Now Playing: Speak Now by Taylor Swift (there's a silence, there's my last chance, I stand up with shaking hands, all eyes on me...horrified looks from everyone in the room but I'm only looking at you)
What would I do if I were not afraid.
It's a question I ask myself every day. What would I do if I were not afraid? What would I do for myself, for others? Who's rights would I fight for, who would I speak up for? Every day I ask myself what am I afraid of, and what would I do if I were not afraid.
And then I go ahead and do it.
A little known phobia of mine is that I'm absolutely terrified of...well, a lot of people. People who work behind counters. Waiters. Air hostesses. People who work in shops. I don't like asking people I don't know to help me. Don't entirely know why. Maybe it's the idea that strangers are paid to help me but some of my friends will never lift a finger in my defence that's screwing with my head.
But, this is uni. If you don't ask the very people I'm petrified of, you don't get fed. You can't buy books. You can't get lockers out on loan. You can't buy earrings at the weekly guild market.
What would I do if I were not afraid? I'd write what I think and encourage debate. I'll tell my friends when I'm hurt, or upset, or bored stupid.
Fear and silence is crippling. I have spent so much of my life afraid; afraid of being alone, afraid of pain, afraid of failure, afraid of myself and of other people. And I tried to protect myself, protect myself with silence. But silence will not protect you. I'm alone. I'm in pain. I fail and fall over. I'm still wild and passionate and make more enemies than friends. My friends can crush me in a heartbeat in more ways than one. It's called life.
And so, I've learned you can live life in two ways. You can live life afraid, and silent. You can endure this without making a sound, without trying to make a change, wallowing in the inevitable misery that comes with being human. Or you can speak out. You can live as if you're not afraid of anything.
Last year I tried to be fearless, but this year I've added a whole new level to that. I want to begin again. I was a wacky, psycho, crazy kid, but uni is not a playground and the petty playground politics of the schoolyard is replaced with the real highs and lows of almost-adultness. Begin again is about not being that kid who could be silenced by school bullies. Begin again is about not being that girl who can't even order her favourite noodles. Begin again is about being everything I've always dreamed of being.
Taylor Swift also said to speak now. To speak up for what is right, for what you believe in, to stand up for yourself when people try and judge you. That's what I would do, If I were not afraid.
When I was younger I was taught to live in fear. That you, how you feel, what you think, what other people can do to you...they're all things to be afraid of. And these things have all hurt me, kicked me in the face, waited for me to half recover, and then punch me in the stomach. But I am not afraid of them anymore. There comes a point when your heart has been so broken that you're not afraid of men anymore. There comes a time when you've spent too long on your back in a hospital bed that you're not afraid of pain anymore. And there comes a point when you experience this rush of sensation and emotion and it sets you free and, no matter what the repercussions and consequences of that moment of rash impulsivity brings, that you're not afraid of how you feel and how others feel about you. Being fearless is about accepting all the things you're afraid of and saying fuck it, I'm doing them anyway. That's a rush I can't beat or explain.
The fear of failure is like being afraid of scars and spots and imperfections, things that make you more human than that guy's perfect blonde girlfriend or the model splashed on the magazine cover. When I was in Korea I took a chance. We were all eating together at our favourite Arab restaurant in Old Songdo and I had the choice of sitting with the girls, like I always do, or taking that last empty seat next to the boy I liked. All my sisters were pushing me to go for it and I did.
Nothing happened. He left without saying goodbye and I cried all the way home. But I can never regret standing up, walking those six steps, and sitting down. Because the only regrets I have is dwelling, endlessly, hopelessly, on what might have happened if I had been brave. I was brave, and it didn't work, and I will have to find a way to get over that. But I was brave. What happens after an act of bravery almost doesn't matter. It's the courage it takes to not be that scared little girl that matters.
If I were not afraid I'd be the person I want to be. I tell myself that, every day. The only thing coming between me and the best version of myself is fear, fear of the unknown, and fear of the inevitable. What is the point of fearing what happens every day? What is the point of fearing something you cannot change or erase or forget? Nothing. Fear is human, but it takes someone really special to rise above that. But anyone can ask themselves what they would do if they were not afraid.