It’s a vice that grips my throat. A shameful burn in my stomach. It’s the lead inside my legs. The flush in my cheeks. The doubt behind good ideas. It’s fear and it doesn’t give up.
Recently, I read bell hooks’ All About Love where she expounds on living and acting from a place of love. The words were fortifying, but I found the most clarity in hooks’ thoughts on fear: “When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat.” Here, I found a one-sentence summary of the last eight years of my life. I never challenged myself. I wanted to grow, but I was afraid.
As I finish my first month here at Generation Justice, I have already noticed a change in myself: I am happier than I have been in a long time. I am doing what I love everyday. I am growing as a journalist and a person.
In high school, I talked big about being a photojournalist and going to college somewhere far away. But after I graduated, I became complacent with working and paying bills. I let go of my dream, little by little. I started a family and thought, perhaps, I would be fulfilled by making it my life.
Everything changed when I got sick. I spent 3 months in the hospital after being diagnosed with severe Aplastic Anemia, a bone marrow failure disease.
The disease snatched away all the comfort of the familiar. It stole my time and replaced it with uncertainty. I spent the next five years getting back to normal. Somewhere between days of staring at hospital ceilings and getting passed up for a promotion at work, I realized that while I was grateful to have trudged through the worst times, I was miserable.
As a creator, a crafter of art and words, when I ceased to create, I ceased to live. I felt like a shell of myself and it was not because of illness, it was because of fear. I gave up on myself long before my bone marrow did. I had big dreams, but I didn’t think I could achieve them. I wanted success, but I didn’t think I deserved it.
Fear grows inside of all of us. If we don’t shine the light of our own courage on it, it will take us over, like a disease. I have been through enough knife cuts and needle stabs to last a lifetime, but the most frightening thing I have been through was believing in myself enough to go after my dreams. This is because the fear of failure visits everyday: when I earn a low grade, when my bank account shrinks overnight, or when I can’t find extra time to spend with my son.
Fear is ubiquitous and releasing it requires a profound love. bell hooks taught me this. In my life, love for creating and family are my shields, my antidote to the poison that is fear. Here at GJ, I am learning to nourish my craft. I am learning that I do deserve to find happiness in my work. And that my voice, even if it shakes, is important.