Fear and Growth
April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
If I could smoke fear away,
I’d roll that mother fuck up,
And take two puffs
The older I become the less certainty I have. About everything.
When I was 20 I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And the only thing I’ve been able to take away from this experience is that certainty is something I’m not guaranteed in life. Only the certainty of death remains.
But life should be approached as an experience. At least, that’s the only way I’ve figured it out how to live without becoming overwhelmed by everything. I find topics that interest me and dive in as much as I can. I know that I’ll never learn everything but I find the endeavor itself invigorating. That’s how I intend to live my life. You’ll never know everything but the search for knowledge and experience is what makes life interesting.
Sometimes this propensity to better understand things puts me in awkward situations. I find myself in conversations or places that are uncomfortable for me. For example, I use couchsurfing to meet new people (and stay somewhere for free of course). I had a couchsurfing host in New York invite us to dinner with some of her (and her husband’s) friends. Things were going reasonably well until I found myself in a strange political discussion with the host’s husband. I won’t lie to you, things got weird. But unfortunately I found myself in a position where I was defending the fucking concept of free speech. I was told this was a “strangely American phenomenon” by a German guy and a Turkish woman. I’ll do my best to refrain from mentioning the irony of a German and a Turk supporting the suppression of free speech. Not to mention the fact that free speech is one of the foundations of the modern Western culture and is far from being solely an “American” phenomenon. Annoyingly, I think these two were trying to paint my support of free speech as some sort of red meat eating, gun-toting, American trait. You could imagine the horror if I (equally idiotically) connected his opposition to free speech to the German culture and the unfortunate events of the 20th century which occurred there. But after that conversation I’ve come across a dangerously increasing number of similarly minded people online and in articles. The conversation, although awkward, was important because it helped me understand the anti-free speech movement. I learned something.
A better example is my life right now. I’m in a foreign country surrounded by people who speak a different language than my own. And although I know some Portuguese it’s surely a struggle to hold conversations. Very often I find myself the weak link in social situations, which is something I’m not used to. There’s only so many times I can ask people to stop a conversation to explain what I missed. After a while I learned to just sit out of a lot of conversations. But at the end of the day I’m living in a foreign country and learning a new language every day. Sometimes it’s mentally tiring. Sometimes I get tired of constantly being forced to focus on each word coming out of everyone’s mouth. But most of the time it’s just interesting. Sitting in a room on the other side of the planet full of people speaking a language that was completely foreign to me only a year before. This is personal growth. It’s tough, but it’s important.
But at the root of all of these strange experiences is fear. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being judged. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Every time that I do something new it feels sort of weird. Learning new things is strange. Admitting that you suck at something is hard. But the reward from learning a new skill makes it worth it. Improving yourself is how life should be lived.