Why Am I Afraid?

I was having one of those days today; one of those days like I used to have, back when I let every little thing bother me.  It was one of those days when worry and fear replaced confidence and pride.

About a year ago, I reached the lowest point I had ever sunk.  I was sad in a way even I could not understand and I allowed myself to embrace that sadness and encourage my depression rather than to be strong and force myself to be happy.  Luckily, thanks to my own self resolve and encouragement from my friends and family, I became determined to be happy in the face of any and all adversity.  I vowed to be happy, realizing that emotions are a choice we all have in our lives and that I could choose not to be sad or depressed.  I rose out of my depression and spent the better portion of this year smiling and enjoying my life and planning to do all the things I wanted to do to continue being happy and enjoying my life.  Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible not to let a little negativity into your life now and then and I found I was forgetting the lessons I had taught myself to be happy and was once again slipping into unhappiness.

It wasn’t just today that I was feeling down, but having the day off from work left me alone with my thoughts for much too long and I found myself questioning my situation and asking myself if I could really still make this trip to Spain that I have been planning since February.  So many times in my life I have committed to doing something only to back out at the last minute, usually due to some irrational panic attack.  While I can’t explain my actions, as they really are irrational, I can say that my feelings are very real, and despite what others may tell me to the contrary, often in my life fear has won out over confidence.  I had been telling myself that I couldn’t possibly back out of my trip to Spain as the ticket was already purchased and the room was reserved, but somehow I allowed that thought to enter my mind and even if it only lasted a split second it scared me to think that after all this preparation, my subconscious could still find a way to keep me from being happy.

I know this trip is going to be fun and I know it will change a great many things in my life.  Since the day I officially announced I was taking this trip it has been all I can think about and it has allowed me to be a happier person.  My very best friend in the world commented that she has never seen me so happy as I have been since telling the world of my plan.  Why then do I still permit doubts and fears to enter my mind?

Instead of thinking of all the great things I will see and do in my time over seas, I began to worry once again about money, the primary focus of all my worries in life.  While I should be confident I will have plenty to get by on, as I have yet to run out of money while living at home, somehow I began to fear running out of money on my trip.  It’s ridiculous to think this way and it only serves as an excuse to avoid doing things in my life yet once again I found myself pacing to and fro, crunching the numbers in order to calm my fears.

Of course the other fear I have to deal with is the anxiety of getting on a plane and flying across the ocean for seven and a half hours.  I used to tell my friends I was afraid to fly, but ever since planning this trip, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to get on the plane.  I think I used a false sense of fear to justify not traveling earlier in life, but now that I am committed to the trip I don’t have any fear.  That being said, suddenly I was getting anxious when I realized how close the trip really is.  Today is 147 until I leave.  Suddenly, something that seemed like a far off dream is quickly becoming a reality and it started to make me anxious.  Why?

While almost everyone I have told about my trip have been overwhelmingly supportive, there are still those who make comments that make me uneasy.  I don’t think they are intentionally trying to make me nervous, but they suggest things that could happen that are in all honesty, very unlikely to occur.  I myself used to say ridiculous things about my plane crashing but the odds are simply against that happening.  Sure, anything is possible but if I am not foolish enough to believe I can win the lottery, why should I be foolish enough to believe my plane of all planes will be the one to go down?  And, if it is destined to plummet into the sea, there’s nothing I can do to change it and I can not let silly fears like this control my actions.  I am constantly commenting that my biggest fear upon arriving in Spain is getting mugged.  In my 33 years in the United States, I have never been mugged and given the statistics, I am probably much more likely to be mugged here than there, so what am I worried about?  Thirty-three years here versus one month in Spain.  Again, I think the odds are in my favor.

I started questioning my ability to communicate once I was there as well.  Never mind the fact that I have been immersing myself with Spanish since 2008 and that I have been repeatedly told I speak much better than I give myself credit for.  I was convinced that my mind would go blank as soon as I set foot in Madrid and I’ll be trapped in a foreign country for a month with no way to communicate.  I suppose if I were traveling 200 years ago this might be a legitimate fear, but let’s be honest.  I have dealt with plenty of foreigners who come to my work and can’t speak a single word of English.  They never leave hungry.  Even if it were true and I couldn’t speak Spanish, I could still point to the menu to get what I wanted, and as ridiculous as that sounds, it works for some.  I suppose the possibility exists that I won’t be as fluent as I would like to be, but I will not likely be reduced to pointing at things to survive for a month.  Plenty of silly American tourists travel to Spain every year without any real knowledge of the language and somehow they survive.  I am more than capable of spending a month among Spanish speakers without fears that I will be totally lost the entire time.

There are thousands of other ridiculous things I could think up in my crazy imagination that could go wrong while I am there, and none of it will do me any good.  Yes, I have always been one to plan ahead and sometimes I go by the philosophy of preparing for the worst, but it is one thing to be prepared and another to simply put irrational fears in your head as a way to avoid taking risks.  Sure this trip is a risk, just like anything else.  It is a risk for me every time I leave my apartment, and yet it is a risk I take without much thought everyday.

I was almost ready to give in to my fears tonight when someone offered me a suggestion that got me out of my funk.  “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living” is a rather famous book by Dale Carnegie which offers advice on, well, what the title says.  After posting about my ridiculous fears in a forum, someone suggested I read this book.  They even thought I could try it in Spanish, which isn’t a bad idea, but when I read the suggestion, I remembered that my sister-in-law had actually given me a copy of this book years ago.  Sure enough, I found a copy, which also includes his other famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” hidden away in my closet.  I sat down with it tonight and practically read the entire thing.  I wanted to come here before bed, so I put it down for a while, but I think I will try to finish it before this weekend and then give the other book a chance.  There are no magic tricks or secrets to being happy, it is simply a choice we have to make, but having these books as encouragement will be very helpful in the coming months.  No, they aren’t written in Spanish, but I have plenty of other titles in Spanish to keep me occupied when I feel the need to read in Spanish.  I must say, thanks to this book and my own desire to be happy, I feel confident again in my abilities to speak Spanish and I am no longer fearful of my trip abroad.

Like I said, it is not easy; in fact it is nearly impossible, to be happy all the time.  We are always going to encounter moments of fear and doubt.  The question is, will we have the courage to face our fears and conquer them or will we let them keep us hidden away from life?  I grew tired of being afraid and I swore I would not feel that way anymore.  I am going to Spain in May and it is going to be the best time of my life.  When I come back, I will take on new challenges and adventures and remember to never let doubt stand in my way.  No more sitting around on my day off looking for ways to be depressed.  OK, that’s all for tonight.  We’ll talk more soon.

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~ by James on December 5, 2014.

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