I have a confession:
I’m afraid. I’m afraid all the time.
I’m afraid I’ll never be a better author, so I’m writing at midnight.
I’m afraid my family will never truly understand how much I love them, so I drop everything I’m doing to pick up the phone when they call or spend time with them when they ask.
I’m afraid I’ll never be a good enough teacher, so I spend every day at work looking at
every mistake my students make and consider them my own. I look at them and try to find a way to be better.
I’m afraid the mentors in my life will never know how much of an impact they’ve had on my life, so I mentor everyone who asks me what I think, and I do everything in my power to help them be better.
That makes me afraid I’ll never be a good enough mentor, so I pick up the phone every time one of “my Sailors” sends a text, sends a message or calls.
I’m even afraid I’ll never find that one person I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, so I have this rule to go out at least once a week because barring God’s extremely kind will, the likelihood of her delivering my next pizza is extremely low.
I’m afraid that the crew members aboard the H.M.S. Slush Brain have welcomed me to their crew and I’m not good enough to be among them. I’m afraid they’ve asked me to contribute to their anthology and I’m not going to measure up.
I’m afraid my friends will never know how important they are to me, so I never let them go. Even if we don’t speak for days, months or years, I remember them, and I make it a point to be there when they need. I’m afraid they’ll need me, and I won’t be there, so sometimes I just check in on them.
I’m afraid I’ll never sell a thousand books, so I plan to write 1,000 of them and sell at least one of each. I’ve only published one book, and I’m already 200 sales ahead of my plan.
I have another confession:
I hope none of these fears go away. (Well, actually I could do with a few of those being resolved, but I promise I have a point.)
I do hope I never stop being afraid because – fuck fear.
I’m up today writing at 12:30 a.m. because I’m afraid of never taking the chance to be better, and if I ever wake up one day feeling like a great author, where do I go from there?
I’m afraid every day and I use my fear as a target to pursue that which I feel is impossible.
This is for you. I don’t know who you are, but if you’re reading this, and you think I’m talking to you – I am. I am, and I love you because you’re afraid, and it’s okay. I know I love you, because I’ve dropped all the other things I’m afraid of so that I can tell you it’s okay to be afraid.
Use your fear. Use that fear to chase away everything you’ve ever been afraid of.
I’m afraid there are people out there who I have loved and will love my whole life that perhaps don’t even remember me, so I wrote a book to create a universe that reminds me nothing can break apart that which love has connected.
I’m afraid of being afraid, so I wrote another book about people who find superpowers in facing their fears.
I do the things I’m afraid to do because if we never dare to try the impossible, we never achieve the impossible. I do the things I’m afraid to do because if we never face our fears, fear wins. I understand the paradox I’ve created. It’s true. Ultimately, I do the things I fear most because of my innate fear of failure. So I’m fighting a battle I’ve already lost.
There are battles worth fighting, and I’ve come to believe that some of those battles must be fought even if those fighting already know they’ve lost. These battles are so critical that the result means less than the need to fight. I imagine people who fight what they see as loosing battles are terrified, but they fight, and every now and then, they win – even when they shouldn’t.
Use your fear to seek out that which you want most in life. What is the thing you won’t give up anything else for? For me, it comes down to three things. My family, my students and my writing. I’ve been told I’d be happier if I gave up teaching. I’ve been told I’d be happier if I gave up writing. No one’s ever been moronic enough to imply I should give up my family, so that’s something.
I would be more comfortable. I’d be less afraid if I just let fear keep me from trying to do the things I’ve wanted to do, but I’m afraid of being a hypocrite.
I tell my students a lot of things. I’m afraid they don’t hear me, so I say it over and over again, and I find different approaches to let them know all of these things I’m afraid they’ll never learn if I don’t make it a point to show them or teach them.
There’s one thing I say that’s the most important thing I tell my students, nieces, nephews, and everyone else I can. I share it with you now.
I don’t care WHAT you want in life. Just WANT SOMETHING!
Want something more than you’ve ever wanted something before in your life and don’t let anything else get in your way. I don’t CARE what it is. I just want you to find it and chase it until it’s yours. Then I want you to hold tight to it because you’re too afraid to let it go.
One of those other things I say a lot is, “I hear with my eyeballs.” I invite you to try the same tactic. Look at your life. What’s the thing you do no matter how tired you are? Who are the people you make time for no matter how busy you are? This doesn’t diminish the existence of other people or other things, it simply shows you what you’re really putting your time into. If the things you want aren’t the things you’re doing, then aren’t you afraid you’ll never get the time to do the things you’ve always wanted?
Do those things.
My family loves me. My friends love me. They love me so much they worry over how hard I push myself. I’m afraid some of them don’t understand what I’m really afraid of. I’m afraid that God will call me home (or to Judgement) before I’ve had a chance to ask The Junior if she knows how much I love her. (NOTE: The Junior is one of my nieces.) Years ago I invented a game with her. I’d ask her if she knew how much I love her. She replies, “There’s no limit to how much you love me,” and I tell her, “Don’t you forget it.”
I push myself because I’m afraid my life will end before I write the best book I’ve ever written, and I’m always afraid the next book I write will be better than the next. I’m afraid my students won’t get the information they need or the feedback they need.
Of all my fears, death isn’t one of them because as scary as death is, I won’t allow myself to die without doing everything I can to be the man I’m afraid I’ll never be.
It’s okay to be afraid. Just, please, don’t let fear be that which prevents you from trying. I don’t care if you’re trying to fly , and you were born without legs. I don’t care. Build wings, and take flight. I don’t care if you’ve been told it’s impossible. For those like me who are people of faith, only God determines what it is we can and can not do. For those who do not believe in god, explain to me how we continue to do that which the laws of science once said was impossible.
Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I’m afraid to give up.
Maybe there’s a better balance, and I’m afraid I’ll never find it.
I’m going to keep trying, and I want you to as well. You’re scared, and I’m afraid you’ll live your whole life afraid without ever once realizing that we’re all afraid. I’m afraid of living without the courage to do those things I’m afraid of doing.
I have one more confession:
I’m exhausted. I wake up at 6:30 and work until 6:30. I go home, and I spend time with my niece (I have quite a few of those) and sister (and even more of those) because I’m afraid they’ll leave, and they won’t know how much I love them. I spend time with them until they go to bed because I’m afraid to miss one moment with them. Then I go downstairs and I write because I’m afraid I’ll never finish revisions on Caught, and that makes me afraid I’ll never start working on Sojourn in Despair. I’m so afraid that I write as I’m writing now at 1:15 a.m.
I’m not afraid of being tired. I’m afraid of never taking the time to do all the things I’ve always wanted to spend my life doing. I’m afraid of waking up well rested one day and realizing that thing I wanted was just one hour away.
Sometimes I lose. Fear wins every now and again, but fear is my rival. Fear is my nemesis, and I’m afraid if I slow down for one moment, I’ll fail, and I’m afraid to fail.
I’m going home soon, and I’ll spend every moment I can with everyone I can and I’m afraid there aren’t enough hours in the day to account for all the people I want to spend my time with. How amazingly blessed I am to have that sort of problem. This makes me afraid that I’ll wake up one day with one less person in my life I want to spend that time with. I don’t fear exhaustion.
This is for you, my wonderful dreamers, because I’m just a man with a silly little dream. It’s mine and no one else’s, but no one else needs my dream. I want you to dream your dream, and of all the things it’s okay to be afraid of, please don’t be afraid to dream. Please don’t be afraid to try.
Try. Dream. Fight. In those moments of your life when you’re afraid you’ll never win, and no one is on your side, remember me. Remember me and my silly little dream to do just any random thing that makes others feel it’s okay to dream. I’m here.
I’m here for my family, and I’ll be here for them as long as God allows.
I’m here for my students, and I’ll be there whenever they need me.
I’m here for my proteges, and I’ll be there as often as they want me.
I’m here for you. And on the way home from a writers’ group meeting I was nearly overcome by the fear that you didn’t know.