August 19, 2021

“You’re Safe where you’re Familiar”: My Conversations with Fear & Starting Over.


“Who is that?” I ask. “Who is that?”

My heart quickens and I feel nerves balling up in my throat. I am asking two people I don’t know. What I do know is that someone is trying to enter my apartment from outside. I can see the silhouette through the window. I can hear the daunting sounds of forced entry.

Who are these two people in front of me and why aren’t they answering me? They look confused. I, too, am puzzled as well as frightened. The doors to the balcony window open and I try to yell. No sound comes out.

I wake up.

When I open my eyes, the first things that come into focus in my periphery are the piles of clothes I’ve separated. Old business suits go to the Bottomless Closet. The rest go to the goodwill shop. And, of course, there’s the “maybe” pile that was created in between the two when I started pulling from each because “I might want to wear this,” even though I hadn’t worn it in at least five years.

For the past 10 years, I have lived in this studio apartment. I am caught in between relief that there isn’t that much stuff to sort out and surprised that there are still so many things to make decisions on.

Amongst the excitement of starting over and the anticipation of a new location, fear continuously creeps up.

Hope you’re not making a mistake.

You’re giving up a rent-stabilized apartment, New York gold, you know.

You might hate the new place.

It’s going to be really expensive if you try to come back.

And, clearly, someone might try to break into your new apartment.

Thanks, fear. I understand you are trying to protect me, but sometimes you do more harm than good. Someone can try to break in anywhere. It’s no reason to stay.

As of late, I am having lots of conversations like this with my fear. Sorry, but you aren’t winning this one. We are packing up and moving out.

This is a thing with being human. Familiarity is the goal, even if we hate it and if it doesn’t serve us. Our brains think familiar equals safe while unfamiliar equals danger. How many times has that stopped us from achieving a goal? From leaving a sh*tty relationship? From trying something new? From passing through discomfort to something we’ve dreamed about?

Stop right there,” fear says. “Do not pass go. Do not collect the life of your dreams.”

The sound of a beeping truck outside pains me and I cover my eyes with one hand. I am tired. The nightmares about someone crawling through my new apartment window before I’m even there did not equate to a restful night. Then I remember, in a few weeks, I might be hearing different trucks outside a different window (or not hearing anything at all), and I feel motivated. I have thought about this fresh start for a long time. But fear made it seem impossible and like a bad idea.

You know everything about where you are. Isn’t that better? You are safer where you’re familiar.

Fear prefers that we stop dreaming about that so-called fresh start. It is unknown, therefore unsafe.

10 years seem to have gone by in a flash. Ten years, several phases of life, and many times passing through the front door of this apartment.

Times of running around in circles with one shoe on, running late, and feeling rushed and huffy. Even more times of arriving home, still carrying the weight of the workday.

Times of reading text messages that made me blush and giggle as I put my key in the lock without even looking up from the screen.

Other times of breakups leading to tears that fell before the door could close behind me.

Times of many workouts done in the main room, which is the only room in a studio apartment.

And instances of pretending I’m not home when the buzzer rings and brief moments of unexpected connections with the neighbors as we arrived at the entryway of the building, begrudgingly in the same moment.

Certainly, there were many moments of familiarity.

I look at the piles of clothes, the chipped paint, the bits of wear in the floor where I repeatedly dragged the same pieces of furniture out of my way to do yoga. I wonder what imprint I have left on this space. How will my energy hang in the air? What of me will the next person feel upon entering? Will they, too, have faced fear before making their way through the door?

“Your new apartment might have really bad energy,” fear taunts in my ear. “Oh, shut up,” I say. “We are out of here.”

We are passing go. Blowing past the stop sign of discomfort to see what or who is outside that window.

It might just be what we always dreamed about.


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