As a boy, my mind excelled at filling the night with all manner of terror: rabid stray dogs, escaped convicts, roving gangs, drunken teenagers, and vampires.
Due to this wonderful imagination, I couldn’t sleep with the bedroom door closed. I couldn’t spend too long across the street at my friend’s house because walking home after sunset terrified me. Camping with my den of cub scouts was out of the question.
As I grew older, I was able to face some of these fears. I went camping. I spent longer with my friend across the street. I learned to sleep with the door closed. But new fears arrived. Instead of escaped convicts or vampires, it was mundane things like rejection, failure, or the condemning look on a friend’s face that haunted me.
Freshmen year of high school, in a car full of friends, Bohemian Rhapsody came on the radio and I felt possessed to sing out loud and headbang at the appropriate moment, but I didn’t. Too afraid, I guess, of what might happen if I did. What looks my friends might give me. How they might laugh at me or worse, ignore me.
Later on, when a friend of mine said I should ask a certain girl to prom, I asked why. He said because she was sweet and pretty. What he didn’t understand was that as a shy, scared boy, I didn’t mean why her. I meant why would she want to go with me?
So much of fear I’ve come to realize is self-centered. We hide our silly passions and ugliest fears from friends and family, because we want to protect the image of ourselves we’ve cultivated in our own, and others’, minds. But, in this case, fear separates us from life, as it led me to hide from my friends what silly joy I had for a silly song. As it made me hide my insecurities from a guy who might have been able to put my fears in perspective and push me towards a date with a pretty girl.
I want to believe in not being afraid, but at this point, I don’t think it’s possible. I’m never going to outgrow my fears, so I’ve settled on believing they don’t have to control my actions. I believe no matter how scary or twisted or stupid, I have to share my fears with other people. I believe that if I see a strange, cute girl at a bar wearing a kick-ass Queen t-shirt, I have to make myself talk to her. I believe that if a song I love comes on the radio, I should sing along and, if the situation calls for it, do some headbanging too.
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