fear

When Life Happens

I have never written a blog post on the verge of the week ending like this. I’ve gotten close, but never this close.

But no worries – I’m a commitment freak, and I won’t let this go by, because then I’d probably have to start from Week 1 again, and none of us want that.
I’ve almost completed my first year of teaching creative writing. That’s really crazy to me, because it was about this time last year that I got the crazy idea in the first place. And now I have a group of students who I have gotten to know, students I look forward to seeing and reading their writing. Because all of them are tremendously talented writers and thinkers and it was a pleasure and honor to be able to be a part of their year.
I know the year is not yet over, we still have a few weeks to wind down. But I’m in an introspective, reflective mood, and I’m just so proud to be here.
Doing things that scare me are not my thing. I don’t like roller coasters, horror movies or skydiving. I don’t enjoy the thrill of the fear that so many people seem to be obsessed with. Existential questions are scary enough.
So doing something that scared me on so many levels was a big deal.
My life this school year has seen change. It’s seen growth. It’s seen me with shorter hair and a stronger heart conquering more challenges. Experiencing new things. Facing myself in ways I never really wanted to have to.
Life is ever evolving, which is something pretty terrifying for someone like me, someone who likes to be in control and to be sure of what comes next.
Life throws things at you that you could never have planned for. But these are the things that really test you, the things that make you pull out all of yourself, to figure it out, to face it. To understand who you are, what your limitations are, and where life goes from here, now taking the fork in the road into account.
As summer nears, and the promise of warm sun and healthy days approach, I find myself wondering what is around the corner. What is next for me? What happens when I allow life to happen, rather than overplanning each moment?
It’s scary. To me, this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. To admit that I don’t know what comes next, to know that life takes time to unfold, and to have patience. To have the patience to see what G-d has in store.
And perhaps I’ll discover that my mind has been limited all this time, and what G-d has planned is even greater than what my small mind can conjure.
Blog Post: 31/52.

Featured Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

I Dreamed That It Happened To Me

I had my first dream about a shooter.

I say dream, and not nightmare, because that’s what it was. I wasn’t filled with the usual panicky, terrifying, wake-up-shaking fear that nightmares bring.
 I was in Israel, but I wasn’t.
I was in a museum but it was also a classroom.
People I knew were in my dream, but it was also full of strangers.
There was panic, but I wasn’t afraid. I was on the ground, watching bullets hit the windows above me.
We eventually ran, but there were shooters everywhere. We were sleeping outside, but my only real fear was that my bag would be stolen.
Another shooter appeared, but he told us not to be afraid.
We were.
We kept walking through Jerusalem and suddenly I noticed the white and blue flag on his hat and we all smiled, relieved.
He looked just like the other shooters, but he had a flag.
I don’t even recall how the dream ended. I only remembered I had it about an hour after I woke up.
I checked my Facebook- there was another attack, this one blood curdling, terrifying, wake up shaking scary.
While I was falling asleep last night I had the thought process that I often have – I felt so safe. I spent years in New York and Chicago, and I’ve had nights in both cities that filled me with fear, sure of a break in or worse.
I’ve never had that very real fear in my hometown, living in a little neighborhood where the sound of a car driving by is a rarity.
As I fell asleep I wondered what could be safer – me in my bed, in New Hampshire, nearly my entire family with me in one house.
I dreamt that dream.
I woke up.
I heard that horrifying news about a girl, only five years my junior, who fell asleep in her bed just like me, but didn’t get to have that dream- she had a real life nightmare.
I spent a Shabbat in Kiryat Arba last year. My friends and I joked and laughed and strolled around, despite the very real warnings given to us about the safety.
I fell asleep unworried about the real threat of evil doers. There were gunshots in middle of the night, but it felt like it was part of the adventure.
I’m ashamed.
My dream last night is more terrifying now than it was when I dreamt it.
I didn’t want to not be terrified.
Why was I not terrified?
Why do I have to wait for it to happen to me, G-D forbid a million times over, for me to get it?
Why has this become so normal that it doesn’t even terrify me in my dreams?
And why, why did it take me so long to dream about it?
Has it not permeated my life enough? Have the news stories remained at surface level and not infiltrated the depths of my mind, the places where dreams live?
Rather than the safety of my brothers and sisters in Israel and all over the world taking up my heart and soul, I’ve dared to have other things there.
My worries, my concerns, boys, clothes, friends, money! for heavens sake.
Why?
I just had a real conversation about how frustrated I am that I can’t afford to travel right now, and how I just want to save up double the amount of money I have now before I go.
I had a dream about a mass shooting, and I wasn’t afraid.
Because somehow, in some ridiculous twisted way, it’s not real to me yet.
When will it be real?
 I don’t want it to happen to anyone I know, anywhere close to me.
I don’t want it to happen again.
When will it be real?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I want to scream and shout and cry and get everyone to wake up from their fear-less dreams and make something change. Make something happen.
But it feels impossible, because the only ones who wholeheartedly get it are the ones with the scars, and that’s not fair.
Why can’t we, the unaffected, get up enough gumption and energy and fix this?
I know it’s been said before. I know I’ve probably said it before.
I don’t know what and if I am adding to the conversation.
But someone wise told me recently that I shouldn’t force myself to write if I don’t feel what I am writing, and today I am feeling this, and I want to write it. I need to. I feel that if I keep this inside, it will remain solely in my dreams.
Perhaps this will move someone to think, someone bigger or better than me, who can take words and turn  them into action, something I struggle mightily with.
Someone. Who is out there? Who is willing to make something change before it becomes a reality?
I’d like to keep all shootings in my dreams, but none of us are afforded that luxury.
This is no longer about the victims and the people who were lucky enough to not be victims.
This is about all of us, and if we don’t make something change now, we might not be so lucky next time.
We can’t afford to be unafraid anymore.

Dear Old Me.

I have written a lot. I have an enormous collection of terrible writing. When you write something almost every day of your life, it starts to really build up. Recently, I sifted through my writings from twelfth grade. That year was one of the most transformative years of my life. I had the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs. As a result, the writings swing from seemingly depressed teenager, to exhilarated young adult.

It’s almost my birthday, which means I’m turning a new age. Every time I turn a new age, it’s only my responsibility to look back at my past and pat myself on the back. Or slap myself across the face. Depending if I have gotten further up the mountain or slipped back down from laziness. Not kidding though, the climb is hard.

Why wait until the day I turn 19 to look back though? My twelfth grade writings gave me an idea. There are plenty of people out there who are twelfth grade me. People going through a myriad of emotions. So, why not pull out some of the oldies and respond to them? Below is a poem I wrote when I found out I was rejected from a school that a lot of my friends were going to. At the time I convinced myself and everyone else that I didn’t care. That it was okay. Obviously, it was all meant to be.

But, and as I have grown this has become even more clear to me, pretending just hurts you and everyone else around you. It makes you feel guilty for feeling angry, and it makes others feel like they are doing something wrong when they feel upset about it happening to them. I wrote this poem at the time, and in it you can see the sheer fear I felt.

The day I was born
I had two arms around me
A crib
A carriage
Mothers arms
A baby seat
They all protected me
Held me close
Then my desk kept me
For 12 years.
I knew it would be there
It knew I was coming
And it never let me down.
There were always arms
A secure embrace
A place to be safe
My happy place.
Until today.
The net was pulled away
But I already jumped
Where will I fall?
Is this failure?
Or will I fly?

Dear Rejected Etti,

It hurts. Let it hurt. You tried your best, you went to that interview and please, you totally aced it. I know everyone is telling you this right now, and you want to punch them all in the face, but I need you to know that it’s true. This rejection is not about your qualifications.  But be angry at them. Please. They actually weren’t that nice to you at that interview, and you were anxious. You should have been accepted. You should have been one of the people who are celebrating today. You should have been. Because you deserve it, and the fact that you even applied to that school is a testament to your growth this year.

But, I need to tell you a secret. I’m future you. I know what happens next. I know what happens after you put that pen down. You won’t believe me, but I can promise you that it got so so much better. Because, a few weeks after this rejection, you chose a different school. A school that would allow you the freedom that you craved all four years of high school, but also a school that had incredible teachers who fed the desperate hunger of your soul.

The net was pulled away with that rejection, and yes, you already had jumped. You already had seen yourself on that plane across the ocean, heading to that school with all your friends. But I can promise you this- you flew. Well. First, you landed. You landed safely. With all the parachutes. But then, you ran fast and took off again. I can tell you with certainty that it was a bigger challenge and ultimate accomplishment to get yourself up and flying again than to free-fall and consider it flying.

I can’t share the whole story with you right now. You don’t need to know the whole story. You’ll learn it as you live it.

I just wanted to tell you that it turned out to be the best rejection you have ever received.

You won’t regret not getting the chance to go there. You will be grateful for the experience you had instead.

You will grow more than you could have ever imagined growing.

Sometimes the thing you need in life is to be terrified for a few minutes. To not be sure of where to go. To be forced to grab on to a lifeline. That lifeline might just be your way to the top.

I’m sorry for your pain that  you feel right now, Rejected Etti. It will hurt, and please let it hurt. But don’t lose belief in yourself. Because you are stronger than you think, and capable of more than you ever could have hoped.

Sincerely,

Your Future.

 

Scares and Fears

I have a confession. I have a weird fear. It doesn’t hold me captive, but it’s a fear nonetheless.

Every time I cross a street, I have a fear that the cars, although stopped by a traffic light, will move on full speed and hit me.

It’s an unreasonable fear- why would anyone willingly commit a traffic violation and murder in one go? Why would they want to kill me, of all the worthy people in the world to kill?
No matter how many times I’ve told myself that it’s a ridiculous fear, it’s always there. Every time I cross. In the back of my head.
I’m an analyzer. There is little in my life that hasn’t been ripped apart by my prying eyes, my desire to know.
Today, it all came together.
My crossing-the-street fear is rooted in something far deeper. A fear I realized is all across my life, a fear that permeates the way I lead my life.
My real fear is that no matter how good I am, no matter how hard I work to follow the rules, or not follow the rules, my life is still in someone else’s hands.
I realized how much this fear controls my life today.
My brain is always on overdrive. I have dreams that I can practically touch. There is so much inside of me.
Yet, no matter how far I go, or how much I accomplish, I look to others for the validation.
I look to others to tell me to keep going. I keep going, but with a fear that at any second, it can all end..because of what someone else says.
I’m having a hard time writing this, because it’s painfully honest.
I don’t know how to make this well written, because it’s my innermost feelings.
I have all kinds of fears, but this one takes the cake, because it sums up all my failings.
My fear of how  I am perceived controls my comfort level on the street and at parties.
I will never stop thinking about what you are seeing when you see me, or what you think of the words I say.
Because I have given you all the power in the world.
You have the ability to press the gas pedal and destroy me.
I have put my trust in you, and I am powerless to stop you.
That- that is my fear.
Every time I receive a compliment, or survive a socially awkward moment, it’s crossing a street safely. But there is always the next street.
Crossing the street is not the solution to the problem.
It’s so much deeper. Isn’t it always deeper?
Today, I felt that fear melt away a little. I was told something today that felt a little like a rejection. But I was okay. It was okay. I didn’t give that person the power to hurt me, and I wasn’t hurt.
I looked inside of myself and asked my own heart “Where do we go next?”
You know what?
I had an answer.
I looked into myself and crossed that street without even thinking about those cars.
At that moment, I knew it was possible.
It was possible for me to not be afraid of those cars. It was possible for me to not give power to everyone around me.
Suddenly, the possibilities were endless. I can go somewhere. Little old me, useless without my own power backing me up.
I will do it. I will achieve. It might take me years. It might take me forever. But it’s not going to be put away because of fear. Not anymore.
For now, I need to work on crossing streets without the fear of others controlling my fate.
Then, I can work on letting myself out, being the person I want to be, without fear of what you will say in response.
One day, I’ll be completely proud of who I am.
One day, I won’t hide behind my fears, waiting for your permission for me to go on.
I’ll get there, and it might be a slow and arduous journey, but today I took another step forward.