Everyone experiences fear at some point in their lives.
We’re creatures of habit and often shy away from being challenged to grow when we can’t fully anticipate the outcome. We prefer to stay comfortable, in a place that feels safe, even if this means having regrets and missed opportunities when we’re older.
But whilst a little bit of fear is a good thing, and stops us from doing crazy things, most of the time it holds us back and is often based on stories that we tell ourselves as though they are out of our control.
Back in March, as a full-fledged member of the ‘brain tumour club’, curiosity got the better of me and I went to a Brainstrust meetup. Alone at the bar I was instantly welcomed over to a table of free flowing wine by Chris and Holly. Chris looked amazing to me after his surgery and I sat like a sponge listening to his story and recovery. I was desperately seeking reassurance that I too would be ok, and quietly told him I was petrified of not being the same post-surgery; worrying about whether I would look the same, think the same or feel the same.
I was so comforted to know this too had been his fear and because of this, his girlfriend Holly had asked his friends to write down who Chris was to them so that he could read the messages back if he got lost along the way.
His best friend refused to do this and instead wrote the most beautiful text explaining why:
Holly’s asked me to write down my thoughts on your personality, so you can use my words as a guide to refind yourself if you get lost between the cuts on Wednesday night. This I cannot do.
Let’s say it happens. Let’s say you wake up after Wednesday and you are different in some fundamental way. You have two options:
A) You can try to argue this injustice, fight against the twin spectres of time and memory, cling on to something only other people can remember fully.
B) You can move forward into the brave new world.
Now why would someone choose ‘A’, perhaps you feel that if you changed, then you must have changed for the worse. Don’t. Not only do people change all the time, but people SHOULD change all the time. I am not the same person you met when you were 10, just as you are not the same person who met me. Don’t become phobic of change, I don’t want to see you clinging to a static relic of the past in a future where you must adapt into a strange new shape. You may become a husband some day, a father, a leader, a teacher, an old man, or some title no one’s even dreamt of. These roles will require you to change in some beautiful and exciting new directions, just as they require everyone to. They will stretch your being daily. You should act on the cards in a way appropriate to how they fall; sticking to a course of action that made sense only in advance is folly.
Perhaps you still feel some sense of loyalty to the person you used to be. Again, don’t. That person is gone, and you two have never met. You should be grateful to him for getting you to where you are today, but he has no right to demand that you shoulder his burden. Though you are born of him, he is a stranger to you and he is gone now. Either he would love you or he wouldn’t love you. If he would love you as you are, you should strive to live as you are freely with his blessing. If he wouldn’t love you, then in no uncertain words “fuck him”. Live as you are until you prove him wrong. Either way, you need to move on. Do not deny yourself to please a ghost.
Perhaps you feel a sense of loyalty to your friends and family, and wish to present them with the vision of the friend or family member they think they know, to spare them from feeling grief and loss. Again, please don’t. I don’t want to be friends with a pretence, an act, a phantom for however long it takes one of us to grow too weary and too distant, whether it takes weeks or years. Please do us both a favour and be honest. If you are born anew on Wednesday then we’ll just have to become friends again from scratch. Don’t worry, we both have exceptionally good taste – we should be fine.
And me, what do I think? I don’t want to see you pretending to be something you’re not. Not now, not back in the day, not after Wednesday.
What I would like you to do after Wednesday, whether you wake up as a clone of your current self, or someone fundamentally different – be it a bond villain or the next resurrection of mighty Jebus, is concentrate on getting better. Concentrate on loving wherever you find something deserving of your love. Concentrate on improving your skills, your mood, and your tolerances. You’ll need to. It’s a brave new world Gashley.
The night I met Chris he forwarded this text to me and I read it every single morning leading up to my surgery.
So many of us are fearful of change because of the level of uncertainty it brings, but this text reminded me that change is inevitable and we shouldn’t allow fear of it to prevent us from embracing the unknown, remaining true to ourselves and fully participating in every chapter of our lives, even if there are some we would rather skip.
It reminded me to have a little faith in the journey ahead, push through the fear and trust that whilst there will always be certain situations we have no control over, what we can control is the way we choose to think about them.
“It’s not about striving to be the same as before, it’s about accepting what is, moving forwards, appreciating the new normal and embracing the changes.”Journal from Monday 4th March 2019 – The night of the Braintrust Meet-up