Someone once said: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
I say “someone” because people have used this quote so much I cannot reliably figure out who said it first. I can tell you that it’s true. I know it’s true for many reasons, and not because I have found all the things I’ve ever wanted, but because I have met fear in every single endeavor in my life.
Jobs, choices, broken hearts, creative projects, and, naturally, every NaNoWriMo I’ve ever completed.
Fear has ever been the gatekeeper.
Of course, the thing about fear is that we tend to treat it like this outside entity. When we say, “everything we want is on the other side of fear”, we envision fear as the monster before us, or the mountain, the wall we have to climb or break down. The truth is the fear is us; it’s inside us. We, our brains, our psyches, are the ones who throw up the walls in front of us.
That’s not to say the image isn’t useful. Picturing fear as this monster to defeat helps us to defeat it. If we leave it attached to ourselves, it’ll be that much harder to slay. And we need to slay it.
But the cause of fear, it’s source, is always us. There are outside barriers, certainly. There is opposition from the world, from other people who don’t want to see us move, achieve, succeed. It’s often against those forces that our fear reacts. In that sense, it’s a bit of a traitor, so it probably deserves to be thrown in with the others.
But our fear is reacting against something else, something that’s behind the outside forces, as well. That’s why I think the quote, (possibly by George Addair), needs a reworking.
“Everything you want is on the other side of change.”
It’s so obvious as to be laughable, but we recoil every time. Change is a necessary part of life, yet the contradiction of our own nature is that we fear it.
I fear it. I hate it. Always have. Ask my Mom; she’ll tell you that I never wanted anything to change, ever. Even for the simplest things. And yet things always did.
Things always have. It’s the nature of the universe. It’s not even so much that we can’t get what we want without change. We can’t live without it. It’s just not how the machine runs.
The truth is, of course, we do want change. We’re just very particular about what changes. We don’t want everything to change. We want the new without losing all of the old.
I don’t consider that a bad feeling, and, no, it’s not a Millenial thing. Often what we’re holding on to are good things. Like a child moving houses. There may be good things ahead, but we don’t want to let go of the old and familiar, the things that helped us define ourselves.
And that might be the scariest aspect of change. How do we define ourselves without the things that used to give us that definition? The answer, of course, is that we have to do it ourselves.
That might be the most important, and necessary, aspect of change. Why God seems to be constantly pulling the rug out from beneath us. So that we have the chance to learn to define ourselves outside of our environment, outside of the old and familiar. We can only do that when the old and familiar are removed, at least a little.
Change is inevitable, and so are its results. We want to get the new and keep the old, but, even if we can do that, things must still change. We must find a way to integrate the new into the existing systems. That’s why even a small change can throw off our balance.
And all this is as much for me as it might be for anyone reading, (if not more so). Like I said, I’ve never liked change, and yet I’ve found myself knee deep in it going on three years now.
People asked me, when I moved to Atlanta, how could I pack up everything and move across the country on the chance that I could make it work? I didn’t really have an answer. It was, at the time, the most out-of-character choice I’ve ever made. I’ve come to learn it was simply the first of many.
And that’s the other thing that the quote is missing. Everything you want is indeed on the other side of change, but when you get to the other side, that’s not the end of change, anymore than it’s the end of fear. It’s usually the beginning.
And yet we have to go. Because nothing we want is on this side.
I know I have to lean into this process, even, and especially, when I can’t see what’s next. Because what I want, who and where and why I want to be, is on the other side of it. I know now it’s not the end. When I finish the next thing there will be another thing waiting for me. Once I figure out how to integrate this new change, another one will likely come along. But I still have to go.
Because everything you want is on the other side of change, and you can’t stay here anyway. So, what the hell.