Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 3:47:52 AM
There are two different kinds of fear.
The body’s reaction to perceived threat is instinctive, physical, mind-numbing, intensely panicked terror. I won’t deny that I often fall prey to the natural fright of this category; between my fear of spiders, sharks, and asparagus, I think I’m covered.
But there’s also an aching psychological fear that affects me far more profoundly. It is deeply rooted in my actions and decisions, and I am extremely conscious of its influence on my everyday life.
You see, I’m not afraid of messing up on the SATs or being waitlisted by the University of Chicago. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting a 2400, and I’d love to attend a good university, but these things don’t strike me as incredibly important anymore. One must define success on his own, and I have.
To me, success is making an impact. I want to teach and inspire. I want to help rid the world of racism and prejudice. I want to travel around the world to places where natural disasters have wreaked havoc and spark hope in their devastated inhabitants. I want to make people feel like their lives mean something. I want to be a volunteer EMT or be involved with a program like Doctors Without Borders.
But, let’s get real: I want far too much.
Occasionally, I wake up at night and my mind throbs with plans and strategies. Then I shut my eyes for just one moment and I am thrust into a dark, fearful place. “Fear” is not completely accurate; the place I go is more comparable to a live, flesh-eating monster.
My brain is constantly working, creating, concocting. Yet if I achieve none of these propositions, I have not actually affected the world in any significant manner.
I can hope to cure cancer, and I’d love to write a book that changes millions of lives. But meanwhile, my small actions - tutoring someone for an hour, lending out my notes, even doing a load of laundry because my mother is exhausted - help combat my ever-growing fear that I won’t have accomplished anything monumental.
For now, I’ll go on existing. I’ll wake up each morning and go to school. Hopefully, though, the deeds I do and the things I say will impact people in a positive way. I believe I will make more of a difference through practical charity than accolades to my virtue. I can try to immortalize myself by doing thoughtful and influential things that affect the good of the world on a whole.
I don’t need to start by changing the world. I can change my behavior towards other people, until changing the world is the same thing.