Something I’ve noticed about growing older, as the decades turn, is my growing unwillingness to take risks. This is not evident from my general life trends. In the past ten years, I’ve lived in a foreign country, moved to a new city knowing practically no one and nothing, quit jobs, quit couplehood, and quit various support networks. Still, I feel my life is generally ruled by fear. I do small things in conformity with other’s expectations because I am afraid to disappoint. I do large things with extravagant flamboyance to prove I am not afraid. I think it is rare that I make a truly independent decision. I hope at least some choices I make are in consideration of others, rather than in fear of their judgment.
There’s a quote somewhere out there, perhaps well-known but only vaguely outlined in my memory, about the majority of people living their lives bound either by boredom or fear. In my case, I know the binding to be fear. It is a main imperative. But I don’t think this has always been the case. My parents say that I was always an independent child, someone very self-possessed at a young age. When I went to Australia in high school, they said this was an outward expression of my singular self, but not the origin of it. Still, I don’t think I was ever aware of myself with the individuality others saw in me. Perhaps what others see is more honest than my own inward perception.
I can remember an earlier time when my own worldview was predominant, and no fear would distract me from my own imaginings. I can remember being wildly self-involved. I can remember being stubborn and angry and feeling any variety of extreme and therefore negative emotions. I have somehow slipped out of that mindset, and become someone who considers the world and my impact on it more broadly. Is that wisdom, or the loss of something precious and wondrous?