Late at night, when I finally put down the books and papers, close my laptop and switch off the light – that’s when the fear finds me. Out of the murky depths of my mind, scaly creatures pull themselves up by their sticky fists, elated to finally have my full attention.
The daytime rush doesn’t allow for much creative thought. Each day of my last semester of college feels like I’m running full speed ahead on a tightrope while juggling squirmy cats, trying to dodge bullets of doubt, chasing after the last glimmer of light. Somewhere in the mix I’m gulping coffee, trying to remember to eat and shower and hug a friend.
Right now isn’t about managing life or even enjoying it, but purely survival. Making it to the next class, the next event, the next nod and smile and shake your hand hello.
American culture glorifies the busy life; the achievement of status seems to come with doing and being more. And there is a certain satisfaction that comes from saying yes to new adventures and opportunities. I never would have guessed that at 24 I’d be just graduating college in the field of journalism; I wouldn’t have dreamed that I would travel abroad to Ireland or help my university’s previous president create a photo book from his time in Papua New Guinea in the 60’s. My knees would have buckled under me if someone had told me I’d be president of an English honor’s fraternity or involved with writing weekly for an online wedding magazine.
Saying yes has brought me to new places and widened my view of the world and the people in it. I’ve learned more about empathy and cultural understanding than I thought possible, and I’m only in the beginning. The world, as the poet Mary Oliver writes, “offers itself to your imagination… whoever you are.”
But, no matter who you are, there will always be fears and doubts. And if you’re in a season of life that hurdles at you and your only chance of survival is to grab hold and hang on for dear life, then it’s almost easier to pretend that everything is fine. Busyness can cloak your insecurities in a brightly covered garment, making them harder to discover. If i’m dashing around in my day to day life, I don’t have time to let my mind think on it’s own and acknowledge the worries that are silently growing. If my feet are pounding the pavement while I quickly send a text and chomp on my lunch, I can’t feel the anxiety beating wildly in my chest.
There is a danger of being everywhere and doing everything; when you finally have a moment to pause and rest, you aren’t prepared for the army of trouble that comes to storm your mind, pounding loudly against your temples.
Suddenly gasping for breath, I have to turn on my lamp just to orient myself to where I am. As mysterious night shapes turn out to be my book bag slumped on the floor and a coat flung over the back of a chair, I feel my heartbeat begin to slow down.
Splashing cold water on my face, my eyes meet their reflection in the bathroom mirror. I’m surprised by the dark circles under my eyes, the way dark veins are lit up on my neck in the harsh florescent light, giving the eerie impression that my skin is translucent.
When my own face is unrecognizable, eyes blurry and red, hair tangled in a pile on my head, neck throbbing from sleeping in a horribly uncomfortable position… my own body is telling me that I’m wearing myself down until I’m no longer ME.
Maybe, at the end of the day, I’m pushing myself to run around because I know if I slow down I’ll be faced with myself with nothing to distract me. It’s easier to dodge the mirrors and push aside self-reflection than approach the unavoidable fact that I will fail, that I won’t be perfect, that others will discover I, too, hide behind a brightly colored curtain.
When you’re left without an assignment, a work project, a new Netflix show to watch; when you are finally alone with yourself, you are just that: alone. And while I yearn for quiet time, I don’t actually want to have to face my issues and worries, those questions that come without answers.
Will I find a job when I graduate? Will Tyler and I be able to enter marriage debt-free? When it comes down to it, am I a “good enough” writer to build a career? What do people think of my writing? How do I build a healthy perspective between what others think and what I know about myself? What happens when someone finds out that I don’t really know what I’m doing?
In the middle of the night, sometimes the best thing to do is to wrap yourself up in comfy blankets and whisper reassuring words. I’ve memorized Psalm 32:10: “the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him,” and I’ll murmur it over and over until I drift off to sleep. Because the truth remains that I don’t have to have all the answers and I will never be foolproof.
I can’t see into the future and I definitely don’t always make the right choices. I don’t know where my writing career will go, but, truthfully, I will discover more about myself and the life I live as I adventure forward, unknowing and unseeing. I need to practice a bit more space in my life. Space to just exist without a schedule or task to complete.
I want to be okay sitting alone with myself, drinking a cup of tea on the deck, letting my thoughts wander. Able to be confident in myself while knowing that I won’t always succeed or please those around me. But slowly learning that what I am now is just as good as what I will be then.
Ashlee from Where My Heart Resides recently wrote this post that I stumbled upon when writing this. Ashlee writes a very relatable post for us writers, about her fear of writing something terrible on her blog. While over the years that she has blogged she has come to refer to herself as a writer instead of blogger, the fear still resides that when she finally stops and sits down to write, she won’t have anything good or meaningful to say.
No matter how wonderful the opportunities are, I don’t want to gallop through life at a pace so fast that I can’t even enjoy who I am becoming. It’s okay to acknowledge your successes and the victories you are having – that doesn’t make you egotistical or self-centered.
Be comfortable in your own skin… so that when those slimy little fear creatures poke their heads out and beg to be noticed, you can tell them, I know who I am and I’m okay with that, and watch them disappear into thin air.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am. – Sylvia Plath