One thing that every person is most likely afraid of is getting to the end of their life and realizing that they wasted it. I know it’s something that I’m afraid of. I hear a lot of people say that they don’t want to get to the end of their life and realize that they’ve wasted it. There have been stories written warning against the idea of wasting your life. It certainly seems that a lot of people can relate to this idea. So when I say I’m afraid of wasting my life, I’m sure most of you can relate.
However, I’ve been slowly realizing that, while I’m terrified of wasting my life, I’m also terrified of living. Absolutely terrified of it. But the thing is, I’m not sure what it is I’m afraid of when it comes to living. There are so many things that I could be afraid of, so many things that I am afraid of, but I don’t know what’s at the root of the problem. Could I be afraid of rejection? Failure? Change? I mean, I know that on some level I’m afraid of all of those things, but none of them seem to be at the root of the problem, and I’ve been racking my brains to figure out what I’m truly, deep down inside, afraid of.
“If you’re so desperate to stay alive, why don’t you live a little?”
That’s a quote from Doctor Who, and it’s one that’s really slapped me in the face. I’m absolutely terrified of dying young. I’m constantly terrified that every random pain I experience is me dying of something, and it’s terrifying. As a Christian, I feel like it’s not supposed to scare me, but maybe it’s not death itself that scares me so much as it is the idea of dying before I’ve really lived. I don’t really know, but that’s my assumption—that I’m scared to die before having lived.
But I don’t even know what it means to really live. Oscar Wilde said that
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Oscar Wilde was right. But at the same time, what does it mean to live? What do we mean when we say that most people only exist, rarely live? What is living?
Maybe living is existing in spite of fear. What I mean is that, perhaps to live means, not to forfeit fear and take on rash bravery, but to see your fears and realize that, while fear can be your greatest ally, it can also be your greatest enemy. One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: Voyager is an episode that’s not so much exciting for its fantastic alien battles or anything so much as it is intriguing because of its story. See, in this episode, the crew of Voyager finds a small group of aliens in stasis pods, protecting themselves from a catastrophic disaster that destroyed most life on their planet. They had calculated the time in which their planet would be habitable again, and had programmed the stasis pods to let them out once that time had come. But when the crew of Voyager found them, it had been several years past that date and the people in the pods had not woken up. The crew of Voyager discovered that inside the stasis pods was a simulation in which the people in stasis could exist while waiting for the time to come for them to wake up. This simulation was attached to their brains and listened to their emotions and ideas and adapted the world to suit their needs. But a problem arose: they became held hostage by their own fears. They hadn’t left the stasis pods because they were being held hostage by fear.
This episode has sort of become a metaphor for my life. I’ve become a hostage to my fears, unable to escape their clutches. Anytime I try, they cripple me and keep me from running. So maybe my definition of living means escaping the clutches of fear and actually living. Perhaps my idea of living means forgetting about the fact that I’m terrified to do something, and instead just do it.
A couple weeks ago, the people at RUF started to talk about SnoCo, their winter conference. They advertised it as this awesome weekend that they were offering, and they were trying to get people to go. Now, a lot of the people I know went on that trip. That trip happens to have been this weekend, and I decided not to go because I was afraid. My best friend wasn’t planning on going, and I was too afraid to go without her. I also used the excuse that I didn’t have enough money to go to SnoCo and Summer Conference both, which was true. But then, in the last couple weeks, they started advertising that they were willing to help people pay if the reason they weren’t going was because of money. Even after hearing that, I was too afraid to sign up. The other day, a spot opened up for someone who hadn’t signed up to go to SnoCo. So I got a mass text from my best friend saying she was going to jump on it, but she was also freaked out because she had a lot to do and was worried about how she was going to get it done. So instead of being happy for her, like I should’ve been, I tried to convince her not to go, and then got frustrated when she decided to go. I eventually realized that it was my own fault that I didn’t go, and apologized to her, but I still feel terrible. I didn’t go, even though the opportunity was clearly there. It even seemed as though God was maybe telling me I should go, but I didn’t go—because I was too afraid.
I had gone to Fall Conference last semester, and I had, for the most part, an awesome time. It was a great weekend of relaxing fun and getting to know people. But there was a problem. There was a several hour piece of time on Saturday where we could do whatever we wanted. There was a group that wanted to go to a town close to the camp. Another group wanted to go hiking. And then there was me. I wanted to go with either one of the groups, but I was afraid that they wouldn’t want me. So I didn’t go with either of them. I didn’t really know anyone who was going on the hike, so I was too afraid to push myself into the group. The group going to the town was worried that they wouldn’t have room in the cars for too many more people, but my best friend managed to sneak her way into one of the cars. That’s the thing about her—she may be afraid, but she doesn’t let her fears control her like I do. She pushes through them, pushes her way in, and enjoys herself. I, however, got left all alone at the camp. I didn’t know where anyone was, I didn’t know where to go, so I grabbed the book I brought and sat outside and tried to read. But all I could think about was the fact that everyone else was out having fun and I was too afraid so I didn’t go. I was miserable for a couple hours, basically broke down sobbing because I was so upset. I ended up finally finding some people I knew to hang out with, so the afternoon ended up being alright after all, but I think I’m being taught a lesson—my fear is destroying me.
So how does a person face fear? Well, I guess a good place to start would be trusting that my God is a good God who loves me. But you know what, sometimes that’s hard to remember. Sometimes it’s not hard to remember, but it’s hard to believe. But always start with the truth that God is good. Sometimes remembering people (whether they’re fictional or not is of no consequence) who have faced their fears, trusted that all would be well, and gone on. People who have conquered their fears are always an inspiration. It’s helpful sometimes to know that it can be done. Facing fear is hard, and it’s something I definitely suck at—to the point that I’m afraid that if I don’t figure this out, I’ll get to the end of my life and cry “I’ve wasted it.” Hopefully, that’s one fear that can drive me to do something with my life.