I’m Afraid. Not.

Scene 1:

“You don’t want to move out west. There’s going to be a giant earthquake, and the elderly will be the first to die.”

What? That was the sum up of a friend’s assessment of my plan to get a PhD to eventually teach writing or direct a fountain-pen-on-papercommunity writing program in Oregon or Washington.

In two sentences he told me that I should be afraid, my dreams were foolish, and that I was old. My response was, “Well, I can’t live like that. We had an earthquake in Georgia a few years ago. There are accidents every day. I didn’t stop driving simply because my sister had a car wreck. Life goes on.”

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Scene 2:

Earlier this summer, there was a tragic attack in an Israeli market. Middle son was in Israel at the time; he had been in that market earlier the same day of the shooting. I had friends texting me frantically, asking if my son was okay. I had friends telling me I should insist he come home immediately.

That’s not a thing. I lived in the USSR in 1990-1991. Demonstrations, food lines, a metro stabbing were just a few of the things I was privy to. No. I texted my son. He was fine. I was fine. I wasn’t upset at all.

Sure, there are countries where danger is higher; wisdom is checking the warnings, being a smart traveler, and knowing how to be a citizen of the world. Middle son is fine and continued his travels to Rwanda and is presently in Uganda. Am I worried? Nope. He is living.

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Scene 3:

Back in May, youngest son texted me from school: “We are having a fire drill.”

Me: “Ok.”

Son: “I guess it was a bomb threat. We are at the park.”

Me: “Are teachers with you?’

Son: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you ok?”

Son: “Yes.”

Me: “Okay, see you after school.”

Youngest son was indignant; he felt I should have been worried. Outraged. Scared. I wasn’t. Maybe it was the 20+ years of teaching; maybe it was that I went to my classroom the day after Columbine and talked to kids about it; maybe (as he thought) I was too damn nonchalant. He has to learn how to navigate and live.

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2928da50e17ef551652939ba0f0f90dcYou see, I don’t believe that living in fear is any way to live. I don’t want my sons to think that traveling the world is a ticket to death. I don’t want live safely, thinking that I can’t move somewhere because there might be a geological event some time in the distant future. I don’t want to have dusty lists of regrets and shouldofs as company; I want friends, family, bright colors, open windows, and revolving doors.

Years ago I was conflicted about taking a high pressure job or staying in the classroom. My sister said to me, “Don’t be one of those wimpy people who never try.” (I took the job.) To me, staying home because something bad might happen is a guarantee of depression and hopelessness.

I want my days to be varied. I want my sons to see the world and try to new stuff. Risk is inherent in life. But, so many people act and live out of fear, that I, well, I fear for them. I know that many people are happily ensconced in their communities, friends, and jobs. That is their adventure; I am as supportive of them as I am of the traveler who wants to collect passport stamps. The only problem arises when living becomes so narrow because we are scared. And that – as my dad says – is no way to live.

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