What would you do if you weren’t so afraid?
That question was posed to me recently, and it started me thinking. At first I laughingly brushed it off. After all, I spent 25 years as a Foreign Service officer moving from country to country and job to job. I got married, had kids and divorced. I retired early and moved to an area where I was a complete stranger. I became a psychic, created this website and publicly advocated ideas that gave most people the impression that I was a bit odd (to put it politely). If anyone had balls, I did.
Someone else might legitimately interpret my behavior as an expression of anxiety. I’ve always been busy working, producing, and achieving, drawing up plans that reach out five to ten years in the future. Am I being wise and prudent like I’d like to believe? Maybe, just maybe, all my hard work is the way I try to maintain an illusion of control. I’m sure that I’m not unique in that I often step back and look at my life as if viewing it from the outside. How would other people view my achievements? How would other people judge the choices I have made? When final results are tallied, will everything I’ve done measure up or fall short?
Frankly, I’m afraid of failing at the game of life.
Intellectually I know that no one can flunk living their own life, and I’m pretty sure that most people wouldn’t criticize me if I spent the couple of decades I have left puttering around my house and reading books. But if I should do so it wouldn’t be because that’s all I want of life; it would be because that would be the least demanding and easiest way to live. No worries about not having what I need at hand, no questions about the people surrounding me, and with sufficient intellectual stimulation – at arm’s length – via books and the internet. In short, the perfect life for an introvert like me.
But then in a recent channeled reading information came through on the subject of being a catalyst and how some people would need to leave their homes and communities, go out into the world and start conversations with complete strangers. My first thought was “Crap – that message is aimed at me.” And I felt my stomach drop because the idea of long-term travel with no permanent home base and no support system made me feel ill – it would be uncomfortable, stressful, and wearying.* Thankfully no one could ever expect me do such a thing.
But then someone asked me, “What would you do if you weren’t so afraid?”
So that’s why I’m putting my house up for sale this summer. I’ll put whatever belongings I still have (I’m downsizing right now) into storage, then start traveling and doing the Airbnb thing. I don’t have any concrete plans (probably a first for me), and the idea of living in a stranger’s house – for however long – makes me uncomfortable. But at least when I’m on my deathbed I won’t be wondering what my life would have been like had I not been so afraid.
What would you do if you weren’t so afraid? What would you talk about? Who would you love? What would be your life’s work?
Maybe this is the year to find out.
* Note: Some of you might wonder why I would be uneasy about this when I have already worked 25 years as a U.S. diplomat. The answer is that when I lived overseas as a Foreign Service officer it was on official orders – a job, colleagues, living quarters and a social group were provided. My family traveled with me, and we had a permanent home in the Washington, DC suburbs. Traveling by myself, knowing no one, with no support system, and on my own nickel is a different animal altogether.