“… among the only things I can remember from that time in my life were darkness and hatred nestled deep within my bones, in my bloodstream, filtering through every square inch of my being.
It was frightening, but in the thick of it I could not have told you I was afraid—I could not have told you I felt anything, really. I was unable to relate to the person I thought I was, and so I felt no obligation to take care of her.
She wasn’t me, so I didn’t care. I just let myself flop around in the pain that I couldn’t feel.”
Flipping through an old journal, I froze at this excerpt as it coldly reminded me that this is what life used to be. This is the numbness that once crowded my every thought, word and action.
The girl I once was was nothing, so that is exactly what I learned to fear. I adapted to living in fear of nothing.
I don’t mean that I was without fears; I mean the literal fear of nothingness, of feeling nothing, knowing nothing, being nothing.
During that time in my life, I created my nothingness by denying myself in every way I possibly could—I denied myself food in a physical context, but I also denied myself the emotional and spiritual “food” that every human being needs to survive. I believed that I deserved misery, so happiness was not an appropriate thing to give myself.
I believed that I deserved the nothing I had become.
As I was physically healing, I could identify myself as once being nothing. Because of that, it became my personal mission to always be something, somehow, no matter what that meant, because I sure as hell did not want to be nothing ever again.
And so it began: the fear of nothing fueled the need for something at all times and I tried way too hard.
As we grow up, we go through different phases. It is expected of us, and each younger generation, to fumble our way through these “growing pains” as they manifest themselves in a certain way of dressing, a weird hairstyle, a particular hobby and God knows what else. As we try to discover ourselves, we search for that person in each new thing we explore, with every phase we experience.
Most of us learn after a few experiments that our truest selves are and always have been with us. They were simply buried beneath heavily influenced ideas, raging hormones and societal pressures, waiting for a cue to be revealed—a sign marked by the stillness that comes when we stop trying so hard.
Let me tell you, some of us miss the memo. We don’t all find that cue right away. Sometimes, it takes a few years (like six or seven).
In my efforts to be everything and anything but the nothing I once was, I missed every opportunity to just be still for a moment and give myself the chance to linger in the chaos. I was “healing” from the issues I once had on a physical level, but what I was doing in every other aspect of my life worked in opposition to my goals. I bounced between personas, hoping that one would fit properly and make me the something I longed to be. And here I am now, understanding for the first time why none of them ever felt quite right.
I had a fear of nothing. I believed that avoiding nothing meant being something—every kind something. It didn’t matter how many things I was, as long as I was something at all times.
The fear of nothing is not real. Just like any other fear, the fear of nothing is a meticulously crafted falsehood.
I am not something, nor will I ever be. I am someone. I always have been and always will be someone. Even more importantly, I am most sincerely and authentically that person when I just let myself be her, not when I try to be anyone or anything.
As soon as effort is involved, we shape ourselves differently, casting incongruent shadows that hardly reflect the breathing figure of the “true self.” I mistook the purity of my form to be nothingness, and since I feared nothing, I learned to fear my natural self. Therefore, I did everything in my power to hide her.
I feared her. I feared that I really was nothing in my most natural state.
But here is what I have learned to be true: I have no need to fear nothing, because it’s not possible for me to even be something. I am someone. We are all someones, not somethings.
I finally took that moment I so desperately needed—that break in the race from one thing to the next—to catch a glimpse of the stillness in which I saw my reflection. I felt her smile at me, and she’s beautiful.
She is me. I am her.
Maybe you are reading this and finding it all too dramatic, or maybe you are wondering if you, too, have dragged the same debilitating, miserable fear so far along. Now is the chance to consider it (if you haven’t already). If any of this speaks to you, right here, right now, as you are, do yourself a favor:
Let yourself be for a while. Stop trying so hard. Most crucially, let’s not mistake our stillness for nothingness. That moment may be the most important thing we ever give ourselves. It may be the moment in which we gaze at our gorgeous, authentic, pure reflection for what feels like the first time, and there we find the peace that we deserve.
We can overcome the fear of nothing; by realizing that to not be nothing is to be something, and to be something is impossible, because we are in fact someone.
We find ourselves, the warmth of our reflection, and we keep growing from there. We just keep getting better.
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Assistant Ed: Miciah Bennett/ Ed: Bryonie Wise