Serious Question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?


Fear is a paralyzing force and yet, I don’t understand why I’ve lived with it for so long. Someone once shared a photo of bears and said, “Don’t feed the Fears.” This stuck with me a lot because everyday, I find a piece of myself to sacrifice to the Fears.

Why? It’s not wise to do things when we already know their negative consequences and you’d think, like Pavlov’s dog, we could wean ourselves off fear especially when we become aware of how fear conditions us to live a certain way. I like to say I act according to reason but if my experiences have anything to show for themselves, it’s that I don’t really. Otherwise, why would I let fear get the best of me–as it often does?

George Addair offers compelling food for thought. He says, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”  So, I’ve asked myself (and others) this question:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I noticed, judging by the first few answers that I got, that this was indeed a deep, fundamental question–and as these things go in our culture, we make a quip of it first to test the waters. I do this often, offering a small dose of comedy in serious situations, just to ease the mood. Then, when it seems like people have gotten over the initial awkwardness, a space is built to house genuine conversation.

Today’s topic? The truth about who we are as we know ourselves to be.

I noticed too that though others genuinely made the effort and wore their hearts on their sleeves, some were not as forthcoming. It’s also the nature of the question to be so arresting that we can no longer come to terms with it–or we become afraid of the abyss we are staring into, because secretly we know that it, too, is staring at us! Jeepers creepers!

As for me, I asked this question publicly because I wanted to confront myself privately. I acknowledge my own need for witnesses–friends–to see what I’m struggling with and help me discover what this question is trying to arouse in me.

Here is my shortlist in no particular order:

If I were not afraid, I would…

  1. Apply to the graduate schools of my dreams and study what I want. Poetry, Literature, Security Studies…the list goes on.
  2. See more of the Philippines! Buy a ticket to Tawi-Tawi and work my way up to Luzon slowly, deliberately–using any and all modes of transportation.
  3. Own up to my scars and tell those who hurt me that they did (to let it go, you know?)
  4. Write for National Geographic. Legitimately, in honour of my grandfather who shared his collection with me and of my uncle who so kindly funded our addiction.
  5. Learn to dive and swim in the open sea–because I’m a blind bat who freezes when the bottom disappears.
  6. Go WWOOFing in a county where no one speaks English.
  7. Travel solo for six months without a plan and let only curiosity move me…but I have to see the desert.
  8. Be a journalist–live with outcasts–migrants, gypsies, pirates, trace the Filipino diaspora, and chase after every story I’ve ever dreamt of writing about. (God, there are so many.)
  9. Learn enough of a language to speak confidently (because speaking broken French and Spanish out loud terrifies me)
  10. Say NO so that my YES retains its potency.

Fear will not disappear magically if I choose to pursue any of these things. If anything, I’ve learned that it will only intensify because the closer we are to being our authentic selves, the more the world rubs against us abrasively. I can live with that for as long as I remember where I came from and how, at 18, I wrote down a similar list of fears that no longer frighten me today.

Perhaps this is really all we need every now and then? To acknowledge what scares us, tip our hats to these fears, and carry on.