Growing up, I was fearless. Sure thing, rats grossed me out and spiders made me squirm, but I truly thought I was invincible. I climbed tall trees and leaped off swings in midair; I learned how to swim by jumping into the water off a bridge; I played mostly with boys, choosing toy-guns over Barbie dolls. Almost every day I came home with scratches and bruises, but no pain stopped me from going back for more the next day.
My teenage years were everything but cautious as well. I skipped school, stayed out all night and dated bad boys. Hardly anything worried me. But my life changed drastically when I moved to America. I had to learn to handle my own finances, take responsibility for my actions — simply grow up! With real adulthood came all kinds of worries. I now worry about getting sick, being fired, getting divorced and ending up alone, trusting people, failing myself, disappointing others, etc. Soon, simple worries metamorphosed into fears and I made myself an expert of self-sabotage, ruling out any positive outcomes of life-changing situations and foreseeing only troubles and disasters.
The older I became, the more fears surfaced. I fed them with low self-esteem, exceptional overthinking abilities and unrealistically high demands on myself. I nurtured them,
watched them get fat and take over my life.
I was still studying at the university when one of my greatest fears came true — I was fired. I remember calling my friend and bawling like a child, to what she said, “Why are you crying? You hated that job anyway. Now go find a new one, preferably the one you like this time.” Easier said than done, most would think. And I wasn’t an exception. All the nasty what ifs began to flood my mind. What if there’re no jobs? What if I am not qualified enough? What if I won’t be able to take care of myself?
The next day, all pale and swollen from the night of crying, I told one of my professors at the university that I was looking for a job. To my surprise, she said I would be a great asset to their Graduate Assistantship Program. What? I couldn’t believe it! All this time I was holding onto the job I hated only so I could maintain a living, while there was a better place for me to be doing what I enjoyed.
But a moment of happiness was soon interrupted. The new job didn’t pay much — a small compensation and free tuition. Again, I became apprehensive and took a day to contemplate accepting the offer. Coincidence or fate, an old friend of mine called to see if I had time to do research for his friend writer. I could not believe my ears! Working for a bestselling author was something that happened to others, but not me. What if I hadn’t been fired, I thought, then I wouldn’t have been able to accept his offer. Was it possible that I had to be fired to finally do what I loved? Indeed, what initially seemed like an unfortunate circumstance, turned into a happy occasion.
Time passed. Positive feedback from my new employer inspired me to embark on writing my own book. I felt truly content. The Universe was showing me what happens when a person finds their passion — the magic! Things just begin to fall in place. From nowhere, I was coming across necessary research and meeting people, who were willing to help me with anything and for nothing!
In less than a year, I finished my manuscript, but instead of celebrating, I began to drown in hesitations, self-criticism and fear. The dreadful what ifs were back, and stronger than ever. What if I send it out and they hate it? Why embarrass myself? What if I just wasted my time? I continued convincing myself that writing was not a career for me, that only a few people get to do it and there was no way I belonged in that special group. This time it was my husband who explained to me that there was no harm in trying. “The worst that can happen is that you will be turned down. But if you don’t send it out, you will never know if it was good, the world will never know what you had to say!”
It didn’t sound promising, but it was the truth. I gathered all my strength and sent my manuscript to a friend in publishing. It was done. There was no way back.
Waiting for the answer — I thought I would lose my mind. The fear of being rejected literary was affecting my physical and mental well-being. Shortly, I fell very ill. Lying in bed, I had extra time to analyze the past events in my life. I realized how destructive our fears are! Some might think it is normal to be afraid of being fired or getting sick or getting divorced, but I disagree. They stop us from seeing clearly, from moving forward and living our lives to the fullest. My fears had chained me to the ground and almost robbed me of freedom, but the Universe does work in mysterious ways. Perhaps it got sick of waiting for me to do something meaningful with my life and dragged me through the door of unknown opportunities. Perhaps, it even put me in bed for quite some time so I could think, analyze and understand.
Now I know that fear was my real enemy. I needed to learn to keep it on a leash. In order to start, I had to understand the following:
1. Fear is a normal reaction to change. I have to acknowledge it but don’t waste time on trying to get rid of it. After all, fear is not the main problem, it’s the subject of fear that I haveto work on.
2. Concentrate on not letting your own mind amplify fear. I try to quiet down all the what ifs. I play my own attorney and object to every what if that comes to my mind, imagining only positive outcomes out of the situation, as many as possible. What if I lose my job? — I willhave a chance to find a better one!
3. Don’t let society impose fear on you. Terrible diseases, growing unemployment, crime, poverty, hunger, etc. But life is not only these things — not everything is terrible! We find what we look for, so try to look for goodness, happiness, joy.
4. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. I found this one to be very important. Get rid of people who project their insecurities, negativity, and fears onto you. Be a part of a happy group.
5. Life is a zebra. There will be bad and good times, white and black stripes, but I came to believe black or white was always better than the plain gray. (Did you know that a Zebra is actually white with black stripes. So life is all good with a few black stripes on top of it.)
The truth is — we don’t know what is behind the closed doors, but what is life if we stay locked in one room and never see the outside of it. Life should be an adventure, with ups and downs, with rewards and struggles. Today you might fail, but tomorrow you will feel the thrill of gaining, and let me tell you that thrill is worth your every fall. And by the way, my first book, a historical novel, will see the world in 2015. Stay tuned.