Embracing Fear and Choosing Hope Embracing Fear and Choosing Hope
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I'm part of a generation that sought validation through characters on screens, measuring our worth against fictional ideals. "Back in the day" I had a quick comeback for everything, and excuses aplenty after making mistakes. Fast forward to now, and while I've gained a pinch of self-awareness, I still find myself tripping over my own quirks. Politeness isn't my strong suit, but I've practiced it like rehearsing lines in front of the mirror. One of my peculiar habits involves greeting someone with "Shikamoo" and, if met with silence, replying to myself with "Marahaba." It's my little thing, and my family loves to tease me about it.

So, I'm a bit of an oddball. Just like those sensitive kids lost in their daydreams, my heart's as big as a stadium, and handling emotions is a bit of a puzzle. But there's one feeling that's proven elusive: fear. Somehow, fear hits harder than even my own inner critic. 

I can't pinpoint when I first met fear, but it's like an old friend I know better than peace and love. From characters in books, movies, and songs, I learned how to deal with fear. Whether it's the spine-chilling dread of a horror movie or the rushed confession in a rom-com, I picked up cues on how to face it head-on. Those fictional moments taught me to brace myself for fear's arrival.

However, let's get real here – mastering fear? Not exactly my strong suit. I'm still learning the ropes, and much like Luvvie Ajayi Jones, my go-to for sassy wisdom, says, "God isn’t done with me yet." But one thing I've gotten good at is prepping for fear. I've perfected the art of chickening out when faced with scary stuff. Part of it is on me, a mix of my own hesitations, and a bunch of tough times that taught me bravery often translates to playing it safe.

I know I'm not alone in this battle. Life's the ultimate heartbreaker, teaching us that aiming higher than mediocrity, daring to be bold, and facing fear full-on can result in chaos and heartache. And let's not even get started on the fear of hoping. Here's a quote by Spencer Hastings in "Pretty Little Liars" that stuck with me: "Hope breeds eternal misery." Because trust me, hoping for things that don't come to be can feel like watching your dreams vanish into thin air, leaving you powerless to stop them.

Now I've got big dreams, big enough that I've tried not to think about them. Because seeing those dreams is like giving in to hope, and that means being stuck in an endless cycle of waiting for disappointment. Honestly, it's simpler to just not dream. To believe that beyond the daily grind, there's nothing beyond ordinary, uninspiring thoughts. Why bother with hopeful dreams when you can stick to what's safe and predictable?

In Luvvie Ajayi Jones's book "Professional Troublemaker," she talks about how fearing hope is really about fearing disappointment. We're scared that if we dream too big, we'll end up flat on our faces. So we dream small, or we don't dream at all. It's a way to shield ourselves from the pain of big dreams falling flat.

As time passes on, I've realized the weight of those dreams I've left by the wayside. With each year, I see how my fear has held me back. Yet the nagging thought that maybe nothing good will ever happen looms large. And those dreams that sneak up on me, bring anxiety. When you're an idealist at heart, ignoring dreams is nearly impossible.

It's a dilemma, isn't it? We're encouraged to dream big, to hope, to truly live. But at the same time, we're warned not to dream too big, and not to hope too much, because the disappointment can be crushing. And so, we learn to limit our dreams, and in the process, we forget what living is all about.

We censor ourselves, dampening down our desires to protect against the pain of disappointment. We label things as "impossible" without giving them a chance. And in doing so, we unknowingly let go of a vital part of ourselves. Now, I'm not here to give you a pep talk, but I've noticed that during my lowest moments, when I can't feel joy or love, it's because fear has taken over. It's as if I feel nothing at all.

Fearing everything, fearing life itself, locks us in a state of perpetual darkness and hopelessness. Nothing seems to make sense, and we go through the motions, just barely. We give the bare minimum because that's all we can muster. But that's not the life I want anymore. When depression knocks, I know how to take care of myself. I've walked through that door enough times to know what's on the other side. It's a bleak place, but I've grown used to it.

Lately, though, I've hesitated to leave that place. Instead of stepping back into the light, I've lingered in the darkness. Because stepping out means allowing myself to dream of days without that darkness, days filled with the aroma of coffee, the sound of babies laughing, and the exhilaration of falling in love.

Living is about fearing hope and still choosing to hope. It's not about conquering fear, it's about coexisting with it. And while I'm no expert on battling fear, I've come to realize this much: It is useless to pretend that fear is unfounded. We all know that heartbreak and disappointment is real. That said, I know what it's like when that door to depression opens. I know what it's like to lose sight of joy and love. So, here's my two cents: Forget about the scary part that comes with hoping and dreaming. Who cares? Dream unabashedly anyway, just because you can.

As Luvvie Ajayi Jones says: "We are prone to thinking that if we haven’t seen what we want, in the exact form we imagine it, then it isn’t possible. Oftentimes, when we want something that doesn’t come with a manual, we are afraid of it, because we could lose our way since there is no map. Well, maybe WE are supposed to draw the map, so someone who comes behind us won’t get lost. Create the map you didn’t have...That starts with dreaming."

So, here's to living in fear, embracing hopelessness, and choosing hope anyway. I won't pretend I've cracked the code on fear-fighting; I'm still learning that myself. But don't expect me to tell you not to be scared. Expect me to encourage you to dream, to hope, and to dare, despite the fear. Because, at the end of the day, living isn't about conquering fear; it's about living through it. And that's a journey worth taking.

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Mariam Simbeye
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Mariam Simbeye

I am a podcaster and a raging Taylor Swift fan. I talk a lot about mental health and I am not scared to say I'm scared.

More articles in Your Mind Matters Too! series

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