Generally, there aren’t many of them. I’m not scared of heights, and I’m coming around to spiders. I’ve backpacked through all sorts of probably fairly dangerous places, and I’m not afraid of being alone. I’m pretty ok about mortality, and I’m tackling my thoroughly ridiculous fish phobia.
But you know what I am afraid of? The fact that I very nearly didn’t end up where I am right now.
I wrote a post recently that touched on the issue of life-directing, and how passive we can be about it. It really got me thinking. I was a hair-width away from not doing what I’m doing. I very nearly stayed at Princeton and carried on like normal. I almost didn’t make what I now believe is the best decision of my life so far.
Why? Because somebody, somewhere in the back of my brain told me that I shouldn’t. That it was madness to take a year off to write a novel – that it was silly to think my instincts were telling me it was important. And I nearly listened to him.
“You’re brave,” a few people have said to me. “I bet there were those who thought you were totally crazy to runaway to Paris.”
And yes, there were. People who might still think I am insane. But it wasn’t them stopping me – it isn’t them I’m afraid of. What scares me is that the little monster who told me not to do it, isn’t the sort you can shine a light on and coax into being your friend. Because he doesn’t exist, except somewhere inside my brain. I don’t know how he got there, or why, but he tramples on dreaming, and makes “the big plan” embarrassing. He doesn’t believe in dramatic change, and thinks possibility is something to be calculated. He says I’m naïve, and how arrogant am I for thinking I know what’s best for me?
I’m probably revealing far too much about my psyche by writing about him, but there’s a reason for my over-share. If you, like me, have a should-monster keeping you on the brightly-lit and sensible path, I challenge you, when you’re looking for a costume for the Halloween party, to dress up like him. To get into his head, and to find out the reason behind his nay-saying. If you find a gap in his logic – if he answers “Why not?” with “Because I said so,” maybe he’ll stop looking quite so scary. Without the threat of him lurking in the shadows to whisper “I told you so”, you’re free to go adventuring into less well-lit territory. And if my first month of experience is anything to go by, there are all sorts of interesting things in the dark.