"Write about fear, or lack thereof, and the role it has played in any aspect of your life."
Fear has always been a driving force in my life. I could blame it on my Eastern European heritage, or some aspect of my childhood...but much of my past has seen many decisions - most of them bad - driven by some form of fear. Hidden beneath layers of adolescent bravado, flavored by a lack of self-esteem, much of my early life was spent doing things in order to avoid being vulnerable. Never dating or socializing much in high school because let's face it, people wouldn't like me if they knew who I really was. And I saw myself as....well, a mouthy fat guy).
(My former classmates remember me as being quiet, but gregarious. So much for that perception.)
Post-college, fear led me to apply - and promptly quit - from a for-profit graduate school in psychology. (Coming soon to the blog, "I Survived A Year At a Diploma Mill"). But it was starting in graduate school, working as a field researcher for the Harvard School of Public Health, I started to work through my fear. (At the time, some neighborhoods had more of a rough reputation than others). Even when I lived in St. Louis and worked tobacco prevention, although I gained confidence, there was still a slight hint of fear in my decisions. Nothing major or life-threatening, but enough that made me cautious....
And that's part of the power of fear. Fear can hold someone back, but I often find myself using fear as a way of making sure I take a quick inventory. Check my motives. Do everything to make sure that I'm making a good decision....and fear has also allowed me to connect with people. Sharing my fears with trusted friends and finding that we share many fears in common. It was an ironic discovery that helped me gain greater confidence personally and professionally: the realization that fear makes companions of us all.
Although I've gotten more courageous in recent times, I have found that fear has made itself a semi-constant companion in my life. Making the decision to move in and care for Mom reacquainted me with some fear, but on a regular basis, I have semi-realistic fears. Fear that I will never acquire enough freelance work to move forward. Fear that I will live in isolation, and become an "elder orphan". Fear that my friends will never know how I feel about them. Fear that my life has hit a plateau and that I have nothing more to offer. And like many Americans, fear that our country is falling apart.
Handling some of the everyday fears has become easier: putting in the effort to bolster my freelance career, reaching out to others (I still owe someone whom I offered to "adopt" as a sibling), and I'm sure that many of my friends will reach out for the tell-me-how-you-really-feel-Gordon talk. (And yes, I'll even have the conversation via phone, Skype, or e-mail). And when it comes to having nothing to offer...
Currently, we're in the midst of a very contentious political time. Many of my female friends, friends of color, and LGBTQIA friends feel positively threatened...and I can offer my support, my empathy, and my (shared) fear about this country. I am not afraid to call out the alt-right/white supremacist/whatever-you-want-to-call-it working against this country, nor am I afraid of losing relationships. (And before those few of you make the "both-sides-are-deplorable" argument, let me remind you that any side that physically assaults people of color, proclaims that "Jews will not replace us", and runs over peaceful protestors with their automobiles have automatically lost the right - and the privilege - to the moral high ground). Our Chicago community - and communities around the country - have become more inclusive and diverse. That's never going to change, and we need to start working together to transcend our fear.
Because although fear makes companions of us all...it also strengthens us into allies against a greater evil. I'm only sorry that those ties are coming at such a high cost.
And as always, thanks for reading!