The challenge of fear

Several years ago I had a manager turned friend who has since retired.  She had been a true mentor in my life and even though we came from completely
different backgrounds, she taught me to have a deep interest in other cultures and to learn about where people came from in order to understand them.  One of the other loves we shared was pens and writing long hand.  The tactile pleasure we both received with different pens was a topic of many discussions through the years.  I remember the day I received my very first fountain pen, though I don’t use it every day anymore, I still have it safely stashed.  I opened the box and realized very quickly there were many more parts than I was expecting in the box.  The pen and I showed up in her office the next morning, she showed me how to put it all together and showed me how to correctly write with the pen.

I have missed her wisdom greatly since she left, she gave me a gift before she left that I doubt she ever realized she gave me.  As she was emptying her desk she found her Circa notebooks and since she would not be using them in retirement, she gave them to me so I could continue to enjoy and use them for years to come.  I still have them and still use them, years later.  They were not, however, the primary gift she gave me.

She had left some notes in the notebooks and had told me to just shred anything I didn’t need.  There was a note she had written to herself that was the first thing she saw every time she opened the notebook.  It simply said “What would you do if you weren’t afraid”.  As I moved through my days after my friend had left, I thought about this question.   I found my actions and choices changing; I started asking what I wanted, regardless of how scary it was.

I still ask this question almost every day.  Sometimes I still make the choice that is motivated by fear.  Sometimes I make less of a choice that is a compromise between fear and want.  At least now I recognize when fear is driving me rather than want.  To me, the ability to be able recognize the fear driven decision is one of the most special gifts I have been given in my life.

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