Sunday, August 14, 2016

Facing My Fears

The past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about fear.  What is fear?  Why do we experience it?  How can we overcome it?  I'm sure most of you have heard the infamous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt saying "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," and although I love this quote I'm starting to think that maybe the quote should be rewritten to say "the only things we have to fear are fear and ourselves".  Over this past year as I've taken risks and tackled many new life changes I've come to realize that my biggest enemy in everything has been, and continues to be, myself.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist and this is my downfall.  I have always been afraid to put myself out there and try new things because the thought of failure terrifies me.  Even some of the simplest tasks in life were hard for me to learn because I couldn't get over the intense amount of pressure I put on myself and the voice inside my head that told me "if you make even one mistake, you are a failure."  It took me forever to learn to ride a bike, rollerblade, drive a car, etc.  In high school and college I pushed myself to be the best student I could be and when I entered the work force I pushed myself to be the best teacher that I could be.  For years I lived in a fairly comfortable world where I didn't have to put myself out there if I didn't want to.  And then Florian came along... 

I guess you could say that meeting Florian changed everything.  He brought my out of my shell and forced me outside of my comfort zone.  After all, Florian is the reason I left behind my "comfortable" life in the US and moved to France.  However, even being with Florian those first few years felt "safe."  We did long distance dating for two years and a one year long distance engagement before we got married.  We would take turns flying back and fourth visiting each other, but at the end of the day I was still living safely in the United States.  Even when I moved to Bordeaux in October I had a return ticket back to the United States for Christmas, and when I came back to France in January I knew I would be back in June for my little sister's wedding.  My parents kept my car, I kept my American cell phone number, and I happily lived out two lives on two different continents.  However, two weeks ago when I started to prepare for my trip back to France after an amazing five week stay in the United States I was overcome by fear.  I had always thought of myself as being "strong" throughout the move to France, but for the days leading up to my departure from the United States I cried.  I was terrified to come back to France.  Coming back this time meant selling my car, closing down my cell phone account, and saying goodbye to my family and friends not knowing when I would see them again.  This time I had no return ticket and no reason to return to the United States anytime soon.  It was finally time to say goodbye to my American life and embrace my new French life.  

Coming back to France this time also meant that I had to finally face some of my biggest "French" fears: starting a new job, learning to drive a stick shift car, and learning to be more independent in my day to day life.  I had to be an adult and stop relying on Florian so much.  I was so scared of failing at my new "French life" that my entire first week back I picked a fight with Florian nearly everyday (telling him I could never drive, that I would suck at my job, that I couldn't speak French, etc.) because it was easier to say these things and pick a fight than face the fact that I might not succeed. "I hate France!  Everything here is too complicated!" I said to Florian one night and then later it hit me: the problem wasn't France, the problem was me.  I was letting myself be paralyzed by fear.  

So what happened?  I decided I needed to stop letting fear run my life.  After all, the only person holding me back was myself.  Therefore,  I got out of bed every morning last week and drove myself (in my new stick shift car) to work.  I didn't let myself shut down when the car stalled at a roundabout or when I got lost trying to find my classroom on the first day.  I even branched out and went grocery shopping and filled the car with gas all by myself.  In less than two weeks I was doing tasks that before had never seemed possible.  Now, I'm not saying that I'm a changed person and that I won't ever let fear dictate my life again, but hopefully if that does happen I'll be strong enough to make the choice to overcome it.  To quote the old cliche:

"FEAR has two meaning: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is ours." 


  1. You write so honestly. Fearlessly. But, don't be too hard on yourself. The problem might be a little bit you AND a little bit your situation. Living in France is not easy, it simply isn't, when you have been brought up differently. Good on you, though, for taking your next step towards doing it more easily.

    1. Hi Catherine,
      Thank you so much for your kind and uplifting comment. You are correct in saying that France probably is part of the problem. Moving to a new country is difficult and I find France to be particularly difficult at times. I'm just trying to focus on keeping a positive attitude and remembering all the reasons I fell in love with France in the first place. :)