Why Do You Stop Being Brave When You Grow Up?
I always thought being a grown up went hand in hand with courage. All the adults in my life seemed to have it together and feared nothing. Meanwhile, I feared the typical things children and teenagers feared: monsters, getting lost, bad grades, friends talking behind your back. Now that I am technically a grownup, I am terrified of my own shadow. Every action I perform sends a tremor of horror down my entire body. I am more afraid as an adult than I ever was as a child.
Why is that?
Is it because we have more experience and know the world to be more than witches in the woods and razor blades hidden in Halloween candy? My gut says “Of course! That makes perfect sense!” And it does. When you’ve live out in the world, you see how scary it can be. You experience death and loss. You see how cruel others can be. You are exposed to the entire world instead of just your childhood bedroom and see how other humans live and die and that their world is not the same as yours. You are treated unfairly at times and dreams fail and falter. Hard work doesn’t alway pay off. All these things would naturally lead to a hesitation to take any risks, try anything new, step outside your front door. With the world as it is right this minute, there is a lot to be terrified of. I am honestly shocked I can still get up and go about my day sometimes.
But that can’t be it entirely. Experience can not be the only reason we are more scared as adults than children.
It is also mixed with personal experiences. Traumas and failures that are not universal. I know mine holds me back at my job. I used to be brave and raise my hand to volunteer for things. If no one was doing it, I stepped in immediately without thinking about it. Now, I hang back, questioning everything, making assumptions, living in my fear of rejection and termination.
But I still feel that isn’t quite it.
For me, I think the cause for my fear falls heavily on time. I am running out it. Yes, I know I am not 88 years old but I am older and feel older. I am in an age bracket that earns a reaction at times when I share it with people. I mean, shit, a pregnancy at my age is called geriatric. No wonder I feel I have no time. My womb is basically ready for a nursing home.
I fear I am running out of time to accomplish the things I want to. I have acting goals and writing goals and while I can do them at any age technically, they all take hard work and every day I don’t try at them feels wasted. I haven’t written as many words as I want to finish my second draft since starting my new job. If this continues, I will fall behind and be unable to start a new project for nanowrimo this year as intended and begin a third draft and share it around for thoughts. This worry grows into a fear and it lies deep in my stomach, a pit of anxiety and nerves writhing around. It fuels my depression and I feel exhausted by it and instead of carving out time in a resourceful way, I let the fear take over.
Grown ups also have regret. Deep, painful regrets. Mine is a three year regret that I can never get back. I think about it and focus only on that past time instead of moving forward and looking ahead. I am terrified I squandered three years and wasted ample time to achieve the things I want to achieve.
Time is the root cause of my fear.
It never used to scare me but I think as you get older, time is more present. You start losing more whether its people, pets, your childhood home when your parents move out. You realize how fragile life is and it slips away no matter how fast you go to grasp it. You can’t control it and if you miss a chance, it may be your last. That may sound bleak but adulthood can be bleak. When you’re young, time is your friend. You feel so free with a long road with no horizon out in front of you. But as you grow up, more items come into view along the way and the road seems less endless. The horizon approaches.
I became less brave because time became more present. I worry every choice I make will lead to more regret or wasted opportunities. My experience tells me it can happen and that’s always in the forefront of my mind. I was once a brave girl. I feared nothing and I raised my hand to go first every time. I took initiative, I strode into auditions like I was already cast. I spoke my mind and my fears didn’t consume me and freeze me. Now, my stomach can be in knots if I think someone is angry with me or if I speak up at work. I feel ill and angry at myself.
I guess that’s why no one ever wants to grow up. Like the ticking crocodile, time is always chasing after us, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why we all become pirates: taking what we can when we can and always seeking treasure.
The courage is still there, hidden away. It only needs to be found again.