Fear of the Unknown: 10 Years and 4000 Miles

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 Scott Todnem
Like anyone, perhaps, I’ve always had a fear of failure. And it seems that for me it stems from being afraid of disappointing others, of losing credibility, of hurting… something. I’m not sure what. Myself, maybe? Whatever the reason, it’s definitely linked to a fear of the unknown.

Yet in other ways, the unknown excites me.  It’s the greatest “what if” in the world. For instance, what if I can impel other writers to look within themselves?  What if by merely asking a question, by putting in place a simple topic, I can feed philosophical reflection in the brains of my fellow contributors?

I don’t know. That’s the unknown. That’s fun of it.

And what if it fails? That’s the fear. It’s inherent in any new project.

It brings me back to a time when life was the future.

As a kid it’s almost like the unknown is expected. Sure, there’s a day-to-day routine that fits into place, but in actuality, kids have no idea what will happen in adulthood.  We have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up, yes, but often those are fueled and perpetuated by the grown ups in our lives; we really don’t have a clue what the future will bring. It’s so far in the distance that even ten more years for a ten year old is an entire lifetime.

It was when I was ten myself that my parents told me our family was making a move. Uprooting our midwest stability and leaving town. Well, not just leaving town, or leaving the state even… we moved out of the country.  A once in a lifetime chance to experience life outside of America. The destination? The United Kingdom. England, to be exact. Work provided the opportunity to send my father overseas, and so the family followed. Leaving a childhood of routine wasn’t easy– not knowing what to expect brought out the most distress.

Where would we live and go to school? Who would I be friends with? How would I watch my favorite shows on TV? What in the world is cricket?

After settling in, fears of the unknown waned as I went to school on an American army and air force base. Some consistency of life continued as interactions with kids from all around the U.S. proved life would be different, but much the same. Army brats knew how to fit in and how to fit in fast. Plus, a yankee accent helped balance the surrounding cockney gibberish over fish and chips.

I had to stay up until 2am to watch the Super Bowl, but it was worth it.

It was actually coming back to the states that created more tension in my adolescent life. In many ways, being new wasn’t a shared experience in the Chicago suburbs. Outsiders were a threat. Always have been, maybe. And so, typical teenage bullying created a new fear of the unknown in daily life– in the depths of the middle school deep end. The battle? How to stand out as a unique individual without standing out at all. And how to keep from mentally drowning in the meantime.

Boy, did I swallow some water.

In any event, life was always the future. Even by high school and college. Life was the thing outside the window, like a movie scene revealing the other side of some glistening pond. The past? It was just that junk beyond some rickety old bridge behind you. The future? Oh, the future was shining in the sun, smooth and untouched, like the wheels of a brand new skateboard or the first play of a new album.

The future was waiting after the next step in life. And there was always a next step.

It was at some point, however, that I realized I had already grown into the future. My viewpoint changed. Life wasn’t the future after all, life was happening all the time. The “next step” was here.

Nowadays, instead of worrying about the future, I seem to get worried about the present– fear of the well-known we could call it. Fear that I’m not going anywhere, as if life were a gigantic stair master of rotating falsehoods. Unused and forgotten and horribly out of date.

Interestingly enough, despite all this, despite an awareness of life’s ticking clock and just one set of batteries, I’m hoping to change my tune once again to reflect the old me– the childhood way of thinking. With some effort it could be truer now than ever: life is still the future. There’s still the “what if,” still the unknown to this life, no matter what redundancies are happening here and now.

The beginning of this website proves that.

Life is the future. It’s a little scary and unknown, perhaps, but here’s hoping it’s always worth it.

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