that it could change my life and make me a wiser, better, happier person, I have to let go of that fear and enjoy what’s happening. I need to get the most out of every experience. I need to grab that fear back and say, “Hey! I get it! Now back off and let me kick some ass!”
I believe in the power of gut wrenching, sickening fear to change lives, to make them better and more fulfilling. I believe in fear.
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