I have come, perhaps with the age of false indestructibility, to fear little. In fact – and I don’t mean to begin on such a bleak note – I barely fear death. Sure, to fathom the pain scares me. The idea that I will not complete all I hope to – this is scary. The actual concept of no longer existing, however, doesn’t panic me. If such is the way of life, then I am accepting. It is out-with my control, and thus I needn’t dwell. I’d rather live instead.
I don’t hesitate when I step onto a plane for I understand it could go down. I wouldn’t spend my last minutes mulling over ill fate either; I’d hold no regret. The choice I made… it was to travel, not to die. I’d be content with my decision. For enough times, I have reaped reward from risk. It seems only fair that I’d be punished even once for going back to entertain danger.
For long now, I have perceived fear an unproductive emotion; one which acts only to hold us back. Subconsciously, I have decided it more favourable to live without. Of course, we can never completely distance ourselves from fear. As long as we are alive – and as long as we care about the way our lives proceed – fear has meaning for us.
It ought to be acknowledged that these situations which involve or induce fear tend to be worthwhile. Take bungy jumping: in the space of twenty seconds, our experience of intense distress is replaced by a feeling of absolute vitality. We feel grateful to be alive. Further, we are reminded of our exclusive hold on life at any and all moments. We are the agents of our being. I remember laughing with excitement, grabbing my friend on the rope beside me.
The eradication – or at the least, the active decline – of my holding fear has most definitely aided in certain circumstances. I’ve been unafraid to throw myself out there: in the face of people, the direction of offers and opportunities. In any case the outcome has been of importance to me, I’ve been able to trump those authoritative-hungry nerves which may have posed threat.
Here’s how I see it. Whereby we act without fear and do not succeed, then we cannot blame ourselves. We presented our all. What remains – and indeed offers great comfort – is the idea of the inevitable. There are some things we can simply not do anything about. And this, we’ll learn, is okay. Not everyone will like us. Not every opportunity will be for us. But some will. We must be open to these.
Unfortunately, it is on doing so – opening myself whole-heartedly – that my most prominent and ever-remaining fear introduces itself.
I do not fear the new – this, I bask in. What I fear is attaching myself to it. I fear vulnerability. And by all means, conscious and sub-conscious, the state is something I’ve been avoiding for a long time. To be or to express reliance on something grants people or things the power to crush me.
The risk is one which just appears too dangerous to me.
Indeed, for someone so perceivably strong and independent, it doesn’t make a whole load of sense. Yet, somehow, all the same, it does. Regardless of my strength, I am dependent too. I fall for things, and I find myself caring much more than I should. I seem to believe I must up-hold this unaffected image. So I put up a guard. I have always considered it easier to play confident than shy, to act hard than to be soft. While I am self-assured, people cannot touch me. They cannot influence my state or my wellbeing.
And this fear of vulnerability, it has not always been negative. Not at all – it’s been damn productive too. It’s allowed me to strive for utmost success. Confidence – as a defence mechanism – has shot me to places I, perhaps in my experience and my age, have not deserved to find myself. I have dabbled in the art of “doing me”, and I’ve become really quite good.
This constant “doing of things” – while embedded in my drive – is as strong as it is for it links to my fear of vulnerability too. It represents me creating a barrier: against people, and against people threatening my success. I don’t mean solely career-wise either.
For years, I’ve had control over my wellbeing. I’ve been happy for I’ve practiced in what’s made me happy. I’ve pursued my goals, I’ve basked in friendship, and in no-drama socialisation. Those things which have been negative, I’ve hand-picked and thrown out of my life quite soon after they’ve entered.
At 18, when my life decisions were essentially and indefinitely handed over to me, it became more complicated. I am now moulding the direction of my life – not simply attending some institution required by the Government. Everyday I have the ability to change my path. Everyday, I could make one decision which would change the next year of my life. It would probably take the click of a button too.
And because I’m all reflective and shit, the more I am prompted to make personal decisions, the more I reflect. Day by day, I wonder if I’m making the right decisions, if I’m staying true to the hopeful school girl who could not wait to prove everyone wrong – or, incredibly right.
When decisions become yours – specifically, those which rule your life – it is impossible not to consider the dreaded “bigger picture”. At least, for a personality like me. I am aware that small decisions amount to the larger decisions of our life. And for this sake, I wonder if my impulsive nature – my tendency to make a decision in the moment – only satisfies my immediate goals or desires. For this sake, I feel obliged to consistently reassess whether together my small decisions are tending towards my wider goals.
It is not solely this decision-making – the potential for fucking up and losing myself in it all – which makes me feel vulnerable in this life. It is also the extent I let people in – or don’t – which I’ve become increasingly aware of. When we were young (granted we still are so), the involvement of people in our lives was typically either positive or negative. They made us laugh, they encouraged us to have fun, sometimes they were distracting but never to a point of great detriment.
Now the presence of people in our life has such a significant impact and in a multitude of ways. A person can hinder our success or promote it. They can threaten our happiness, or evoke it. For we now live very distinct lives – or at the least, are working to create these – the people of which we surround ourselves are becoming increasingly important. An individual’s path aligned next to ours makes us consider whether our own is sufficient; it also makes us likely to make similar decisions.
Am I saying I’m vulnerable to peer pressure? Hell no. Am I admitting I’m vulnerable to the influence of people in general? Yes. Of course I am.
I’m scared of letting people get too close. I worry that where I focus on people, I’ll sacrifice the time I could be making something of myself. It’s a debate with two strong sides. I consider that maybe, I’m not supposed to be so selfish. Maybe, I should be more open to people entering my life. But how can we know if giving up this time will be positive? If diversion is ever characteristically good for us? Is there a point where our increasing care for people is detrimental to our own progression? Or am I missing the point, and are people in themselves crucial to our achievement anyway?
When life gets overwhelming – if I have a lot going on or I lack direction – my natural instinct is to want to simplify things. To bring it back to the basics. This, for me, means to cut people off. It is easier to avoid situations that bring uncertainty. Whereby people may play with my heart or emotions – even if they do not intend to, but simply have the power to – I feel the need to cut them off. I desire to feel powerful, to feel determined and focused again. As if I can do it all on my own. God forbid something gets in the way of McKenzie being productive every. Damn. Minute.
Moving to a new city on my own, I have welcomed people into my life in a way that I have never done so before. I’ve felt care and protection – often without my own understanding of why – to an extent that I haven’t previously known from those outside my family. People have invested in me, and what scares me of this, is what’s expected in return for this investment.
It makes me scared. I have trained myself to feel stronger when dealing with my own feelings. I feel vulnerable when people want to know their detailing, even, when they want to aid in dealing with them. To open and share these with people – although valuable to me eventually – is initially a most scary thought. The fact that my happiness, or otherwise, could affect their own feels too much responsibility.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to do as I feel I should – to spread positivity – to people at a distance. I am happy to be alive, to make the most of what life this is – and I am glad to encourage in others this same mentality. Nonetheless, when people gain access to the whirlwind that is my head, they are to realise there is not always the same essence of clarity they read in my writing or in my smile. They’ll see there’s actually great thought and sometimes, a break-down of life behind both. There’s reflection, and there’s constant evaluation that sees my motivation the way it is. And sometimes, I don’t know if I’m both willing to explain my every thought – if they even can be explained – and further, if I’m willing to sacrifice the prominently positive effect I could have on people, for, well, a bit of shit stuff too. I’ll convince people they’re better off staying away.
Of course, to deal with everything on my own – as much as it may originally feel right – is indefinitely bound to lead me to a lonely place. If I cut people out in an endeavour towards supposed success, I’ll find I’ll only reach it on the most surface of levels, if at all. I’ll realise I pushed off the opportunity for a lot else, even for real and true happiness along the way.
What I know deep down is this fear of vulnerability is as unwarranted as others. Even if my purpose was to merely make people happy from a distance, I’d be dysfunctional at the task if I wasn’t happy when you looked up close. It’s these intimate interactions with people, the multiplicity of good things in my personal life, which make me able to spread joy to others both close and from afar.
No doubt, I’ll admit to myself soon enough that all these times I have basked in the company of people is too productive, just in a different nature. I’ll realise that without people, and without holding them close, we really do have little. I’ll see that it’s worth risking the pain that they might induce, even my instability for a while – because such is the way of life. And it’ll be productive – if this is all that you really desire, McKenzie – to learn from that lesson too.
No promises that I won’t push a few more away first.
It’s I’m a work in progress.
Photos by Darina