on fear.

i’m afraid.

i’m packing up my apartment and prepping to head to england for the year to get my masters. when the acceptance came in, i was excited, certain of making the right decision, feeling the ocean of chance carrying me on its waves. but a week later, confronted with the practical challenges of wrapping up a near-decade of life in one city and moving to a different continent, i’m turtling inward, frozen with worry that i won’t be able to take care of everything that needs to happen before i fly away.

i’m afraid. and there’s nothing wrong with admitting it.

is it all going to come crashing down? my mind has been saying so… (bts of The Lost One from my music video for TRIP, photo credit: Matt Stucky.)

i wish we would talk about fear a little more openly in our culture. instead we eat about fear, drink about fear, smoke about fear. we take pills to numb ourselves from our fear and bury ourselves in other people’s stories — TV, videogames, books, tweets — instead of moving forward in our own. instead we call it anxiety, as if terming it that can keep us farther from the truth, the basic animal truth: that we are afraid.

what the fuck are we so afraid of?

the need to belong is biological at its root — it is how we stayed alive as a species: by joining a group. rejection would have meant death — if the group was hunting and gathering for food. but the group is no longer doing that. we’ve outgrown our biological need to belong, so we are now plagued by a psychological need with a death grip so strong we spend lives making choices that make us unhappy, just to fit in. the need to belong and to define where in the hierarchy we belong seems to be the driving force of human life.

right now i am making a decision to uproot my belonging and carry it overseas, 5,000 miles away. my trust side knows that i’m striking out in search of new belonging, but my fear side is convinced that everything i do turns to dust. for the past few days my fear side has been winning: we’re eating a little too much, reading a little too much, smoking a little too much, doing a few too many crossword puzzles. we just finished luke jennings codename: villanelle (the basis of don’t-miss-it killing eve) in a day and a half. why?

because, as my smart friend heather likes to say: change is hard.

it’s okay to be scared of change. that’s the first thing i’m telling myself to strengthen my courage. bravery isn’t not being afraid: it is continuing to act even when fear is a constant companion. so the first thing i’m doing to strengthen myself is not beat myself up for being afraid. i’m holding hands with my fear and allowing it to exist. as one of my favorite spiritual teachers, american buddhist & psychologist Tara Brach would say, “this too.” if that means allowing for some indulgences, so be it: indulging is fine to create a little comfort, just as i would indulge a child undergoing the upheaval of a move.

the next thing i’m doing is i’m sharing my fear — i’m asking for help. for the past few days i’ve retreated from sharing — dropped out of the daily work of posting on instagram, generally avoided making plans with people. slowly but surely i’ve been shifting that — i made sure my sister was on the phone with me to help me over the hurdle of the first box, i’ve begun asking friends to come over and hang out with me when i pack, and i’m opening up this (very public) door into the reality of what change feels like, no matter how excited you are about your destination.

but the most important tool i’m using to get back on the horse and keep moving is ritual. the fear says to me: you don’t have enough time. so i say to the fear: you’re lying, you’re keeping me in my small self. i grab the reins of time and i tame it to my needs by clocking in. by continuing my morning ritual of journaling and meditation, and then setting the timer and blocking off — an hour for writing, an hour for packing, an hour for taking care of business — and so on. i’ve used this tool intermittently throughout my life, but jumped into it full force in july with a monthlong experiment i created for myself and shared online, #CreativeClockIn. the experiment was lifechanging: it is what enabled me to release a music video and apply to grad school in one month, all while still mananging my job and having a social life. somehow, with the time pressure of leaving in two weeks, my body resisted believing that this could still work. but the key to change is amassing small steps. small steps are all that are needed. clocking in and taking one step at time — this is what keeps me sane. this is my ladder out of the rabbit hole. clocking in, and then clocking out and making sure i get some time with the people i love before i leave.

so i’m afraid: and that’s ok. i can reach out and ask my friends to hold my hand. i can take breaks and have treats. i can sit with the fear, without being afraid that i’m having the fear. i can write. i can take one tiny step at a time. i can be afraid, and move a little bit slower, but still move. i can be with myself and, eventually, flip fear into its truer expression: excitement.



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joss // areté

www.arete.space. Avant-pop art bender — obsessed with culture, mental health, feminism, queerness + travel.