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Fear of Unknown Consequences

“Let it go, let it go
When I rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
And here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm range AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHN
The cold never bothered me anyway.”
– Idina Menzel (Adele Dazeem), “Let it Go”

(I know it’s overused. It speaks to me. Get over it. Just be glad you can’t hear me hitting that high E.)

As you’ve all been privvy to, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery as of late. Very recently, I’ve begun to realize that I’ve kind of been living my life all wrong for a really long time. I’ve been doing what is expected, instead of what I want, mostly out of the fear that if I don’t, I’m going to disappoint people. Or worse, I’m going to get a bunch of cryptic criticism about it.

There’s nothing worse than telling someone you love and respect that you’re considering a major life change and you get, “Well…” (implied: You’re making a mistake and you are about to ruin your life forever and will have to live in a box and everyone will be embarrassed by you and will laugh at you and not love you and things you can’t even imagine will happen)

I’ve been doing a lot of work with the therapist to break free of this crippling anxiety that I’ve silently wrestled with for many years. This feeling like if I don’t give everything I am supposed to give, the world is going to end. If I don’t follow the rules, if I don’t do what is expected, something absolutely horrible is going to happen. If I don’t do exactly what society/my parents/my bosses tell me to do, the anxious knot in my chest is going to strangle me.(Seriously, that’s what I’ve been living with. Was it obvious to anyone? I wonder if my ex could tell – other than the occasional freak out when we tried to sit in the wrong seat at Shea Stadium, I think I kept it pretty well together.)

But talking it out has allowed me to step back and see that this fear has not only made me unhappy but it’s held me back from being the person that I really am. I took a steadier job because I was afraid that if I continued with television and creative activities, I would never have the life I was “supposed” to have. Husband, dog, picket fence, 2.5 kids. I thought that if I did what I was supposed to do, I would be married at 25, kids at 27. I would be a vice president by 35, and just be a kick-ass, shoulder-pad wearing soccer mom.

Well here I am, almost 28, no husband to speak of (even though I invested 6.5 years of myself into a relationship, but that’s a separate issue), two dogs which act like my kids (and the occasional foster, so that’s .5), resulting in the purchase of a 6′ pine fence that I had to buy myself (see ex comment above). I have a job where 99% of my work is tossed out the moment it’s completed, and while the leadership thing is….coming…I guess…I don’t know anymore if it’s what I want.

So, basically I gave up everything to support this vision of the “right” kind of life, and I don’t even have it!

I’m slowly starting to come around to this idea that the “right” kind of life isn’t what I actually want. I can’t work 9-5 in a cubicle day in and day out. Doing stuff for other people who will probably end up throwing it away as soon as it’s done isn’t fulfilling. And most importantly, giving of myself to others to just end up with none left for myself isn’t a way to live a life.I also have begun to question even basic desires that I’ve had my entire life – do I even want to get married, to have kids?

To be honest, I don’t know right now. But the sheer fact that I’m asking these questions means I’m choosing to look fear in the face and call its bluff. What would happen if I never got married? What would happen if I didn’t have kids? What happens if I quit my job and did something else – like write?Would the world end? Probably not. Would I be happy? If it was truly what I wanted, then yes.After all, what is it that I’m so damned afraid of?

Here is a list:

  • I won’t live up to the expectations of others (including myself)
  • I will struggle with money and happiness
  • People will talk about me/make fun of me/be embarrassed by me
  • Whatever it is that I want to do will come back to “bite” me in some horrible unimaginable way

All of those things really boil down to #4 – the fear that something so terrifying and horrible I can’t even put a name to it will happen if I do anything outside of the paradigm of perfection that I envision my life is.
It’s this fear that has forced me to seek comfort and shelter in steady things. Work-wise, I know I will receive X amount every month and I will do Y with it. I have an excel spreadsheet that has all my finances for the next 3 years, when I plan to pay my debts off, etc. With running, I know that Mondays are rest days, Tuesdays/Thursdays are run days, Wednesdays are speedwork, Fridays are yoga, Saturdays are long runs and pilates, Sundays are rest days again. I work as a project manager because I can plan out all of my activities and tasks for months – even years out.

The funny thing is, even with all of this planning, there has never been a steady anything. I get X every month, but shit always comes up (my cousin needs $500 for color guard, the car needs something, I need to buy some stuff at target, etc). My workouts are anything but consistent – especially with school. And I can put together the best project plan in the history of the universe and the clients will always find a way to screw it up.

The question I have to ask myself now is do I want to continue to cling to the illusion of consistency and perfection? If the unknown occurs ANYWAYS, and I handle it as it comes up, why expend all this energy into making plans that will never happen?As you all may have noticed, I’ve been exercising my spontaneous and selfish side. Where things no longer serve me and my happiness, I have temporarily put them on a shelf (whether that’s going for a run, or even talking with those that I love). And when I decide that I’m ready to pull them back down, then I will. And I’m not apologizing for taking time to serve myself before others or society’s expectations.Because even though I am taking healthy steps, every day I struggle with the same crippling fear that something is going to go terribly wrong.

Even this blog – I worry that exposing my deepest issues and fears to the public will result in some dire consequences at work (it has happened before, although that was high school and included a vindictive and possibly sociopathic drama teacher).

So, basically, I’m not done working on myself yet. But I’m a lot farther than I was even a month ago. Now I know what I am afraid of, and now that it has a name, I can work to quell it.

I can let it go

(Just not that song.)

Published inQuarter Life Crisis
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