The Upside to Being Afraid

5 years ago, almost to the day, I was lying down on the deck of the house my now-ex grew up in. He was lying next to me playing “Demons” by Guster on his guitar. Despite the melody, we weren’t singing. We knew we were dying and neither of us wanted to admit it. The breakup would take a year to complete, neither of us wanting to sever the ties with someone we still loved very much.

And the breakup wasn’t even half of it. 6 months after the final ending, I lost my mother quite suddenly to a secret battle with cancer. Less than a year after that, I lost one of my best friends to a freak accident. 7 months later, I moved to Chicago with some savings, no job, and a temporary living arrangement.

That was 2 years ago, and I am just starting to feel content with the way things are and where they are going.

But someone very close to me is on the cusp of her journey. I’ve been talking to her regularly, sizing up her fears an insecurities trying to rationalize them with her. I remember being the same scared person 5 years ago. I know she thinks the journey to my own contentment was long, and in some ways it was, but it wasn’t without it’s joys and victories. It wasn’t all darkness. While I wish my mother and my friend were still around, the additional struggles were well worth getting here.

And trust me, I know that’s cheesy to say, especially to anyone who’s about to start something terrifying or is amidst all the crazy. I’m not saying contentment isn’t without its hardships. I’m not saying you’ll get there and everything will be perfect. It won’t be.

I will say, one day you will be able to look at someone you love who’s getting what you want and be genuinely happy for them. Someday you will find yourself associating with people who are not worth your time and know yourself well enough to sever ties before your heart gets too invested. Maybe you’ll be able to spend a lot of time in your head and have it be more like a vacation, and less like the worst day on the job ever.

And then you’ll have another multi-year period of struggle and growth, but you’ll be better equipped that time, and the next time, and the time after that.

But the first one shows you what you’re made of.

So when my good friend told me she was afraid, I told her it’s good to be afraid. It means she’s alive. It means you’re alive too.

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