Being fearful the right way. Maybe?
Since being rendered immobile, I have spent a lot of time in meditation and self reflection and have come to recognize a very painful truth about myself. I'm afraid. Of a lot of things. Fear, for better or worse, dictates my actions. It motivates me. Sometimes it paralyzes me.
I guess this is kind of normal though. There are plenty of things to be afraid of; car accidents and violent atrocities like rape on a more "local" level, terrorism on a more global scale and everything in between, like having enough money to take care of myself, or job--dare I say it--security after the 2008 recession. It's responsible to be fearful, because otherwise, we become reckless, impulsive and irresponsible, never getting our ducks in a row for the future, right?
But maybe not though.
Traveling in some ways has made me fearless. I'm no longer afraid of the unknown, of strangers or of being uncomfortable. Weird food and languages I can't begin to recognize have become more adventurous than dangerous or debilitating. As a perpetual (read: insatiable) thrill seeker my motto that I ironically muttered not too long before getting on that motorbike in India goes something like this: "the greater the risk (of death) the better." Funny how the world can be so literal sometimes. And how's that motto for responsible?
If I died tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be remembered for my cautious, thought-through behavior and part of me relishes the fact that most people I come across are inspired, or at least claim to be impressed, by my "fearlessness."
But the truth is, traveling has also instilled--or maybe a better word is revealed--a new, very real fear in me: fear of mediocrity, complacency and a life not fully lived.
I realized this during the course of a very casual conversation, when after talking about my motorbike mishap, a friend asked me what in this world I was scared of. I immediately but casually responded with, "being on my death bed and wishing I had seen more, done more and learned more." This answer surprised even me, as I've never vocalized this so clearly, or even known it really existed.
Fear can do a lot of things. It can force us to settle into a life of comfort that is neither disappointing nor inspiring, because as another friend once told me, "people would rather be unhappy than uncertain." It can manifest literally any excuse and render us incapable of living a truly inspired life. (What if we aren't "successful?" What if our big dreams fail? What if we things get hard and we have to ask for help?). Fear can also keep us from discovering our true selves--what if we don't like what we see?--or letting go of unhealthy habits or relationships because they are comfortable enough and the unknown is scary.
So in almost every way I have done the opposite this and ran away from any aspect of settling, uprooting everything that had been potted in my life to see the world and I've loved every second of it. I always told people I wasn't running away from anything, but I guess now I can admit that I was lying. I've been running away from the seductive arms of comfort, and the complacency of "I'm happy, I'm doing what everyone expected of me."
Of course, there are flaws in this lifestyle as well. There is a certain financial reality one must face and wandering can quietly turn from a time of self-exploration to a passive but very real neglect of personal and societal responsibility. I'm going to remain optimistic though, and say that I haven't reached that point yet. My running is still towards--or maybe even through--a destination or self-discovery and genuine fulfillment. In the process of running from these fears that a year ago I didn't know existed, I've found myself running into inspiration, excitement and--for now--a life "fully lived."