Illustration by Anya Baker.

Illustration by Anya Baker.

Hi, Rookies!

April’s theme is FEAR ITSELF. As in: fear of missing out, fear of fucking up, fear of being wrong, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of creativity, fear of wasting time, fear of finding out about yourself, fear of asking for help, fear of saying what’s on your mind, fear of growing up, fear of being boring, and: the fear of FEELING.

Here’s some more of what is on our minds, and what we’re looking for in submissions from you (details on how to send them to us here):

  • One type of fear exists to protect us, but another can hold us back. How do you know which one you’re experiencing?
  • Something I remind myself of multiple times a day: This interview with Laurie Anderson, in which she shares her and Lou Reed’s life rules and says: “Don’t be afraid of anyone. Imagine your life if you’re not afraid of anyone.” (A world of possibilities unfolds.)
  • Similarly, when asked what he thought was “the lowest depth of misery,” David Bowie replied: “Living in fear.” Fear—and how it stifles us—is so much scarier than facing the thing, or sharing the thing, or wearing the thing, or saying the thing, or being the thing.
  • The above made Derica think of Nina Simone saying in this interview, “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. Really, no fear. If I could have that half of my life…”

    “The absence of fear exists as an aspiration for her, because she was existing in a world not built for her,” Derica says.

    More from Derica: “This theme also makes me think about fear as a given, and the injunction to abandon or overcome fear as sometimes untenable. Experiencing or living with fear doesn’t necessarily mean a person isn’t also courageous, or isn’t living up to the truest/best/most fully realized version of themselves. At times, the challenge is to keep doing stuff even when fear is a condition of living.”

  • No matter how afraid you are of making mistakes: It will happen. How do you gain the momentum to go for things anyways and prepare to fail and move on? Playwright Arthur Miller, on this subject: “There is hardly a week that passes when I don’t ask the unanswerable—what am I now convinced of that will turn out to be ridiculous? And yet one can’t forever stand on the shore; at some point, even filled with indecision, skepticism, reservation, and doubt, you either jump in or concede that life is forever elsewhere.”
  • Self-doubt, and whether or not you are “good” at the thing you love. Martha Graham, in a letter to her friend Agnes de Mille, who was experiencing self-doubt as a choreographer:

    “There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is ever pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

    The end of that quote is a little sensitive-aggressive—i.e., “WE ARTISTS FEEL THINGS INSTEAD OF ROTTING AWAY LIKE LUMPS OF FLESH AKA EVERYONE ELSE”—but I love finding the nobility of the striver, the trier. And that what you are making does not have to be good; it just has to be itself.

  • How the Fear of Success is kind of like the Fear of Failure: You’re worried that you’ll be so good at something that you’ll never be able to top it, or peak too soon. Or you’re just worried to take on something that doesn’t fit the narrative of the space you are used to, if you are not taught to think of yourself as someone who could do anything you might be proud of.
  • What about being afraid of breaking up with someone, or hurting their feelings? Romantic or not: How do you become OK with letting someone down, or disappointing them? How do you deal with confrontation, and being direct, which is a greater act of respect than ghosting or ignoring someone?
  • Or when you’re in the middle of hooking up with someone, and your body starts to feel like, “This isn’t what I want to do right now, but it seems like more work to say that and explain myself than to just go with it,” and then you see it through to the end…NO TO THAT. Consent can change: If the idea of discussing sex with a partner makes you fearsome, the sex maybe shouldn’t take place.
  • Putting yourself at ease about being around cool people who intimidate you: Instead of going, Well, they all actually suck so I don’t care if they like me anyway, (classic defense mechanism a la Daria/early Daniel Clowes/Holden Caulfield/me when I was like 14), something like, They’re insecure too, exercises compassion, and from there, a more genuine interaction can unfold. This almost always works, because everyone is insecure, because that’s the definition of being a human being.
  • This is also a good month to think about the political *phobias—homophobia/transphobia/Islamophobia/xenophobia. That phobia means fear. Of the unknown, of losing power and privileges.

Et cetera to infinity. Fear only mutates when you’re ashamed to be experiencing it, so maybe there is a way to find even the most seemingly silly fears interesting instead of embarrassing; to examine in an almost anthropological way the emotions we didn’t exactly choose to have. Don’t be afraid to share your findings!