Tuesday, November 05, 2013

at the bottom of fear

Is it possible to make a break from the world of 40 hour weeks, benefits, monthly rent in excess of $1000, and 45 minute commutes?

I have a tenure-track position at a community college.  I think that tenure track is a term that indicates I could get tenure.  I don't have it yet, but I think I'm close.

I work with really nice people, and I'm reasonably good at what I do.

It's hard to make a break from this when I don't have a solid sense of what it is I'd rather be doing.

Fear comes up when I think of quitting.  Fear of what?  I decided to examine my fears more closely.  What it is that I'm truly afraid of?

1.  Loneliness (finding myself isolated as I become more unconventional)
2.  Poverty (not the elegant, monk-like poverty, but the stressful kind)
3.  Failure, and subsequent judgement by those who think I'm crazy to want to do this.

In thinking of how best to face fears #1 and 2, I imagined what the opposite of such fear would feel like.

It feels like surrendering into the arms of the earth, of mankind, and trusting that I would be cared for by people around me, and by the earth, and its bounty.

(As I write these words, I hear voices pouncing:  how irrational, delusional, and irresponsible!)

I imagine that the perfect experiment is to set forth into the world with very little.  The image is walking with a backpack on.  A relatively small backpack.

In "Without a Map", Meredith Hall describes a point in her life in which she is walking alone in Turkey (I'm pretty sure it was Turkey) with basically nothing but the clothes on her back.  She is lost, disconnected, and stripped bare of protection and comfort.

I related to Meredith's memoir for a number of reasons, and her description of that moment seemed to describe a fear that has subconsciously haunted me.  Isolated by judgement, and owning nothing.  Reliant on the goodness of those around not to harm her.

At the same time, it seems like the ultimate freedom.  You have nothing, and you survive.  After that, how could you ever be afraid again?

Isn't finding that fearlessness the ultimate reward?  If I can find that at the bottom, there is nothing to fear, then perhaps there is nothing to hold me back from setting out into the world to find what is there.


Bethany said...

beautiful words, similar longings, and how to get the fear rooted out? it helps me a wee bit to look back and realize how often we've lived hand to mouth, but never gone hungry. it always works out. if the needs are great and they're met, how can they not be when they're fewer? just perspective, no? i'm struggling with the idea of going on the road next year, even if we do have some savings to start with. rather not rely on it though, or even assume it will be there when we need it. wanting to feel free to step out entirely on faith, i guess that's what i'd term it.

paula said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I've had things "always work out" with regard to money, but regarding isolation, less so. Perhaps it's because having people isn't a physical need like food or shelter, so we don't feel like we can ask for support? It's less common for people to admit they feel lonely and need support.

All the same I'm still here, so I guess things have worked out in that sense too.

If I could do one thing to make the world a better place, I'd make all money disappear. All need for money, and all desire to do bad things to create money.

At the same time I'm ok with using money for things I believe in and value. And I'd like to make money doing the same. So I'll have to make my peace with money's existence.

I look forward to following your journey. I'm going to keep digging into what I am afraid of.

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