June 27, 2014

Personal Demons, Fear, and Gratitude

by Bryan Johnston in Life0 Comments

Minute Read

So, things have been happening. Work – actual paying work – is starting to materialize after months (and months) of little to nothing. I have been a paid writer for many months now. I have several confirmed clients, and a few others still reviewing my proposal. The money is by no means enough to retire on, but I am actually making enough to pay my bills, with a little extra left over for fun and debauchery. I spend my days writing, and getting paid for that writing.

And I have never been more terrified.

Look, we all have personal demons, and mine don’t make me unique. If anything, they are rather mundane and – dare I say it? – cliche. But they’re mine. And I wrap myself in them like some paradoxical security blanket.

Demons. Fears. Baggage. “Dark passenger” (to quote Dexter Morgan). Strange how unsettled we feel when we don’t have them, n’est pas? Our demons define us. Playboy Playmates shouldn’t list their likes and turn-ons. They should reveal their fears, because they say much more about us than our favourite food, film, and athlete ever could. (NOTE – I have no idea what Playboy Playmates do or do not do in said magazine). Yours may be a fear of commitment, or of changing your job, or leaving a toxic relationship. It doesn’t matter what it is.

Most of us don’t chase our dreams because we’re afraid. We leave our ambitions alone to whither and stave in a dark basement. And it takes years to waste away to nothing. We’re frightened of what might happen if we let them out. Release them to the wild. We regret this, of course, but too few of us regret it enough to actually do anything about it.

But if we do, oh if we do, we know that it will have all been worth it. The fear. The growing resentment of a life not lived. Everything will fall into place, the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and cartoon bluebirds will land on our shoulders and sing to us. Maybe even design a new outfit for us or lead us to a magnificent ball or equivalent shindig (if Disney movies are to be believed).

Except, of course, that that rarely if ever happens. The fears remain. The doubts multiply. We question every decision that we made to lead us to that point. It not only does not get easier and brighter, but it can – and generally does – get darker and more difficult. And cartoon bluebirds almost never show themselves…they’re notoriously skittish.

So why does the stereotype persist? Why do we believe that everything will get better if we do…something? Not that I’m advocating for doing nothing, either.

I used to daydream about what my life would look like if I ever drummed up the courage to leave teaching and give full-time writing a serious attempt. It was artistic (even artisanal, some would say). It was fulfilling. It was creative. And I jumped out of bed each morning, practically bursting with ideas that I could barely contain. I had to make a mad dash to my desk in order to get them down before they evaporated into nothingness, before they dripped out of every pore.

The reality? Not so much. It’s a grind. It’s a slog. And I live in a perpetual state of terror that my next idea may never materialize. I spend as much time looking for writing jobs as I do actually writing (who am I kidding…usually more). The rejection is near constant. I am forever in danger of tipping into the abyss, of tumbling through darkness and never finding myself again. I fear for my life.

And I have never been happier.

Because that’s the truly weird and twisted truth. Welcoming our fears into our home, having them over for dinner and making them up a bed on our couch, feels a hell of a lot better than staring at them through the locked window. We know they’re out there hiding in the bushes (Damn it, I can see you, Fear!).

Terror shouldn’t dictate. Fear isn’t the boss.

What would you do if you weren’t so determined to avoid your demons? How would you spend your time – your life – if your fear was let in? I’m no better than anyone reading this because of what I’ve done. If anything, I’m a bit of an idiot (and those of you who know me might say more than a bit). But I can tell you this…opening the door wide and stepping aside is much easier than desperately trying to keep the door closed while your deranged demon bangs and screams and howls on your front porch. It will make a mess. It’ll probably make a bunch of long distance phone calls, and break a vase or two, and maybe even pee on your carpet.

And you will never be happier.

“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” ~Ernest Hemingway


Bryan Johnston

Former high school English lit & drama teacher. Current writer, stand-up comedian, & improv performer. A big switch? You betcha.

International expat for 12+ years with stops in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai, & Guangzhou. Dad to a university sophomore, an eleven-month old charmer, & the two best doggos. Lover of funny things & people. Oh, and craft beer.

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