It, held me back so many times. It, being the fear of failure. Not actual failure though, or the probability of failure, but the mere possibility of failure – a delusional whisper that haunted my potential.
I’m not sure how I acquired, It. Perhaps It wandered into my life like a stray dog and became family. Problem is, no one can shed family members that easily, if ever.
This fear of mine didn’t discriminate. It, showed up on any occasion. Like the time It showed up for the class play. I’d memorized my lines, everyone else’s lines, and every supporting nuance. I loved to practice at home in front of the mirror. And then, the big day came. However, so certain that I might make a mistake, I walked away from the little production. Fear made it easy.
As long as I can remember, fear has been my constant companion. Over time, I learned to walk away from a multitude of situations leaving a trail of baggage behind me. I never planned any return trips.
My writing never went beyond a few thoughts, and an occasional page or two, before It snapped at my heels. In passage after passage, the characters I’d envisioned, and the stories they inhabited, somehow seemed dark, trivial and pointless. Once again, I was ready to abandon something I truly loved. And, that’s when it struck me: fear wasn’t the theme in my work, it was the master.
I began to reread my own work at that point, only to find that I’d provided my protagonists with the very thing that seemed to elude me – the ability to struggle. Their struggles, no matter how small, seemed anything but trivial. It’s what drove their character development. I got the concept. Now, I had to apply it to my own life.
It took me almost a lifetime to understand what it means to struggle – how to embrace the possibility of failure like a tiny imperfection in an otherwise beautiful gem. All those years I’d walked away from a struggle left the stone dull, flat and lifeless.
The first step was the hardest. That’s so cliché, but so right! Soon though, I realized that the fear of the possibility of failure may be in sight, but it doesn’t have to be the focus. The discomfort fear creates is worth the outcome.
Recall that stray I took in all those years ago? It still barks on occasion. When it does, we walk side by side to a point, and from there, I let go – my potential unleashed.