Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen to Me!

There was this girl I once knew; we'll call her Emily for anonymous reasons.

Emily was the sister of a good friend.  She was in her early to mid 20s, and she didn't know how to drive.  She didn't have a job.  She didn't go to college.  She didn't get on airplanes for travel.  She was afraid of commitment.  She was perfectly content with sitting at my friend's home, babysitting in exchange for food, clothing, and shelter.  Though this was an almost symbiotic relationship for my friend (especially since she was a single mom), it was a bit puzzling to me when I looked at Emily and wondered why she wasn't striving to make a life for herself.  I use the world "almost" because clearly, Emily needed help in a way that her family wasn't able to give her.

Simply put, she had no ambition, and she was paralyzed by fear in practically every aspect of life.

When asked her why she didn't drive, she said she was afraid to.  She was scared she would get into an accident and die, and she was okay with not driving since her brother and sister could drive her where she needed to go.  She was "open" to the idea of learning to drive "one day" but she wasn't ready for it - at ~23-24 years old.  She had been in one car accident a few years prior - naturally, she wasn't driving - and she feared getting into other accidents.

When I asked her why she didn't have a job, she explained that it was difficult to have a job when you can't drive.  She had previously had an entry-level job somewhere, but it didn't last long.  I cannot recall for sure, but I believe the business might have shut down, and she did not look for a job afterwards.

When I asked her why she didn't go to college, she said it was too expensive and she didn't really need to go to college to get a job.  I tried to explain that getting a 1-2 year college degree wouldn't be too expensive, and it would ultimately result in much better wages - wages that would greatly compensate for any college expenses, but that concept was lost on her because she said it would be a "waste of time."  (Oh, the irony because of all the time she was wasting by not setting herself up to be self-sufficient!)

When I asked her why she didn't travel via airplanes, she said she was too afraid to fly because airplanes can crash and she could die.  I thought about explaining that the chances of her getting into a car accident were greater than her airplane crashing, but then I remembered that convincing her to drive was a whole different battle.

I asked her what she wanted to do after my friend's child was old enough to go to school, her eyes got kind of big as though she had never even thought of needing to fend for herself - ever.

When I summed it up and said "So, you won't drive, you won't get on a plane - I assume a cruise ship is out too?"
"Of course!  It would sink right as I get on it!" she responded.
I replied, "I figured.  Why won't you do all of these things - awesome things that everyone else enjoys so much?"
"Because if I don't do all of those things, nothing bad will ever happen to me!"
A lightbulb suddenly went off in my head.  I responded by saying: "You know what, you're absolutely right.  Nothing will ever happen to you..." as I trailed off giving her a stare with my "think about it... think about it... let it sink in..." look.

I was hoping the point would sink in, but it didn't.  I'm not a trained psychiatric professional, but it was one of those moments when I think to myself: "Oh lord have mercy, you need help!  Dysfunction junction, what's your major malfunction?  ALMOST EVERYTHING!"

When you really think about it, she IS right.  None of those bad things will ever happen to her if she doesn't get on a plane, cruise ship, or learn to drive.  You know what else?  None of those really awesome things will happen to her either!

When I reminisce about all of my adventures I've had in life, I know I wouldn't have been able to do many - if not all - of them if I was paralyzed with fear.  If I couldn't drive, I wouldn't have been able to go to so many great concerts, go to parks or the beach, move halfway across the country, see new places, meet up with friends, go to the doctor when I needed to, or even get to work to support myself!  I wouldn't have met so many awesome friends over the years, and my life would be very, very boring if I just sat at home, watched movies, listened to music, played video games, surfed the web, and stuffed my face all day - every day.

In life, yes, sometimes bad things will happen.  Even if Emily never learns to drive, she will still find herself in a vehicle on numerous occasions (something she was okay with).  Even if her family members are impeccable drivers, guess what?  Many others on the road aren't!  Accidents may happen!  Whether she's driving or someone else is driving, car accidents happen.  We all buckle up and hope for the best when we start our vehicles every day, but fear doesn't always keep us from getting out there and living our life!  Sure, taking precautions and having a focus on safety are both necessary.  That's why we buckle up.  That's why there are safety ratings on vehicles and engineers work on improvements every day.  That's why we practice defensive driving.  That's why we obey the traffic laws.  That's why we honk our horns when we sense danger.  That's why we keep an eye on other drivers and what they are doing.  That's why we tend to decide against getting out on the roads when it's snowing or icy - if it can be avoided.

If you refuse to get on a boat or a plane, this means you will never get to dip your toes in the sands of a beautiful island.  You won't get to immerse yourself into another culture.  I could go on and on about all the things you're missing, but the biggest summary of it all is: you won't get to see our beautiful world and all it - and life - has to offer.

You can't let fear stop you from doing things all of the time.  Sure, there are situations in life where you might not want to just blindly take a leap of faith (financial investments, starting a new business, taking on a new career, uprooting your life, choosing to have a child with someone, etc), but you can at least try to make an educated decision before making the decision!

The fear of the unknown is only conquered when you give it a try.  This goes back to the concept of "guarded optimism" and how it helps carry us through all of life's adventures.  We aren't snails.  We aren't ostriches.  We can't always hide in our shell or bury our heads in the sand if we sense that danger is completely surrounding us everywhere.  We still have to come out of our shell and unbury our head if we want to keep living!  You have to be open to letting life happen, and that includes the good and the bad!

As of today, I haven't seen or spoken to Emily in almost 7 years, but from what I've gathered through others, not much has changed in her world.  As I originally warned, nothing will ever happen to her.  That makes me very, very sad for her.

She always was a very sweet girl, yet I saw so much sadness bottled up inside of her.  I truly believe that getting out there and enjoying life and all it has to offer would have done her a world of good.  Alas, there isn't much I can do about it, though I wish there was.  As the old saying goes "You can lead a horse to the water, but you can't make it drink."

Don't let "nothing ever happen" to you!