I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
– Nelson Mandela
I used to be a very scared kid. I don’t really know where it came from, but I was terrified of many things when I was little. I was scared of the dark and would often wake up in the middle of the night and try to sneak into my parents’ bed. I was scared to be left at somebody else’s house for a sleepover, because I would cling to my parents’ legs and not let go (or, if they could convince me to stay for a little while, I would cry later until they picked me up again). I was scared of new places, new people, new situations. I was not very adventurous, period.
Luckily, I have a twin sister, who functioned as my protector and motivator during our childhood. I honestly don’t know where I would be without her. Even though I was the first born, she was the one with all the courage and fierceness. She would usually take me by the hand and repeatedly tell me that I didn’t have to be afraid because she was going to go and do things with me.
I remember this photo of us on a jungle gym. It perfectly captured our personalities. While my sister quickly climbed up to the very top, I would usually hang around on the lower part of the jungle gym. It became a metaphor of how my sister and I approached life. My sister would take things head-on and without much consideration, I would hang back and observe and assess and plan.
It’s kind of hard to believe that I am the one who eventually packed up her life and moved across the Atlantic, while my sister returned back to our hometown after college. I don’t know what happened, but our roles reversed in so many ways.
It’s not like my sister isn’t still adventurous and fierce in her own way, but when it comes to her life, she chose the “safe route”, while I had a breakthrough and decided to completely leave my safe life behind and explore the world.
I surely surprised a whole lot of people by my changed personality. To all of the things I would have said “no” to in the past, I all of a sudden said “yes”. Wholeheartedly.
When I moved to the US, many people told me that they didn’t expect that from me. For a while, I wasn’t quite sure if it was supposed to be an insult or a compliment. I eventually decided to take it as the latter.
Sometimes I am a little sad that it took me so long to take a leap and to live life on my own terms. I often feel like I am lagging behind my peers. I went through many things (first boyfriend, first job, marriage, kids (which I still don’t have)) much later than people around me.
I try to look at it as ‘extra time’ that I get to have and enjoy as a young adult and more time to grow into myself, but my fears definitely have hindered me in the past. I just didn’t realize it. Self-awareness and self-analysis are powerful tools on our way to adulthood. Sometimes it takes someone or something to ‘nudge’ you and say ‘hey, wake up, this is your life and you better start living it. You only got this one.’
Do you let fear stand in your way of going after your life?
Previously posted here.