my top two fears have always been this: (1) losing people. (2) being trapped.

(although drowning is also somewhere on the list, which is ridiculous and incredibly improbable but explains why water and I have never thoroughly gotten along. oh, and cave crickets. I really hate cave crickets. I mean, an insect that looks like a spider but jumps and has no sense of direction? um, no thank you.)

I think this is why most of this year has sucked so much. because both of those things happened, although perhaps not in the way I originally feared them to. and realizing that losing you is connected to my two biggest fears has helped me explain why I feel so darn scared sometimes. I never could figure it out. it started last semester, as I tried to figure out what the heck was going on with me. as I thought about losing you, something would start to happen. it was a feeling that started in my heart and then made its way to spiraling thoughts in my head and then crept into the body. and then, later, it would just boom, be there, out of control breathing and wanting to press myself into corners, and I’d wonder, what the heck is happening to me? there’s no physical danger. nothing to materially fear. so why do I feel so darn terrified? body and soul?

well, I guess it was because my number one fear was happening. and my body knew it. weirdly enough, losing someone feels a bit like drowning. and so does being trapped.

I remember a moment during my last weeks travelling in New Zealand. My friend Meg and I were kayaking in the insanely turquoise waters of Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve. The wind was making the water kind of choppy, but the sun was strong, and the rocks and the islands were just so sharp and colorful and present, and there were lots of people snorkeling in the water. We even saw a purple jellyfish, just float right by us. And I was in the front of the kayak and feeling the freedom of being alive and independent in this world and just being me and living outside and just engaging with life and people so fully and freely… and I voiced to Meg my fear about going home. going back to people who already had fixed perceptions of who I was. going back to a society that I didn’t feel like I belonged in. going back to rules and a known world. I was afraid I’d stop being the true me I had found on these two islands halfway around the world. I was afraid of being misunderstood and allowing that to limit me. I was afraid of being trapped, geographically and emotionally. And Meg, wonderfully wise and blunt friend that she is, said that knowing me, she couldn’t ever imagine my spirit being trapped. that I would never let that happen to me. it just isn’t who I am. and hearing that from someone gave me the courage I needed to try to believe it myself. and I went home… and I met you again. and so many other people who became so much to me. I found a space to be me. to belong. I was the least trapped I had ever felt at home.

I have realized that my fear of being trapped isn’t just a physical fear. yes, I do fear being trapped in a material space, who doesn’t? but just as real is my fear of being trapped situationally. emotionally. of being able to do nothing. of being forced into a choice I don’t want to make. of being forced into that choice by myself, by the own realities of my world. I have always been the girl that finds the people and things she’s passionate about, recognizes what she values most, and then doesn’t stop until she reaches that place. that’s a confident and powerful feeling. the feeling I was scared of losing when I came back to the States. and I didn’t lose it then. but I didn’t realize how losing people you care about, even just emotionally, makes you realize how powerless you really are. how little I actually can control. thank goodness Someone still has control. because I sure don’t.

what I never understood until now is how I can be my own worst trap. how my desires and emotions can be the prison, the straitjacket, keeping me from the emotional or physical freedom that I want. how I am my own worst enemy. I am the thing holding me back from what I can have, what I can control. yes, there are circumstances I can’t control. and to be honest, I don’t want to control them. I want you to be true to yourself, and what you feel, no matter how I’d like things to be. free will is a good thing, if a hard thing to understand. but without free will, there is no real love. God understood that when he made us. our love would not be true if he did not give us a choice. if he did not let us pick our own paths.

my fear traps me. my love traps me. my sadness traps me. my hope traps me. and yet, all these things come from me. my decisions create them. who I am creates them. I guess in reality, I’m not trapped, even when it feels like these feelings just happen to me sometimes, overtake me in their hugeness. I feel these feelings because I am me, and no one else. I can only make the decisions that are truest to who I am, and let the consequences fall where they may. and I think I am. I think I’m being as true to myself as I can be. I think doing that, and doing what is right, is all that anyone can ask of anyone else.

I often feel like my musings lead me in circles. or spirals. but at the end, writing helps me arrive at a better, or at least deeper, understanding of myself, even if it doesn’t give me answers. it helps explain myself to myself. and to whoever reads this, I hope it does the same for you.