Facing the Fear of the Unknown
People often write about how your 20s are a time to discover who you are and what you want in life. They talk about how adventurous, freeing, and exciting this time is: a chance to fulfill your dreams, explore the world, and find yourself. It’s true, there is no other time in your life when you can be as independent as you can be while you’re single, unemployed, and without a shred of property to your name. There are no expectations and minimal responsibilities, and you have the chance to do something for yourself. The only problem is that along with all of that glorious freedom comes the fear of the unknown.
There is always a looming anxiety, the trepidation of not knowing what to do next. How will you survive? How will you afford rent? Where do you ultimately want to work? How do you want to impact the world? Who do you want to be with–or do you want to be alone for now? Should you risk moving to a foreign country with no job? Should you risk foregoing graduate school? The biggest question is: is it worth it? Is the fear of the unknown worth taking the time to figure it all out?
For people like me who have spent their entire lives planning for the future (go to school, get straight As, go to college, graduate, apply to medical schools, become a doctor…), making the decision to find myself and suddenly throw off my set path was the scariest, albeit most liberating choice I have ever made. I chose to do this when, after graduating from college, I decided to volunteer abroad for a year through Israel Teaching Fellows.
For people like me who have spent their entire life planning for the future, making the decision to find myself and suddenly throw off my set path was the scariest, albeit most liberating choice I have ever made.
Now, there is always that demon tugging at the back of my mind, pestering me with questions I do not yet have an answer to: what are you going to do next? You’re poor and you have no place to live once this volunteer program ends. So, do you want to stay in Israel? But how can you with no job? And what about going back to school? What are you going to do when the year is up?
During a lecture I attended a few weeks ago, the facilitator told everyone to close their eyes and imagine where they might be in ten years. I gaped at him with my eyes wide open, scanning the room around me nervously. I looked at the people with their eyes shut tight, and exchanged shrugs with the few who remained alert like me, knowing that we were all thinking the same thing: I haven’t the slightest clue. Ten years? Hell, I can’t even commit to a lunch date. I can’t even commit to buying a pair of shoes! I have no idea what I’m doing in seven months when my program comes to an end. For the first time in my life, I have no plan whatsoever.
As terrifying as this all feels, there are moments when I truly feel free. At moments like these, I think I have found that for me, taking this time to figure out what I want is worth the stress. To my surprise, I have found that much of the time, the distressing facts of my life, that I have no money and no clear path, disappear into the background–like when I walk into school and hear a chorus of greetings from my students.
Or when I’m eating chocolate rugelach in the park. Or chatting with an Israeli I just met about the army. Or strolling down a desert road at night with nothing but the stars to guide me, neck craned upward, arms outstretched at my sides, a cigarette in one hand and my phone blasting Milky Chance in the other.
And then I tell myself, it has to work out, because how could it not?