Vitaphobia

This morning I was struck by the realization that in a way I am afraid of life.

I was reading Summerhill School, which by the way I highly recommend. This book describes a boarding school where children are free to govern themselves, and to grow as they wish. It’s an incredible idea that I would like to see more of, and since I started reading it I have daydreamed about starting such a school in the US (after I write some novels and start at least one successful company, of course). Yesterday I looked Summerhill up. It’s still around, though some things about it have changed a little. I saw a couple pictures of it, and of kids who go there, and I felt a subtle fear I didn’t really notice until this morning.

The people I feel admiration for—the kind of admiration where I doubt I could emulate what they have done—are the people with the courage to set out into the world with no safety nets: the ones who upon graduating from high school spend all their savings on a one-way ticket to another continent with no specific destination planned, or the ones who leave steady jobs to start new ventures with little to go on but an idea and enthusiasm.

There’s an enormous difference between reading a book or playing a game or watching a show, and really going out and experiencing life like that. Maybe I’m just now finally starting to grow up, but it seems like for too long all I have done is retreat from life. I’m not afraid of death, not in the slightest. I’m not even really afraid of pain, though I have no desire for it and I wouldn’t really argue if someone said that I haven’t really had enough of it to be scared. I think there’s a big part of me that’s still afraid of what others might think. But while it doesn’t really show on the surface with anxiety or insomnia or anything, I think deep down the thought of… freedom, if you will, terrifies me.

I suppose it’s my version of that universal fear of the unknown (I have an idea what happens after death, and it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, which would explain why it doesn’t scare me), and also fear of failure. Maybe more the latter; what if I failed? What if I failed? There are many things I would like to create in my lifetime, but what if I fail?

In my head I know it doesn’t matter. I’m sure something would happen, something would come through, somehow it would work out. But that fear still seems to hold me back: what if I couldn’t feed my family, what if I couldn’t shelter them? That thought almost brings me to tears. I suppose I would probably be less scared on my own, but even then I doubt I could easily act with the courage I mentioned earlier. Before I had this family to worry about, I admired that courage and felt it was something I didn’t have.

I don’t think the fear of failure is all there is to it, but it plays a part. It doesn’t explain what holds me back from really having any social life to speak of.

At any rate, I still hope to complete certain things in this lifetime. And I’m changing; everything changes. Maybe this is changing, too. We’ll see.

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