I try to be as honest as I can when I write these lists (unless I’m obviously writing a satirical piece about molesting horses, of course). I’ll use these pieces as either a forum for my odd sense of humor or, maybe more productively, as a way to just gush onto paper what I’m feeling at a given moment. This list would fall into the latter category. I’ve been listening to comedian/sufferer Paul Gilmartin’s podcast, “The Mental Health Happy Hour," almost religiously over the past few weeks. The premise is extended interviews with comedians and various other people about their struggles with afflictions of the mind. The conversations are deeply personal and honest in a way I’ve never heard before from celebrities. One of my favorite segments in the show is the “fear-off,” where Paul and his guest go back and forth listing their fears until one of them runs out. Not surprisingly, this game can go for a very long time. Here are a few of mine. What are your biggest fears?
I’ll never be really good at anything
If someone were to ask me what my “biggest fear” was, I think immediately my response would be that I’m afraid I’ll never be good at anything. It’s not fame or notoriety that I’m after at all. My fear is that I won’t succeed at the small things: being a good husband, a father, an employee. It goes further. I don’t think I’m very good at cleaning or organization, when I’m probably above the curve. Being adequate or average is just not good enough for me, even when it comes to the mundane. At the same time, I’m doing nothing about it. I watch people fall into passions early and pursue them through a lifetime of hard work. I haven’t found mine, and I worry it’s too late. There is also the fear that I have found my passion, but I just haven’t realized it yet. Yeah, the mind is terrible sometimes.
People think I’m weird
Here’s the thing with this fear: I perpetuate this in every possible way, and it still scares me that people think it. So basically, I live my life trying to achieve an end that I don’t want to achieve. Wow. I just realized that I do this. I’m having a moment of realization as I type this. And now I’m worried that you think I’m weird for having this realization, even though I have no intention of stopping. There’s also a part of me that really enjoys you thinking that I’m a little off in the noggin. But it has to be on my terms. If I’m trying to be weird, it’s OK for you think I’m weird. If I wasn’t trying to be weird, then you thinking I am is the worst possible thing to me. It’s a fine line, and I’m not sure I’ve done anything in this paragraph to help my cause.
I think this is about the most common fear people my age have, but they may not even know it. The scenarios that play out in my mind every day are just morbid and counterproductive to helpful living. What if I get T-boned in this intersection? What if this plane crashes? Am I really ready to die? Is anybody? The thought of whether or not there’s an afterlife isn’t the root of my phobia. I really don’t care. My fear stems from the thought of not existing. It’s completely irrational because I wouldn’t know, right? Still, I can’t stand the thought of people saying, “Well, I wonder what he could’ve done if he’d lived a full life.” The fact that I’m doing nothing with my life makes me scared that I won’t have done anything when the time comes. And again, I’m doing nothing about it.
My peers will pass me by in every conceivable way
I’ll often catch myself scrolling through friends' Facebook profiles and raging with jealousy at how much they’ve accomplished. The jealousy turns into an inward attack on myself for not accomplishing as much. I know this is ridiculous behavior. And these friends are doing things I wouldn’t even want to be doing (cancer doctor, math teacher, mechanical engineer, etc.), and yet, I’m still envious of their success. Part of my fear goes back to something I’ve already mentioned. I wonder if they look at my profile and think about how much of an underachiever I am. They don’t do this, of course, because they are busy and emotionally comfortable. I’m getting better at having self-confidence, but I’m not entirely there yet. I try to think about this quote from David Foster Wallace in “Infinite Jest.” He writes, “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do”—a statement that is both revealing and sobering.
I’ll lose my mind
I think it would be wonderful to occasionally lose my mind. Not permanently, of course, but the ability to be without my thoughts for a few minutes a day would be incredible. I’ve taken up meditation as a way to release my thoughts, but I’ve also developed a fear of completely losing control of my thoughts. My “flight status” is always on high alert. I find it far too easy, especially when I get overwhelmed, to just say, “%*$# it! I’m going to the mountains” and check out for a few days. Even at the time, it seems like something a crazy person would do. I immediately think of Ted Kaczynski and whether I’m just a few days in the woods away from really losing it. The reality is that I’m not crazy—far from it, in fact—but I am afraid I will be. This is as honest as I can be.