My Greatest Fear: One Year Later

What is your greatest fear? 

A little over a year ago, I would have said that it was something along the lines of not being able to find love. During that time, I was just coming off the heels of a somewhat traumatic incident  one that would take me ten months to process and begin to heal from. Part of me believed that men would only see me as either a target to be taken advantage of, or something to be avoided because I was no longer this “good girl.” I was lost and scared to the point of it being ridiculous.

At the end of my sophomore year, I ventured into a season of dating. It’s not something that I regret because I became more aware of what I don’t want in a significant other, as well as how to tell the difference between genuine attraction versus liking the idea of someone. By the end of it, I was a little frustrated and emotionally exhausted. I was  torn between trying to give these guys a chance, while trying to navigate their forwardness and the matter of them wanting me versus just wanting a title or status. I eventually took a step back because I needed a break.

In the midst of all that, I was still holding on to an old relationship that realistically had come to an end a long time ago. I just needed to set myself free and to accept that was no reason to keep trying anymore. We weren’t talking and he wasn’t making an effort to be part of my life. Whatever dynamic existed between the two of us at that point was just flat out unhealthy. And so the week after my birthday, I cut him out completely. Looking back I can’t say that it was a relief; when you spend eight years investing yourself in a particular relationship, perhaps that person alone, it’s hard to not care anymore. Part of me will always love him, and the time we spent together has a special place in my heart.  But it was time to let go.

When the Boston bombings happened, I had no words to describe exactly how I felt; I just wept and prayed and wondered where do I go from here? It was not just that April morning that shook me, but the culmination of events that proceeded it: natural disasters, other tragedies, things from my personal life. I can’t recall where I read it, but somebody make a remark along for the lines of “for ten years, we have lived in fear.” That echoed my own sentiments: what was next, and I would I be personally affected by it?

And somewhere in those following days, I began to understand that my fear of not finding love was misplaced. Love is not something that is meant to be found, because it is everywhere. The hard part is being able to recognize it and embrace it. But from where I’m at now, I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of it. Rather, I am most afraid of missing out on the important things, and ultimately not making the most out of life.

The big question is, how does anybody do that? How do you completely lean into joy and live in the present moment without denying pain or struggle? How do you really show up? That’s something we’re all trying to figure out. I suppose it’s a matter of paying attention; and when the moment comes, you just have to completely let yourself go, appreciate the moment,  and not over think a situation. Unfortunately it’s not an attitude that you can automatically adopt; it’s a practice, and it doesn’t always come easy.

So many people harp on and spend their lives trying to “get it right.” Reflecting on the past three and a half years, I have never been overly cautious about my choices or experiences, and I can honestly say that I don’t regret it. I haven’t always made the best decisions, but sometimes you have to make those mistakes in order to understand what’s good for you and what isn’t. That doesn’t mean you should go out and get yourself into trouble all the time, but it’s important to accept that it happened and be able to move on.

I don’t have all of the answers. I would like to say that from this moment on that I’m just simply going to throw my hands up and really start living my life, yet I’m not exactly sure how to go about it. These last couple of months have definitely been a sign of progress: I reached out to people that I either took for granted or had a falling out with at some point. We’re not exactly best friends, but we’re at peace now

I’ve also been writing letters to loved ones, very similar to what I did for Lent last year. I try to make a point of telling someone that I care about them in whatever way I can, whether it be an unexpected act of kindness or a text saying that I’m thinking about them. We may not talk or see each other every day, but that doesn’t make them any less important to me.There doesn’t have to be a close friendship, whether it be physically emotionally, in order for me to care about someone.

Maybe the key is a balance of expectations: not having high ones, but not assuming the worst case scenario will always come into play. In other words, to be open to the possibilities, changes, and even curve balls that life often presents. I believe that God works everything out in the way that it’s meant to be, even if it’s not the way I hope or initially want.

If nothing else, living is about having a grateful heart. Giving thanks in all circumstances is probably one of the hardest things to do, but in the long run is often one of the most rewarding. Once you get in the hang of practicing gratitude, living and loving become more of a practice as well. They’re all interconnected: you cannot live without loving at least one other person, and a way to enable love in action is to give thanks. They can certainly exist separately, but they’re better together as one. 

Little by little, I feel my fear fading into memory; it still comes up every once in a while, especially when I realized how much time has gone by. I was very insecure during my first two years at college, and now that I’m on the cusp of being a senior, I see that I didn’t have a whole lot to be insecure about. At the same time, I was young and inexperienced, as a lot of people can be at that age. It’s as if I know better now, but still have a lot to learn.

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