Thinking back on conversations I've had in the recent past, during which the generation above me spoke with shaken voices about the troubles to come, I remember being just about as dismissive as you might expect. I remember feeling strongly that we would be warriors, we would be survivors, we would be fearless. After all, haven't we survived worse things? Haven't we faced our fears before? Surely if we press forward in the spirit of defeat, we can't expect a victory.
I've since changed my tune, ever so slightly, to include a few cautious atonal harmonics.
To not be afraid, or to live in spite of it, requires some threshold of masochism. And I am no stranger to masochism; it's basically a requirement for being a student. To continually waltz into situations that are unstable at best, where funding can be as elusive as catching a dandelion seed in the wind, during which I retrospectively find myself counting the minutes between my beginning and my finding out that I have been listening to bold-faced lies the entire time...this is only remotely pleasurable underneath the umbrella of masochism.
Otherwise, it's miserable nonsense.
Maybe I'm extra jaded for my age, but I doubt it; I'm no more cynical than the next twenty-something who is realizing just exactly what we've inherited, and navigating the way through. More likely, I'm overstimulated. I tend to shy away from using the word "paranoid" to describe my biases because my doubts are well founded; however, my insisting that I'm operating between the folds of a completely fraudulent system is probably just about as true as it isn't. Neither, and nor. Truth is what exists, but it's also a limbo; a free suspension of perspective in a medium that isn't quite physical to me.
People who claim to hold concrete, absolute, universal truths make me intolerably suspicious.
As a scientist, it is my job to observe and report. Observe what is, report what it means. We can pretend that science is a reckless pursuit of absolute truth, but it isn't; science is instead a constant clawing at understanding. And because of who I am as a person, I could quite literally not be anything else.
Certainly, not all of my colleagues are like me, nor would they agree with me on this point. But within my own pursuit of understanding myself and my life, I spill my frantic searching into my work. This is a good thing, I think; a driving force that is necessary to hold my attention since I am, otherwise, pretty flighty. But mistakes occur when I try to make connections that do not exist, or follow lines that branch off in ways such that I later find that I've spun my own web of directionless disaster, having forgotten to look up just for a second.
Perspective is the most powerful neurotoxin.
And when I'm feeling vulnerable or uncertain, much less threatened, my place of retreat is a place in the land of blanket distrust and overarching skepticism. It's a place where I've fastened a shelter of protective canvas around me, and no, I will not come out until I'm good and ready.
My Instagram Fearlessness has already convinced most of you that I am aware of the beautiful things that exist just outside, and that I live to explore them. This is true, or rather, it is a truth. Another truth is the fact that sometimes my meds mix with my hormones mix with my disease mix with my observations mix up my reality, and I get scared and I need a minute inside.
I think that this is okay, as long as it isn't permanent.
In fact, I've been challenged, with blunt force, to come out of my shelter so that I can breathe the mountain air. And I can, I do, I will.
Just...not until I know that the wolves are far away. Or, more accurately, until I convince myself that I am well equipped to fight them, face them, survive them.