Fearing the Foolish

I wish I’d spent more of my life looking foolish. As silly as it sounds, in a life filled with glaringly bad decisions, this is my one regret. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid to spend a little time looking foolish.

Sometimes I lay awake in bed at night and watch my daughter sleep, snuggled up close to me in perfect contentment. I think about all the things I want to teach her, about this whole big world and the little pieces of it I’ve seen. I don’t just want her to have more opportunities than I had, I want her to be a better person than I have ever been able to be.

I don’t want her to be afraid. More than anything I don’t want my fears to become hers.

I paused to wonder the other day what my life might look like if I hadn’t been so afraid all of the time – afraid to fail, afraid of not being in control (and actually showing it!), afraid of feeling uncomfortable and, most of all, afraid to look foolish. There are so many things I didn’t do, journeys I didn’t go on, because I was afraid of one of these things. I’ve spent so much time worried about what other people were thinking about me, concerned about how I looked to the passersby, perfecting and presenting this canned image of myself, that I’ve missed more chances than I’ve taken.

I didn’t spend a semester of high school at sea, despite my love of sailing, because I was afraid of getting seasick going through the Panama Canal. I skipped my high school graduation because I was afraid of walking across the stage in front of all of those people. I’ve never learned to ski or snowboard, although I love the idea of it, because I worry about falling and failing and looking foolish in front of whomever takes the time to teach me. I haven’t allowed myself to be taught any number of things, in fact, because I was afraid I wouldn’t look good learning how to do them and I wouldn’t master them quickly enough to impress those around me.

I haven’t played games at parties because I didn’t know how to play them. I haven’t taken fitness classes, worn bright colors, sung at an open mic, traveled by myself, taken big and bold chances, and so, so much more, all because I’ve been afraid. I’ve missed opportunities to work with a band or begin one of my own because I was afraid of what I would sound like while learning something new. I closed a profitable company because I was afraid it would fail. I’ve turned down business offers because I was afraid to try. I have lost chances to meet people, gain knowledge, learn skills, and live a truly full life.

More than addiction, more than failed adventures, more than any instance in which I said “yes”, I am haunted by the regret of all of the times that, out of fear, I said “no”. This sort of half-lived life is not what I want for Mabel.

And so I am learning to say “yes” when I want to say “no”, because that little girl is going to grow up with her eyes fully on me and she’ll do what I do more than what I say. I’d rather her see me try a hundred things and fail at all of them than let her watch me sit and do nothing at all.

For her to be better than I’ve ever been, I have to be better than I thought I could be.

Even if that means looking foolish.

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