Fear Is the Mind Killer

“I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

-Frank Herbert, Litany Against Fear, Dune


I’m looking for a new job at the moment. I’m dissatisfied with my current one for a variety of reasons, most of which aren’t relevant to this topic. The biggest one though is. And that is a lack of satisfaction with what I am doing with my life. I’ve always had a hard time working at a job that simply pays the bills but doesn’t give me a greater sense of accomplishment. What has always kept me at those jobs is fear of the uncertainty in doing anything else. See, it’s been relatively easy to just keep toiling on day after day at a job I hate. The routine itself is easy to maintain because it’s so automatic. I get up at the same time every morning, show up to work, and go about my predetermined routine. There’s definitely a mental cost, but at least I know I am going to be able to buy groceries and pay my rent/mortgage. I’ve been trying to make progress by doing my day job and writing or doing some other creative pursuit on the side. But that hasn’t worked. After a day at work I’m exhausted physically and mentally. I have nothing left for creativity. On the weekends I’m recovering from the work week, making time to see friends, and keeping up on the maintenance of life (e.g. cleaning, buying groceries, etc.). Then I begin the cycle over again each Monday morning.

I’m 36 and I feel as though I’m running out of time. It’s been primarily fear that’s gotten me to this point. It’s hard to give up a steady job with steady income even if it isn’t satisfying. But merely getting by isn’t going to cut it much longer. I need to feel existential fulfilment. I need to be able to prioritize it above my physical/situational/financial satisfaction. The thought of that is fucking terrifying for so many reasons. It may mean taking more flexible part-time jobs that pay significantly less money. It probably means devoting less time to social activities. And that is scary because being with friends is one of the things that helps me keep depression at bay besides the fact that I just enjoy being with my friends. I like to have a steady routine in which I don’t have to constantly make adjustments or do things outside of their correct time. But all of this is likely going to require constantly monitoring my schedule. I am capable of that, but it’s not going to be comfortable. I like self-sustaining systems that once started require minimal further input to keep going. This is not going to be that.  Soul-crushing, mind-numbing comfort is so much easier than facing the fear of the unknown. That is a sad thing to have to admit.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about wishing I had made more mistakes when I was younger. It’s so much easier to recover from mistakes when you’re young. For one thing there is a lot more time ahead of you to do so. There is usually a lot less at stake when, for instance, you quit your job without having a new one lined up. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I haven’t made enough to inoculate me against the fear I’m feeling now. I’m not under the impression that people that made a lot of mistakes when they were younger are somehow immune to fear once they’re older, but having had more of those experiences may give a person an instinctual knowledge that even if things get bad for a while they will probably get better. I don’t have enough of that gut feeling to feel comfortable taking big risks. I wish that I did.

I am still trying to build a plan. I don’t know exactly what route to take. I have many stubs of ideas, but none that I have been willing to go full force into. It’s the fear of choosing the wrong one that’s stopping me. The fear of putting all my efforts into one thing that turns out to be a disaster and ruins me. And I feel it has to be primarily one thing. Doing a little here and a little there might have been an option if I had started when I was 20, but at this point I’m behind. I need to find one thing and go at it with everything. This blog is an example of a little thing. It’s been very helpful to have the fortnightly deadline for writing these posts. It’s been great to get the thoughts in my head down on the page, and then to shape them into something (which I hope is) coherent. But this isn’t a job. It’s not making me any money and is not likely to ever do so. I intend to continue with this as long as I have the time and ability to do so, but I need something more to find fulfillment.

Fear of the unknown keeps people (me) in their (my) unhappy position. Being afraid of the unknown consequences of change. Fear is the reason most people (I) don’t do most of the things they (I) want to do. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of looking foolish. But I say fail, get rejected, be a fool. Failure can be a good way to learn. At least that is what I keep trying to tell myself. I will try to fear the right things. I will try to fear my own dissatisfaction and wasted life more than the risks that are stopping me from getting what I need.

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