That word terrifies me. It's a big, scary word that brings about big, scary emotions. The fear of it has kept me from taking so many chances in my life. I didn't continue playing the flute in any big capacity in my teen years. Despite the fact that I was often selected for "special" programs and was told I "had what it takes," I was scared of any try-out process where I might not make it. I didn't try out for softball in college. I was scared I wouldn't make the cut--despite the fact that the assistant coach was my coach from high school and the head coach was my mom's boss's husband...and, objectively, I probably had the skills to make it. But that fear of the f-word held me back from even trying. That fear of the f-word almost tricked me into not applying to graduate school. While I was waiting on the decision I convinced myself that I didn't really want to go, so I wouldn't be so upset when I didn't get in. (In hindsight, that would not have been the WORST thing to happen. Grad school sucks. Hahaha! But I digress, as usual...)
And the f-word brings on fears beyond just the f-word itself...like fear of the d-word.
When I was a kid, my parents didn't spank me or anything like that. But I dreamed of that type of punishment. I don't mean I wished for beatings, I just mean something shorter than the long lectures about what I did wrong. NOTHING is more devastating than having someone tell me they are disappointed in me. It is only rivaled by the disappointment I feel toward myself sometimes.
Coming full-circle, sometimes my internal disappointment comes from not taking those leaps or trying out because of my fear of the f-word. Seriously, am I some sort of nut-job? :) But where could I have gone if I kept playing the flute on a higher level? How would my college experience have been different if I had tried out for softball?
And now, the fear of the f-word is getting into my head again. Recently, I have had a few things showing me that I have chosen the right path for me--that maybe all of this grad-school-nonsense isn't nonsense at all. Maybe there is light at the end of this stressful tunnel. Great, right? Sure...until the fear of the f-word comes creeping up on me again.
What if I'm not good enough? What if I don't get a job? (Seriously--big fear--there are a lot of student loans piling up that need to be paid! I get so irritated that people must go into debt to better themselves, but that's another soapbox for another time...) What if people think I'm stupid? What if I say something wrong? What if my dissertation flops? What if I never get a publication in a top journal--or, even worse, what if I don't get another pub at all? What if I can't get any grant money?
While all of my other "colleagues" are going around calling our professors by their first names, I am still walking on eggshells and wouldn't consider calling any professor with a PhD anything other than "Dr. [Last Name]." What if I actually do make it to my own hooding but can never make the jump from student to PhD? What if no one ever sees me as a figure with authority or someone with "real" expertise? What if they all still see me as the quiet girl with the southern accent who is too afraid to speak up because of her fear of what everyone else thinks? What if I DO get a good job...but then don't make tenure?
Yep, there are a lot of questions running through this brain of mine in addition to all of the ones I need to answer formally through this grad-school adventure! I am sure many of these things are ONLY in my head. I mean, worrying is my specialty--a forte I would like to overcome.
So I am challenging myself to put the worry away as it is totally useless and nonproductive (though it's not likely to actually disappear) and focus on what I need to do to succeed. I must focus on success--on the possibilities of what CAN be if I keep working hard. The biggest tragedy will be if I let this fear of the f-word infiltrate my aspirations to the point that I don't shoot for my goals. I've said it before and I'll say it again--the following quite is framed in my bedroom--it came from one of those daily calendar-things.
"Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength."
[Deep breath]....Eyes on the prize....