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Fear… Evaporated

Well this is definitely not the post I’d planned to write. About a week ago I reposted an article by the incredibly prolific Shaun Brewster. In the article Brewster wrote about the difficult decision of whether or not to tell the world our biggest plans and risk ridicule in the event that they – i.e. WE – fail. The flip side is to keep your plans, and your fears, to yourself and in the event of failure let both fade quietly into memory. Clearly there are plenty of reasons to tell or not to tell about a big project, such as concerns that someone else might try to do it first, for sponsorship or marketing reasons, or because you’ve run out of leave pay, but for the sake of this post we’ll keep it simple.

I’d planned to write about Fear and how, in the Sagacious words of Dan Brown, “Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.” About our tendency to spend so much time in a state of anxiety over our big projects that we often start to wonder whether it’s worth starting them at all. I know this is definitely true of me. Unfortunately, the more we feed these thoughts the stronger they become.

Unlike Dan Brown’s latest book, however, the decaying, mould spores of our imagination are generally far worse than reality. If we treat them methodically, air them out and give them a solid blast of sunlight, we’re often surprised to find they disappear. Sharing our projects with family and friends, being meticulous in our planning and being brave enough to turn, acknowledge and stare down our fears will go a long way in controlling them and using them for fuel.

Or at least that’s the gist of the post I was going to write.

The last 5 months have been spent planning a solo, Fastpacking expedition that was due to depart on the 5th of September. I’ve written planning documents, spent excessive amounts of money, sent countless emails and put all the pieces of the puzzle together; except one: Me.

I’m writing this post five days into a hospital stay in Malang, Java, Indonesia, where I’ve been recovering from Dengue Fever. I’ve spent the last four months anxious about the weather, my pack weight, my nutrition, my fitness, and my mental state after three days of running high double-digit distances alone. The amount of conscious and unconscious energy I’ve expended on these worries would power a small town.  And yet, with the unnoticed bite of an Aegypti mosquito, my reality changed and all of these concerns faded into curious irrelevance. This is nothing revolutionary. As Robert Penn Warren wrote, “Reality is not a function of the event as event, but of the relationship of that event to past, and future, events.”

Of course the power of context is nothing new. Watch any news bulletin and you’ll likely see something on war and terror. It may upset, even horrify you, but you’ll likely go to sleep and not think much more about it. Go to war and the same scene is just as likely to give you PTSD. Separation from the real events – being out of context – gives the conscious mind the ability to remain emotionally separate, detached.

The question is, how do we want something enough to put in all the work it takes to achieve it, yet remain detached enough not to worry unduly?

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