Living Life Without Fear

Michael - Evanston, Illinois
Entered on May 17, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in living life without fear.

I first realized that this was my challenge shortly after my mother passed away unexpectedly almost 10 years ago. Life had dealt her many blows and she wore her fear like a tattered cloak – fear of being abandoned after her father’s death when she was just a girl; fear of losing another child after my oldest sister was killed in a car accident; fear of leaving her alcoholic husband – my father – long after she should have. In the end, cardiac arrest would be her official cause of death, but it was fear that cut my mother’s life short long before her heart actually seized up and stopped beating. I vowed, quite literally on her grave, that this would not be my legacy.

To that end, I have taken many risks in the last decade to ensure my success. I have hang-glided in Rio, kayaked with whales in the Pacific, trekked to base camp at Mt. Everest, scaled Kilimanjaro and stood, frozen, as an African elephant emerged from the early morning haze to cross my path not five feet before me. As wonderful and exhilarating as those years were, I always returned to my empty condo alone, still searching for what I needed most – the courage to stay put and risk knowing something more permanent than a setting sun or a wandering pachyderm.

Not unexpectedly, the life I’ve encountered within a few mile radius of my home has challenged me more than any foreign itinerary. I’ve written a book and hope to sell it. I said yes when my good friend Matt asked me to be his daughter’s godfather. At 37, I finally came out as a gay man and went on to tackle the truly terrifying world of dating. I met my partner online, sold my loft in the city, moved to a brick colonial in the suburbs and became a stepfather to a wonderful little girl – all in two years time. Somehow, that tiny voice inside me which once questioned everything – it is my mother’s I suspect – was quieted. And there, in the heady silence, I was finally able to picture a different life for myself and bravely stand in place as it started to unfold around me. Certainly, fear could no longer gain a foothold in my life, I reasoned. Not when I’d come so far, so fast. It wouldn’t dare.

Yet – it does. Every day. Though it only seems to linger in the background now, waiting for me to carelessly let my guard down. And through this very process of putting my belief into words I realized that it, itself, is flawed. Living without fear is not what I’m after, but rather, living in spite of it. Instead of banishing fear, the challenge becomes moving forward even when the path is shrouded in uncertainty. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly how I do it, I just know it gets easier every time that I do.