With Halloween not too far off, and IT, the movie of the scary clown that haunted my childhood, resurfacing, the feeling of fear is all too prevalent in our society. In the words of a local pastor, Johnny Ray Knowles, “Fear is grounded in the uncertainty of an outcome.”
Working from this definition, we have become obsessed with knowing things before they happen, or aiming for something that is certain, rather than taking a risk or living each day not knowing what the next moment will bring. Our lives have become so routine that we don’t leave room for uncertainty and it’s all out of fear. So what is it that we actually fear? It’s more than a fear of the unknown, because people still play the lottery everyday with the hope that they hit.
Our greatest fear is being uncomfortable.
One thing I have noticed in my 28 years upon this earth, is that people, myself included, do not like to be uncomfortable. It’s the reason the term “awkward” exists. People don’t fear heights because the height is unknown, they fear heights because it’s an awkward moment with a high level of uncertainty due to lack of comfort. Particularly in America, we have gotten used to being comfortable and it has become our measurement of success.
You are considered successful if you have a job working for a good company, with good health benefits and you’re able to afford a nice home, and a nice car, and are able to take a couple of vacations a year. For most of America, this still isn’t a reality and we spend the bulk of our adulthood trying to reach this level of comfortability.
So, we tend to stick with a job we don’t necessarily care for with the hope that something better comes along, or with the aspiration that you move up the corporate ladder from entry level to executive. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, simply because everyone is operating with the same mind with the same goal, and there has to be a winner and a loser when you’re competing. Most people find themselves stuck out of fear of being uncomfortable.
Let’s be real, the fear of not being able to have shelter, or a car to drive, or food to eat is an uncomfortable situation. It leaves you vulnerable and depressed. It’s for this very reason that we focus all of our attention on working a job that we may not necessarily like because being without one is even more uncomfortable.
For most, the idea of starting their own business also evokes feelings of fear because it’s a gamble. One tends to think about failure before they begin, as well as the amount of effort it takes to become successful, and this often leads them to become scared to even try. It becomes a balancing act; is it better to be comfortable and stuck or vulnerable and free?
Here’s something to consider: is it really a gamble if it’s your calling, your talent, your passion, or your purpose? I left the education field and moved back home because I wanted to pursue my calling as a writer and teaching wasn’t allowing me the time I wanted to be able to write. Coming back to a small town with limited professional opportunities is hard and I was ready to go right back to what I know and do well.
Luckily, I have a strong support system and a vision that just won’t let me settle, so here I am writing. I’m not making much money, but I am writing more now than I had in the last 5 years of teaching. I am even tutoring, never forsaking my gift as a teacher, but now I’m able to set and make my own schedule. I don’t know how long I will be home, but I do know that a book is finally in the making because I decided to invest in myself and deal with the discomfort of it all.
I have found in my life that my most meaningful and most fulfilling moments have happened when I’ve placed myself in uncomfortable situations (like moving to Ohio with no friends or family; and traveling to Jamaica for the first time all by myself.) In these moments, I was vulnerable, which allowed me to open my mind to different people and experiences. In these moments, I actually discovered more about myself and my true desires.
When you take time to think about those people who actually make their dreams a reality, like Oprah, Tyler Perry, Tarji P. Henson, Chris Gardner, Jim Carrey, Steve Jobs, and the list could go on, you realize they didn’t get there by playing it safe. They were uncomfortable most of the time, and it was in their discomfort that they were able to develop into the greatest versions of themselves. There is no truer statement that without pressure there are no diamonds. There is no reaching true success without being uncomfortable. We have to let go of fear if we are to truly be free to live the lives we so choose.
In the words of the late and great singer and activist, Nina Simone, “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear!”