She Didn't Let Fear Decide


I had a few ideas of what to write about next, but when I realized that I would be starting this draft today, the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, my mind was made up. After talking about failure two weeks ago, today I'm going to talk about another fun F word: fear. 

Two years ago, I was walking towards the finish line. My plan was to watch some of the Right On Hereford, Left On Boylston elation before heading to a massage job nearby at 4:00. Just before 3, I was working through the crowds in Kenmore square when I noticed two police offers sprinting and simultaneously received a text from Adam saying there had been an explosion at the finish line. 

What came next was confusion, denial, a surge of adrenaline. But not fear. Not yet. I saw people sobbing, a man in a suit holding a bloody cloth to his forehead, runners trying to stay loose not yet knowing that they wouldn't finish the race, not that year. But still I felt nothing. I drifted above and around it all. There was nothing for me to do but walk home. When I got there safe, unscathed, whole, I started to shake. A full body shiver that didn't stop for nearly an hour. The fear that had been contained long enough for me to make it home bubbled to the surface.

I almost just wrote that I had never felt that way before but it's not completely true. I have on many occasions felt the same sense of uneasiness, even dread. But April 15, 2013 may have been the first time I felt that way from external forces.

I've dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Before I knew what it was, I just knew that I was nervous a lot. I was shy because interactions made me nervous. I ate the same food for days because not knowing how a different food would affect me made me nervous. Thinking about time made me nervous (but that's a whole other chestnut). A bombing in your home city is a valid excuse to feel full body fear, but is getting on a subway train? Being in a room full of strangers? Starting a new job?

Here's the important part, and what has taken me 29 years and some expensive therapy to figure out: it's ok to be scared. It's healthy, even (to an extent). What's not ok is to let fear make your decisions. To think "I'm not going to do this because I'm too scared."

There's a long list of things I wouldn't have done if I had let fear be the deciding force. I wouldn't have gone back to school or gotten out of a bad work environment. I wouldn't have changed careers. I would never get on a plane (or most other public transportation for that matter). I would never have even considered becoming a fitness instructor (which is what actually spurred me to write about this, but more on that that particular endeavor later). And I wouldn't have pushed "publish" on this post. I've found it's always worth the risk.

"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." 
- Nelson Mandela


Molly Kerrigan