The arrival of your darkest fear is determined by fate but your defiance isn’t
Each one of us have fears, which if manifested, then according to us would be the last nail in our coffins. It might be loss of your dream job, death of a loved one, losing the race against time, being unable to retain happiness of the past or simple loneliness. Of course no one thinks in such macro terms. Thus, our fears are usually associated with certain situations such as getting a bad grade, seeing the marks that time leaves upon your skin or not being in touch with our loved ones.
Since I always associated my self worth to grades, my worst fear was getting a ‘F’ grade in my exams. In the first year of college itself, despite my best efforts, my professor, by mistake, gave me ‘F’ in a subject. I was devastated. How was I going to face my parents, my peers! My entire image rested on my ability to be smart and if I wasn’t smart, then I was nothing. Never before had I felt such intensity of shame and humiliation. Deep down I knew this was a mistake but I didn’t care about having faith in myself. As always,everyone except me came first. Post re-evaluation, I received my correct grade which was ‘A’ but by then I had already lived through two months of my own personal hell. And I survived it.
My second fear was being left behind among my own peer group especially among friends I was earlier close to. In college, this group was my debating society. You see, debating was considered to be the ultimate battle of wits and I was a promising novice. I made a few good friends but I wanted the admiration of being an excellent debater from everyone. Slowly this mentality overshadowed my love for debating which I wouldn’t rediscover before my last year of college. I began falling behind and the final blow was when I lost an entire semester of debating to tuberculosis. I missed being in the race for becoming the best more than the chance to debate. This version of my personal hell was the loneliness of being left behind by virtue of not being good enough to keep up. It had arrived and every moment of it was absolute torture. But after a point, I was tired of being what others wanted me to be, sad at not being able to live up to the expectations of others . I said fuck it, regained my love for reading and arguing, and thoroughly enjoyed my last year, so much so that when the time came, I was ready to hang my boots and not obsess over debating till I made a name for myself. Winning didn’t matter now, only the satisfaction of knowing that I was good.Survived this too.
But these were minor manifestations of the overarching fear of losing my sense of self. Fate was yet to play her final card by taking my desperation to make a name for myself, obsession of leaving behind a legacy and gaining the admiration of others, and turning it into a wrecking ball to destroy my peace of mind. My ambition, my desire for validation and desperation to find one true goal which could give meaning to my life had become toxic a decade ago. I had ceased to think about what made me happy but saw the version of happiness others seemed to propagate and run blindly after that. My darkest fear was leading a life in which I wouldn’t feel relevant and here it was. The times I cried inconsolably , it felt as if I was mourning someone’s death. Took me a few months to realize that the tears were for my own self.
What you fear the most will manifest in its most formidable form for sure. Not because you have read ‘The Secret’ or because some karmic retribution is due. It’s a simple logic which you will understand if you have ever played poker. You always lose the hand when you are too desperate for it. Know why? Because your desperation shows on your face. Your lack of faith makes you doubt your own competence and your lack of confidence makes you play a hand that is stupid. And poker is about faith in your abilities and being calm even when the hand dealt to you is shit. It is very little about the cards or the chess pieces left on the board. It’s always about the player. It’s only about you.
You thought you wouldn’t survive not getting your dream job or your breakup or the perception of being a failure. But you did. I did. In the past few months, I have lived through many versions of my personal hell, every single day. But I survived each one of them. And I have come to realize that more often than not, the good ones never have a sense of their own courage to be defiant in the face of adversities. We are often braver than we think we are. I wish I could tell others who are lonely, a prisoner of their own minds and at the edge of giving up, some hope that it will get better. It might, might not. I don’t know that. But you will get definitely get stronger because there lies an unrecognized, untapped reserve of strength in those who know what it is like to be absolutely broken and bleeding, yet wake up another morning to go another round in the boxing ring against yourself.
After I returned from a month long sabbatical from work ,I tried making myself as invisible as possible in order to avoid the tag of “Oh she is the one who was on a break because of panic attacks”. But one day, I was talking to a senior who is one of the kindest woman I have ever known. I was telling her about this sense of embarrassment when she said something that I had never considered before.She said , “But you came back! No one expected after seeing your condition that you would return. But you did”. And then I realized that is often these small acts of defiance against our mental illnesses that we overlook. Some return to their jobs, others wake up and go out of the house even when all they want to do is sleep and then there are those who smile in defiance despite the overwhelming suffocation and sadness,as a brave answer to their innermost fears. It is a win even if you don’t realize it today. This fight against absurdity is your legacy and it’s good enough.