This We Believe

Separated by Differences, United by Beliefs

The Face of Fear

on February 20, 2015

It all began August 23, 2014. Although summer had ended, St. Louis was still unbearably hot. Welcome week was coming to a close; the room was unpacked, supplies were bought, and schedules were rehearsed. My mom was about leave for the six hour car drive back home. When the time came, I never knew I could be so emotional about such a departure.

“I can’t do this,” I wept.

“Yes you can,” my mom assured, “Hold your head high…and just do it!”

By the sounds of this short exchange, one would assume that I was undergoing surgery or about to sing in front of thousands. No, I was only going to college. I guess I shouldn’t say “only,” because it is a pretty big deal. To most, college is the beginning of a lifetime. To me, it felt like the end of mine; and watching my mom drive away, it felt as if my identity had rode away with her. I cried myself to sleep that night; and many nights after.

The phone calls between my parents and me, during the first month of my freshman year at St. Louis University, consistently ended in my pleas. Once classes started, I was able to gain some distraction. Still, every spare time not spent in the library was devoted to calling or texting my parents. Sounds ridiculous, but college was something I dreaded. The fact that I was six hours away from home, or my roommates were from a completely different country and didn’t speak any English, may have had an influence on my struggle. However, the true depth of my angst came from my fear of failure.

One time, out of the many times that I called my mom, something changed:

“Please, I have to come home.”

“Now stop. This is your life, and the only way you are going to overcome this paralysis is if you expose yourself to the things you fear most. I love you, but I can’t keep spending my entire day on the phone with you.”

At first, this felt like a slap in the face, but as the initial burn subsided, I knew my mom was right. For so long, I felt like I was living in a society that condemned any notion of failure, so I was trying to live so “perfectly” and “rightly,” that I really wasn’t living at all. My fear isolated me from others and prevented the development of experiences. Things had to change.

After my phone call with my mom, I tried the alternative: accepting my circumstances, and facing my fears. Eventually, I established a routine, pushed myself to try new clubs and activities, explored the city around me, and met many people. I was uncomfortable, but as I exposed myself to the things I feared most, my comfort zone began to expand, gaining greater shape and wielding the power of a force field. The battle was painfully won, as fear, while it still exists, no longer controls my life.

I used to fear failure; avoiding, denying, and hiding from it at all costs. But, ever since I accepted the possibility of failure, I have grown tremendously as a person. I am wiser, as I have discovered more about myself, than any accolade could ever teach me. Now, I know that I am strong, I am persistent, I am courageous, and I am self-assured. This is why I believe in facing your fears.

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