My relationship with fear

Author’s note: I wrote this late last year but never published it. In some ways, it feels quaint to post it now. So much has happened. In other ways, it feels necessary to acknowledge. I’ll go ahead and release it into the world now. 

I was in eighth grade on 9/11. It was picture day, and I heard what happened during my first-period algebra class. In gym, we were taken into the dance room to watch the news. The image of those two towers falling is forever etched in my mind. When I got home from school, I watched the news all day and into the night.

The next day, I stayed home from school. I was scared. My innocence was shaken that day. My worldview was suddenly broadened.

***

I was 28 on 11/9. And I watched it unfold all night. I went to bed disillusioned. My sleep was restless and burdened. When I awoke, the sun was shining. The beautiful and bright day felt like a betrayal. My puffy eyes and heavy heart reminded me of my fear. My fear for women. My fear for my LGBT family and friends. My fear for people of color and of faith.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it.”

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me…”

“Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States… “

And then I started sobbing. Not crying. Not sniffling. Not whining. Sobbing. It felt like a death to my idealism, my optimism, my belief that people would come together in solidarity with those most vulnerable among us.

I wanted to stay home. I wanted to shield myself. But I got up, dressed in black and headed to work. I cried once more on the bus and again while sitting at my desk. I saw other strong women around me wearing black and walking slowly.

This was a loss that stems beyond a candidate. It transcends a difference in political leanings. This was a loss that induced fear for the most basic of values: human rights and dignity for all.

***

I will not tell anyone that they shouldn’t be afraid. Growing up, my mom told me something that’s always stuck:

“You can’t be brave if you’re not scared first.”

Fear doesn’t have to be our final emotion. I believe it rarely is. And being brave is not an absence of fear. It’s action and faith in spite of fear. So, I will wake up each day and go to work. I will continue to fight for equitable systems. I will continue to stand up and say that I am here, and I’m with you.

My relationship with fear has deepened as I age. It no longer keeps me home.

It moves me.

To faith.

To question.

To stand.

To choose.

To fight.