On Fear and Failure

No one talks about the fear of failure. Everyone online is winning, crafting their aesthetic, a ball of success, laughing at bitches as they shine in their villain era. OR, they’re soft, it’s velvet couches, luxury loungewear and freshly ground coffee slowly poured in a Chemex. OR, it’s grind culture. Hustle harder boo. You have the same 24 hours as Beyonce. While ya’ll sleeping your favs are up at 5am posting #gymlife selfies and broadcasting lives about catching flights not COVID. TikTok and IG provide the scaffolding for my toxic voyeurism. Everytime I scroll, every new post or video is like a leather lash braided into my psychic whip. The intensity of my self-flagellation increases with every 30-second clip of a random stranger, someone decidedly aspirational with an opaque source of income living their absolute best life. I fucking haaaaate myself. I’m not aesthetic, my Peloton is a casual acquaintance at best and unlike every thinker/writer/scholar I follow on Twitter, I haven’t written anything in many moons. 

See, I’m ace at conjuring vivid and explicitly detailed scenes of my impending failure. And because I’m absolutely fucking certain that I’ll fail, because I’ve spent so many years living in that certainty, I’ve become frozen. Stuck in a cryotank of excuses. Well Zeba and Nikole have already written about that. You’re closer to 40 than 25 girl, the moment has passed. You have no audience because you don’t “get” personal branding. And for that matter, wtf does branding have to do with writing anyway? Writing doesn’t pay and the rent in Cali has you in a chokehold. But none of that matters because it’s already been written about, or currently being written about, by bitches that are smarter, quicker, more connected, bolder, than me. 

So I sit and I agonize and I mourn and I dream. Dream of actually trying to walk into the brilliance of my purpose before life inevitably snuffs me out. Mourn the wasted years when I could’ve been writing instead of burrowing into my depression. Agonize on whether I should just…..try it. In her Masters Class episode Maya Angelou said something that has stuck with me. “So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity. Take up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world.” I burst into tears when I heard that. Her brown eyes seemed to be staring straight into mine as she spoke. Maya was talking to me. No one else. Her ability to excavate my soul and unearth the source of my affliction almost made me believe there is a god. 

So here I am. Writing this. A meditation on the price of fear. On paper I’m ok. I report to a 9-5 and get my share of raises, promotions and recognition. I’m a parent. I’m a spouse. I have a nice car. I live near the beach. I have lots of things and I want for nothing. For a girl born in crack-era Watts it’s a small miracle I’ve made it this far. But it’s all trash. It’s basura. I wake up, I wife, I mom, I work, I Netflix, I TikTok, I sleep. Capitalist America says lock into this cycle for another 30 years (or more) and then go quietly into that good night. 

The cost of this life has been utterly staggering. I float through days of middle-class respectability like a haint, just substantial enough to be felt, but not fully formed. Many people struggle with the “what is my purpose” question. Not me. Rather, I exist with the existential cancer of knowing exactly what will satisfy my soul, and yet letting decades slip by as I allow myself to be continuously dragged by fear. I’m exhausted by it all. I want to be blood, sinew, bone, hormones. A fully fleshed creature. And I can’t be fully fleshed unless I reject the conditioning that has me believing I ain’t shit. That I’m doomed to fail. That it’s already been done with a level of excellence I could never achieve. Fuck that noise. I’m taking what’s mine.

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