I’ve always been fearful. Even as a child, I was nervous and high-strung. It frustrated my mother. She wanted me to enjoy things, experience life. More than once, when I refused to do something out of fear, she would pull me close and promise that she would never let me do anything that would hurt me. But in addition to my fear, I am stubborn, so I always stood firm and refused to do whatever it was that scared me.
I am phobic about heights. Seriously. I can’t even ride glass elevators. I’m not ashamed of this, nor do I care to overcome this fear. I like my feet firmly on the ground.
But I spent a very long time being afraid of failure. When I was younger, I refused to do anything that I didn’t already feel I was good at. I would not step outside my comfort zone, because more than anything, I feared looking stupid, or inept, or, God forbid, average.
I missed out on a lot of opportunities because of this fear. I quit the track team because I never won a race. I didn’t allow myself to write often because I knew I wasn’t any good. Now the two things that bring me such joy are running and writing. I missed years of doing these activities because I wasn’t perfect at them, and I demanded perfection from myself.
And then I grew up. It was really running that taught me I didn’t have to be perfect to enjoy something. I fell in love with running, with the discipline and the achievement that came from competing in marathons. I’ve never won a race, but I’ve beaten myself time and time again. I learned that it isn’t about competing against others, but against yourself, and becoming the best self you can be.
Running gave me the courage to write. At first I was terrified of rejection, but that got easier. Then I was terrified of being published, because there is nothing more soul-baring than sharing your words with strangers.
But I did it anyway.
I’m still afraid. The project I’m working on right now terrifies me because the characters are very different than I am and I want to do them justice. I want to get the history and culture correct, I want to represent truthfully and fairly. I want so many things with this project; wanting is a scary thing.
This week is full of things that terrify me. Today I have something exciting and terrifying happening. I hardly slept last night. Tomorrow I fly out to attend the NOVA Teen Book Festival, and while I’m thrilled and excited to be a part, I’m also nervous. I hate flying. It makes me sick and, more than anything, I can’t stand being dependent on others. Flying requires me to do nothing and hope my flights are on time and that they don’t lose my luggage. The lack of control causes me so much anxiety. But it will also be my first time on panels, and though I make my living off of standing in front of teens and talking books, adults intimidate me a little.
There’s a great quote in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths;/The valiant never taste of death but once.”
Being afraid is normal. But if we let fear dictate our lives, we’ll never truly live.
I still fear failure. But I'm not going to let it stop me.