The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So far this is the theme of 2014. My plans of writing, wellness, and winning have all been surreptitiously dismantled by catching the flu, the pitfalls of becoming middle management, and unpacking my apartment. I sleep too much and often come home spent and thinking of things to write and not writing. I will do it tomorrow, I tell myself, right after I watch another episode of Criminal Minds for the seventh time. I do all this and expect things to be different.
I do this because I am afraid. Aziz Ansari was right about one thing: 30 comes at you fast. It is this mythical fantastical age where everyone in the movies has a large apartment, a career that they love, an enviable group of friends, the love of their life, and a baby. And it’s not just in the movies. In my own family I am the oldest grandchild to not be married or have a baby. In the era of instant gratification and humiliation, it’s not hard to find out weekly that the guy you dated with those mental health issues is celebrating his one year anniversary to an Evelyn Lozada look alike or the person who you used to perform with is now at Yale. In the aggregate, I feel like I have been left at the very back of my cohort. The one who never likes to read out loud. The one who is terrified of being called to the chalkboard. The one picked for dodgeball last.
I know that fear is the ultimate obstacle to purpose and to wealth. Thank you Oprah Winfrey and Suze Orman. Like the other dichotomies that have defined my life (Brooklynite from Mississippi, Ivy League sassy black girl; fat public health crusader), fear and ambition bite at my ankles enough that it’s all I can do not to fall down in a bloody, exhausted, legless heap.
How does one live their best life when they have become accustomed to mediocrity? How do you go out on a career risk after being unemployed during the Great Recession? How do you lose the weight when you know that it’s your only reprieve from the endless aggression and street harassment and black girl dating?
You don’t. Living your best life means getting over all of these things. It means fear has no place, which oddly enough makes me even more afraid. Over time fear has become the old pair of combat boots, long out of style but too comfy not to wear every time it’s damp outside. It snuggles me and let’s me sleep longer than I should and avert my eyes from attractive men with nice smiles. It tells me that trying to perform when I am this old and this brown and this tired and this fat is a waste of time. That working on my writing here is taking away time from working for publication. That no one will read what I write for publication. That I will always work nine to five. That I will always be alone.
Fear is a sickness wherein lies its own reprieve. Fear keeps us from being reckless. Sadly a certain amount of recklessness is required in risks. The shining irony is that the thing that has kept my fingers off the stove and good grades on my report card is the thing that makes me gasp for air.