Fear is a powerful force that can inspire you to break through barriers or paralyze you into submission. My top 3 fears haven’t changed since I was 20 but the order and details have definitely changed:
1) Not being independent/Not being successful
At 20: My biggest fear, at 20, was not being financially independent. Growing up, I had seen too many women trapped in lives they couldn’t escape because they lacked the education and skills to break free. I got a degree in accounting, not because I loved it but because I knew I could get a job that paid fairly well. I didn’t realize then that I’d be more successful and happier in a job I loved but I wouldn’t have cared anyway. I didn’t want to worry about money ever again and didn’t want to depend on someone else to support me. That was success to me then. Luckily, I found a marketing job I loved so was financially stable and happy.
At 50: I retired last year so I am no longer financially independent but that isn’t what scares me. I’m afraid I’ve become too dependent on my husband concerning travel and technology issues. I haven’t traveled alone in years and would need a brief tutorial just to fly to Chicago! I couldn’t hook up a computer or TV if my life depended on it.
As for success, even though I’m not working outside the home, I still feel the need to be successful in whatever I do. My fear is that I won’t find fulfillment or feel I have a purpose in the non-working world.
2) Being alone/Being lonely:
At 20: Finding Mr. Right wasn’t a big goal for me at age 20 so being a spinster wasn’t my biggest fear. Marriage and children weren’t even on my radar screen at this time of my life. I liked having a love interest but my track record with love wasn’t good, and I didn’t want to bank too much of my future on a guy. I was more concerned with making bank myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I was no hermit and put myself out there, (especially on the dance floor), and finally met my future husband in an accounting class! It may not have been the most romantic of settings but our marriage has stood the test of time – our 25th anniversary is this May.
At 50: How things have changed. The thought of being alone or worse yet, being lonely, is what stops me in my tracks these days. The independent 20-year-old has become very dependent on her husband not only for unconditional love but companionship, too. If something happened to him, I have good friends who would be there for me but I would never be number one in their lives. My two sons would visit me but they’d have their own lives to lead and wouldn’t want to hang out with me – at least I hope not. I’d figure it out but it does strike fear in my bones.3) Not looking good/Not feeling good:
At 20: I cared very much how I looked back then although I have photos that would say otherwise. Permed hair and too much makeup was not a pretty combination but I tried. I also cared about trying to look good in clothes. I was blissfully unaware that while I may have looked okay in my turquoise Wrangler corduroy pants from Target, it just wasn’t cool to wear them!
I didn’t give a thought to my health except to go on a 24-hour-liquids-only diet when I felt fat. Any exercise I did was strictly to improve my appearance, not my health.
At 50: Losing my looks as I age isn’t a huge fear but I know I feel better about myself if I feel like I look good so I use a lot of moisturizing products. My bigger fear now is my health. I exercise and watch my weight but I fear genetics has the upper hand in some illnesses. My dad and two sisters died of cancer. My mom had cataracts and died of Alzheimer’s. I have had a melanoma skin cancer, I have minor cataracts, and my sons and husband are convinced I have early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Facing Fears: I take comfort and even some pride knowing that when I faced my fears in my youth, I survived and even thrived. Now I need to tackle my three fears with the same ferocity and persistence. Here’s my game plan:
Fear #1: I will become more independent and fly alone somewhere soon. I will try harder to figure out technological problems instead of just handing them over to my husband or sons. I will find success and fulfillment by trying several volunteer opportunities and/or part-time jobs until I connect with a cause or a venture that I am passionate about. It may take time but will be worth it.
Fear #2: Becoming more independent and fulfilled will help me feel less alone and lonely if my husband dies before me. I will also nurture my current friendships and build new ones. I will stay in close contact with my two sons and create fun occasions so they will visit me often. I will explore new interests, and I will always have a puppy dog.
Fear #3: I will foster my health and appearance by exercising regularly and not eating or drinking to excess. I will go to the doctor as needed but most of all, I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control. If I get cancer, I hope it will be caught early, and I’ll deal with it. I’ll face it and hopefully, all of my fears with dignity and strength.