fearless

1906fish

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What does it mean to be fearless?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately and I frame it as, “What would 24 year old Lisa think of 44 year old Lisa?” Would she approve, shake her head, be curious or angry at some of my choices? Would she be proud of me or disappointed? With the information guiding her, would she make different choices to shape another version of me?

I suppose it’s odd to become obsessed (because that is what it is) about a conversation that could never take place. (And if I know anything about time travel, you cannot cross meet yourself in the past for the sake of disrupting that particular reality.) But here I am, feverishly thinking about it and wonder what the fuck have I done with my life, how can I fix/change it, and how can I put my past into real rest while keening for the approval of 24 year old me.

These are questions no one, despite what they tell you, has perfect answers to. To be successful, to really be close to successful, the choices have to be close to nonexistent. Small choices and decisions that will shape the world as you want it but it will be slow and not the insta-quick sold by snake charmers.

Let’s get back to 24 year old Lisa. In the year she was about to turn 25, she met a boy on on the internet and within a few months of meeting him, packed up her bags and with less than 500 dollars in her pocket, took the airplane ticket he offered her and moved to the Bay Area without knowing a soul. They lived in an illegal apartment slash walk out basement where the landlord was a dominatrix who lived with her submissive on the main floor. The illegal apartment had two rooms, a toilet, and a kitchen sink. Showers were to be taken in the main living area as well as where we kept the food.

It shant be no surprise to anyone Lisa and her fellow broke up a few months later when he told her at a conference in Las Vegas (flight and hotel paid for by his company) he had met someone else and was going to move in with her. As luck would have it, when Lisa got back to the Bay Area, the submissive moved out (or was kicked out, I could never really remember that particular detail) and Lisa moved into his bedroom in the main house. Eventually she got a job, moved on with her life, and well, we know where that path took her.

What does it mean to be fearless?

Today we would call Lisa at 24 stupid, reckless, irresponsible, and a risk taker. I would call her gutsy and fearless. She saw a chance to get out of town she was growing to hate to an area that might prove to be wonderful. She knew she would land a job somewhere, eventually, and pay her own way. She navigated Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley like a pro. But while these things were slowly coming together, she lived off of generosity of friends as well as by luck.

I would repeat a similiar scenario several years later when I left a relationship with a man who was to be my future husband for a possible job and another boy across the other side of the country. The relationship, and the job, didn’t last but three years. Then I moved on my own to be with myself across the country again to finish college and get a life I saw myself living and bore no resemblance to the one I just left behind.

This is a pattern driving most of my life: taking chances on the unknown in the hopes that the result would give me what I want. Necessary knowledge of possible events, of future choices, or something secure (housing, job) never came into question. I knew I would have housing, a job, and things that I needed. Not necessarily what I wanted but always what I needed.

What does it mean to be fearless?

Twenty four year old Lisa was beset with sometimes crippling anxiety but its form was different than Lisa at 44. Then it was physical and now it’s mental. I thought nothing of hopping in my car and driving miles and miles for something when now if I’m doing anything longer than 100 miles, I need to get my car looked over even though my car is in excellent shape. Then I was on the go, on the move, and now I’m a homebody who comforts in telly and knitting because I get weary of social events. While it was rare for me to ever be home any night of the week, now it’s rare for me to not be home any night of the week. I clubbed until 2AM and worked at 6. Now I’m, mostly, in bed before 10PM – 11PM and up between 7AM – 8AM. Then I made a lot of rash and what would be considered risky decisions. Now I cross-examine anything that could remotely go outside my closed life.

Lisa at 24 was an adventurer at heart and while me at 44 still has that same desires, my adventuring has taken on other forms.

The argument could be made my bipolar, life choices, and decisions is what configured who I am today and I would tend to agree with you, but there remains an element that is missing and I believe that element is fearlessness. Even with all of that being said, the move to the east coast for a job that may or may not work out (hint: it didn’t) was an inspiration (as someone said to me) because I was willing to take that chance. Those close to me, seeing the red signs I was refusing to see, saw it was irresponsible and too risky. I was fearless but with a penalty and is it any wonder being fearless in the future seems like a very bad idea. If it’s not guaranteed, then what’s the point?

I speak with 24 year old Lisa a lot these days and while she shakes her head at some of my antics, we both agree there are no regrets. Bad choices and decisions, sure, but no regrets. We discuss the good things that came into my life based on those risky decisions. Not all but definitely some. We’re pretty proud of our achievements because we’re now not two divided persons of past and future but a whole being with memories of current and past and the soon to come.

So I ask you again, what does it mean to be fearless?
And the answer is simple: Living with no regrets.

[Cross posted to Medium]