Fear is the Mind-Killer
In one month’s time my daughter will finally be eligible to apply for a permanent visa to the United States. For those who know me or follow my blog with any regularity, you know that back in September of 2020, my family’s adoption journey came to its epic conclusion—at least the first phase of it—and the long-awaited day of bringing our precious daughter home was upon us. That day is still so vivid in my mind. At the time, our girl was a timid four-and-a-half-year-old unwilling to share much emotion with us. Now, two short years later, she’s a six-and-a-half going on sixteen-year-old with her own evolving personality and what I would wager is enough attitude and sass for at least three teenage girls. I know, I’ve got my work cut out for me. If you’re a praying individual, feel free to send some up on my behalf.
All joking aside, the past two years have easily been some of the best and most challenging of my life thus far. Becoming a first-time parent is overwhelming for anyone but doing so through adoption of an older child, with all its added layers of complexity, is all the more so. Being a Papa is both one of my most gratifying roles and the one most likely to cause me to yank out my hair. On top of the huge transition to parenthood through adoption, we’ve also been navigating minefields of a culture that’s not our own, increasing safety and security concerns, and the unique-to-Lesotho fallouts of a global pandemic. When all is said and done, we’re all feeling a bit burnt out and the prospect of taking our first steps to transition to a life back in the US is a more than a little welcome.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns in the US. I’m fully conscious of the fact that there will be new and different challenges to overcome and hardships to weather when we’re there, not the least of which being our daughter’s transition out of her home culture into something completely foreign. Rest assured, there are no grand delusions that our move across the Pond will magically solve all our issues. There will undoubtedly still be hard things to deal with, but they are different than the hard things we face in our current day-to-day and they are things we have at least a little more familiarity coping with. Long story short, we’re ready for a change and we’re prepared for a new adventure.
That said, as much as I’m ready to close our chapter in Lesotho and begin the next, whenever I seriously think through the ins and outs of a transition back to the US, an old and undesired companion usually creeps in to share its two cents. I’m talking, of course, of fear.
We all know that fear is a natural part of life. It’s a feeling we’re all well-acquainted with to at least some degree at various points throughout our journeys. It can be obnoxious or paralyzing, keeping us from achieving the dreams we keep hidden in our hearts. It can also be helpful, though, forcing us to practice caution, preventing us from making massive mistakes. In either case, fear is almost always a presence that comes hand-in-hand with the new.
As you can probably imagine, an impending international move is ripe with opportunities for fear to rear its ugly head. A seemingly never-ending list of questions and concerns constantly runs through my mind. When will the visa be approved? Will the visa be approved? Will we be able to afford a home? How can we begin finding a place to live from 9,000 miles away? Will we find friends and a community in our new home? Where will our daughter go to school? How much will we have to adjust our budget without the Lesotho exchange rate? The list goes on and on…and on and on and on.
The biggest recurring concern that often keeps me up at night when my brain refuses to sleep and instead mocks me with a thousand thoughts running a million miles per hour has to do with finding work and providing financially for my family. For the past eight years—the entirety of my adult life—we have lived and operated as support-funded volunteers. We’ve been blessed with an incredible community of people who love and care for us, supporting us in the work we’ve been a part of in southern Africa. Our financial well-being has always depended more on the generosity and goodwill of others rather than the work of our own hands. As uncertain as this kind of lifestyle may seem, I’ve become accustomed to it, and the thought of providing financial stability for my family through my own efforts, blood, sweat, and tears easily strikes terror to my core.
I believe a portion of this fear comes from knowing that how I want to provide for my family—voiceover—likely won’t be the way in which I’m able to do so right away. The opportunity I’ve had since I began my VO journey, to learn about it and practice it without having to rely on it for our financial well-being, has been an incredible privilege. In so many ways, taking the steps to establish a VO business during this season has been akin to having a very secure safety net. If I ever lose my grip or balance in my VO pursuits, I know the fall is short and has a soft landing. Moving back to the US and giving up our donation-based lifestyle, however, feels very much like removing that net altogether and exposing myself to a much greater risk. Based on where I’m at in my VO journey—my level of training and the amount of time and resources I have available to dedicate to it at present—I know I’m not yet in a position to lean on VO as a full-time career. I haven’t reached a level in which I can trust that it will provide what is necessary to keep food on my family’s table and a roof over our heads. Unless something dramatic changes, I know I will need to obtain a different form of employment upon our return to the US as I continue to build up my VO business.
This knowledge is what causes my gut to clench and my heart to race. As I mentioned before, I’ve worked as a support-raised volunteer my entire adult life. Save for summer jobs throughout high school and college, I’ve never had to seek and apply for employment in the traditional method. I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I worry about getting stuck in a job that pays the bills but doesn’t fill me up. I’m nervous I won’t have the time to continue growing in VO, and it will only ever be a hobby at best. It really is amazing how quickly an iota of fear can devolve into a spiraling black hole.
Being the sci-fi/fantasy nerd that I am, however, I recently remembered the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Those familiar with Herbert’s work will know that it is a recitation used throughout his series by various individuals to bolster themselves in times of danger and peril. It reads as follows:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
What a stunning example of how fictitious literature can have significant real-world applications! I read this litany and it brings me such comfort. It’s a form of powerful visualization (which I’ve written about before) that enables me to move out of the realm of raw emotion and into one of rationality within my fear. It reminds me that I’ve been through, learned from, and even conquered instances of fear in my life before. It has passed over and through me. It has gone on its way, and I have remained. It’s not always easy. It’s certainly not often fun. But I have survived each time it has found me, growing stronger with every encounter.
I realize that so much of what I fear is simply the unknown. It scares me that there are weighty, life-altering experiences looming in my life that I have no knowledge of how to adequately navigate. When I take a moment to breathe and think it through, though, I’m struck with the notion that that’s just life. What is life but a series of unknown events that we must face and eventually become knowledgeable about and, hopefully, comfortable with? It’s difficult to remember it now, but I’m sure I must have had similar feelings when I first moved to Africa. Now, nearly a decade later, though my life looks very different, I’m simply preparing to do that again. I’ve done it before. What have I to fear?
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
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