My cousin gave me a Giving Keys necklace for Christmas last year. It’s a beautiful key with the word ‘fearless’ stamped into it. I loved it immediately, and I’ve worn it a lot over the past several months. Not because I identify with it, but because I’m a damn scaredy cat. People don’t believe me when I say this because I just moved to France to do my Master’s degree; because I’ve spent three months doing an internship in China; because I quit my job in DC with no savings and the hope I could learn to be a decent barista. But it’s true: I’m scared all the damn time.
Do you remember that episode of Friends where Chandler is being overdramatic about asking a girl out? (you know, every episode?) That’s me, except with everything.
Before I left for France, a lot of people asked me if I was scared. My answer was always, “Well, yeah.” In some sick, twisted version of help some people would start asking further questions like:
“What if there’s another terrorist attack?”
“What if you get really sick?”
“What if you never learn the language well?”
“What if you fail out of school?”
I don’t know. I really don’t know. That’s my answer, to all of those questions. I have no idea what happens if any of those things happen.
Mostly I just think: If it happens, it happens, and I’ll deal with it then. Honestly, there’s not much more I even can do. Because the thing is… All of that stuff could go wrong in Dallas too. In fact some of that stuff did go wrong in Dallas. I got really ill and was stuck on an fluids-only diet for weeks in December 2014 and January 2015. Five police officers were killed a mile from my apartment this past July, right before I left Dallas.
You can’t let ‘what if’s’ stop you. You can’t allow fear to stop you.
Terrible things happen all over the world. It’s awful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s frustrating.
But what if really wonderful things could happen too? Whatever it is that you’re afraid of, that you’re asking all those what if’s about–What if really wonderful things happened instead?
What if I become fluent in French?
What if I this degree leads to one of those unicorn tenure-track positions at a great university?
What if I get to travel around Europe more while I’m here?
What if I meet the love of my life in France?
What if I make life-long friends?
What if I get to know the ins and outs of a different culture?
What if I get to spend entire days wandering the Louvre?
What if I get to go to the Côte d’Azure and stare down at the Mediterranean?
What if this year abroad inspires me to (finally) write (and finish) a book?
What if absolutely wonderful things come out of this?
It would have been really easy to be scared and stay at home. Every time I’ve moved–away to college, to China, to DC, to Dallas, to France–it would have been easier to be scared and stay where I was. Every time I’ve taken a trip, especially when I’ve traveled solo, it was always scary, but I did it anyway. Honestly. Not because I’m fearless. Between you and me, Internet: Fearless doesn’t exist.
Because wonderful things came out of those risks: years of friendship with fellow Ags; being humbled by the Great Wall; getting into specialty coffee. I try to remember those things when I’m scared and instead of being Chandler and immediately jumping to I could die, I just ask myself: What if something really wonderful happens?