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Friday, January 11, 2019

A Fearless Wannabe



I could describe my childhood self as many different things. I was an incredibly shy little squirt. But, just you wait until I was behind closed doors with my parents and older brother, my carefully cross stitched lips would burst open and a full on ham I would become. I was a little lady for as long as I can remember. While other girls on my t-ball team ran out to the dirt piles to run around before the game, I would carefully hand my purse to my mother for safe keeping, push up my round sunglasses, and take a seat in that filthy dug out, crossing my legs and folding my hands over my knee to stare at my freshly painted manicure. I had no idea how to play t-ball, but I sure had the look.

The one thing I definitely cannot honestly describe my childhood self as would be fearless. Growing up, I could convince myself I was scared of anything. I went through my phases, like any child does, finding myself terrified of cats, dogs, the dark, heights. Spending time in a church pew every Sunday, I even feared that the rapture had happened anytime I couldn't find my mom or dad. I could develop a new fear over night, while other fears could disappear out of my grasp.

I am happy to say that I did grow out of many of these fears. I love adorable doggies and my mind goes to other possible scenarios before assuming I was left behind in the rapture when a loved one doesn't text back right away. I still don't do cats, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Nor will I be finding any ounce of joy or thrill by standing on an inch of glass with a 1,000 foot drop below me.

The bizarre thing about fears is that they only hold power over us when we give them energy to exist. When that fear enters our mind, that is when the shock collar instantly attacks us, reminding us that we once told ourselves we are scared of that "it", whatever "it" may be. My internal shock collar of fear awakens me with high jitters the moment I see a tiny, innocent, fur ball of a creature scurry across my apartment. A mouse.

Now, growing up in the boonies of Nixa, Missouri with a room in the basement and three acres surrounding us, a mouse finding it's way into the house is to be expected. I would scream bloody murder at the ball of lint running faster than a cheetah across the room, my warrior of a father would come downstairs, practically catch the thing with his bare hands and escort it back outside.

I was terrified of a creature that was smaller than my palm that could disappear out of sight if I even thought about blinking one eye. But, there was an order of events and I knew that it would disappear as soon as my dad could put his Nikes on and head outside with that fear of mine.

So, what is a girl to do when she encounters that somewhat nostalgic fear of hers in her studio apartment in Chicago, Illinois? Well, I'll tell you what I did. I screamed bloody murder and then realized that I had no set sequence of events that would follow. My dad was 8 hours away back in Missouri, though I know he sat up in bed hearing my scream all that way, but unfortunately he couldn't handle this for me. This was now my fear to face.

I can't say that I handled this mouse attack, that was truly just an encounter, gracefully and maturely. I instantly became scared to walk around in my 500 square foot abode. I would jolt out of bed at night thinking I heard the mouse or accused the mouse of intruding my bed. I was dramatic. There was no grace or bravery or maturity to be found.

My sweet boyfriend Nick and I sat out dozens of traps for days. Trying different bait to suck in the poor grey marshmallow with legs. We would keep our shoes on tightly, having no intention to go outside anytime soon, just in case we touched the mouse during war -- it could bite our toes off! Part of facing your fear, is being prepared for the worst, obviously.

We finally caught the rascal, or should I say the very expensive $2 mousetrap from the bodega around the corner caught the rascal. And I, Ashlyn Elliott, came face to face with that fear of mine as I swept it into an old cracker box with a swiffer to accompany the unwanted house guest out. While staring at the now still creature, that I was sure is in a much better place, I noticed we clearly made progress over those few days. The little guy even had a few of my strands of hair wrapped around him. I'm sure it was a keepsake to remember me by and not because I shed horribly.

It is a scary world we are living in. Sadly, it always has been. The older I get, the things that scare me shift slightly. Rather than being scared to jump off the diving board at the community pool, I am scared of not having anything successful to share at my high school reunion. I am scared of the crippling debt I will be in for a long while thanks to school tuition rather than being scared of letting go of my mom's hand at the first day of kindergarten.

I look at our world that is quite literally on fire and full of anger and hurt, and that tiny mouse seems to be a whole lot less scary.

It is about perspective. We are the ones that grant our fears power. Big or small.

Whatever fear it is that seems to be haunting you and I, let's face it. And sometimes, the best way to face it, is to simply dismiss it from holding power over us.

You are stronger than you think. These monstrous spooks that seem to be suffocating you now will soon turn into tiny spooks that you will be able to smile back at with a brave stride.

Release those anxieties and heavy thoughts that are puppeteering your day to day. Use that energy toward things that actually fuel you and bring you peace and joy. You deserve that.

At the end of the day, however, it is life. As much as I preach to myself that I am the bravest girl in this world and can face any giant that enters my life, I still find myself unknowingly acting out the best impression of the Cowardly Lion stuttering "I do believe in spooks. I do! I do! I do believe in spooks."

So, here I am world, a twenty three year old girl ready to charge into this new year standing up to those that make me feel inferior, scurrying away from evil cats that are out to get me, overcoming my financial anxieties, and still staying away from mighty roller coasters that would never intentionally fling me to my death.

Balance must be present in our lives, even with our fears and anxieties. Choose your battles, choose your jitters.

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