I’m afraid a lot. I spend a lot of my time battling one kind of anxiety or another – I’ve written about it a little bit here. I’m afraid of saying something ‘wrong’ and having people not like me. I’m afraid of speaking up and ‘causing a scene.’ I’m afraid of starting an argument I’m not eloquent enough to win. Most of it boils down to ‘I can’t do anything to upset anyone or I’m a failure as a human and no one will ever love me.’
Irrational? Yes. Deeply ingrained and difficult to root out? Also yes.
This fear prevents me from doing a lot – from posting online to talking to strangers to sometimes just going outside. I’ve been getting better at working through it for the small stuff, but it still feels overwhelmingly stifling.
On Tuesday, something changed.
I had just returned from a week in Berlin, where I spent some time at the WWII memorials. There’s one in particular that’s basically dedicated to remembering every terrible thing the Nazis ever did, and the thing that struck me over and over (other than the terrifying similarity to conservative rhetoric I’ve heard recently) was the thought that these people were so fucking confident in their bigotry that they committed mass murder, while I’m going around drowning in anxiety worrying what strangers think of me as I walk down the street.
Their victims did nothing but exist and the nazis stripped their freedoms, their dignity, and then their lives, and I’m fucking scared to snap at a guy who’s ogling me on a nude beach.
It put some things in perspective, is what I’m saying.
Then I get home and the election happens.
Trump spouts this vile racist rhetoric all over the place and gets elected to the highest office in our government, while I’m afraid to get political on social media in case I accidentally say something “wrong.”
Trump is caught joking about sexually assaulting someone and his supporters brush it off, while I’m afraid of standing up to sexist behavior.
Trump claims he’s going to undo decades of environmental and peace-keeping politics, and I’m afraid to join in protests.
Well, I’m not ok with that anymore. I’m terrified of what is going to happen in this country in the coming year – even aside from what will happen in Washington, every single racist, sexist, or anti-science asshole in the country just got a huge flashing message that what they’re doing is ok. I can’t let that go, I can’t stomach staying silent, I can’t sit idly by, paralyzed by anxiety.
My fear of doing nothing has overcome my fear of doing something.
I don’t know what this means yet. I don’t know if it will last beyond this first raw emotional surge. I just know that I’m scared and angry and have more power and money and privilege than most people in this country, and god damnit I need to do something with that.
I’m not expecting this will be easy. But as Hillary said in her concession speech: “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”