I teach at a bilingual private school in Bogotá, Colombia, and a short while ago I was opening up new preschool material with another American expat, who was living abroad for the first time. Among the books was Dr. Seuss’s classic: Oh The Places You´ll Go. Somehow my young friend had made it all the way to 24 without having encountered the book. So we read it together, and she cried.
Haven´t we all been there?
It´s like Dr. Seuss says:
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they´re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare stay out? Do you dare go in?
True story: When I was twenty-three, I was living in Minneapolis, sleeping in bed with my boyfriend-at-the-time and I had this dream so full of yearning to work at the United Nations that I almost wet the bed. Seriously. Who knows how yearning connected to bed wetting in my twenty-something subconscious, but THANK GOD I woke myself up and contracted the proper muscles. Imagine that poor boyfriend´s reaction! My point was, I was psychosomatically terrified that I might live and die close to home and never see the world. That year moved to New York guns blazing and got my internship at the UN.
Ten years later, here I am, living in Bogotá Colombia, working things out. After having leapt with all faith possible, I love my husband, my baby and my job. But I get scared. Still! And they´re not little fears either. Not to me. Honestly, there have been Christmases when I have not only wanted to move closer to home, I haven´t wanted to leave my parent´s sofa. But I always do. And its taught me the difference between good scary and bad scary.
Good scary happens when you are facing the challenges that inevitably come along when you are living your life the best you know how. Its an adventurous type of scary, because, lets face it, when you´re really happy, there´s farther to fall.
You´ll be on your way up!
You´ll be seeing great sights!
You´ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
Bad scary is truly awful. Bad scary is peeing in your bed because you didn´t go after the thing you were yearning for. Bad scary is feeling hopeless because there is absolutely no excitement in your vision of the future. Bad scary builds up when you´re too scared of good scary.
I´m afraid that some times
you´ll play lonely games too.
Games you can´t win
’cause you´ll play against you.
Into every (meaningful) life there must fall a little good scary and a little bad scary, the real question is, what makes it worth it? If you´re going after something you love, than its worth it. If you´re not, you might want to think about switching modes of scary. When I need a little wisdom, I go to the Katie Melua song “No Fear of Heights.” In fact I sing it to my son sometimes. I remember the first time I heard it, I cried.