Long before teens and tweens become obsessed with vampires – I was deathly afraid of them. Having broken the rules and watched an episode of Tales from the Crypt with my friend who was allowed to watch it, I became terrified. There were nocturnal creatures who preyed on my neck and if they took a bite, I’d be doomed to be a scary blood-sucker like them?
I’m sorry Edward Cullen, but that’s just not sexy to me.
Not being able to hide my fright in the middle of the night, my parents soon realized I had been spooked by something and grounded me for going against their recommendations for proper viewing. But my own fear was punishment enough – I hung garlic on my bedpost, tucked the sheets around my neck (as if cotton would protect me from fangs?), and begged for a clap-on-clap-off light until my parents obliged so I could clothes my eyes and not have to open them again, just in case there was something scary standing above me.
After a week of sleepless nights and crying fits, I asked my mom for the 100th time how she knew that Dracula wasn’t coming to get me in my ballerina-inspired pink bedroom off a gravel road in a two-story countryhouse in North Carolina. Frustrated with me but not showing it, she said, “The things you worry about the most never happen.”
My troubles have changed as I’ve grown: would I make the tennis team, would I pass the SAT, would I have a high school sweetheart, would I pick the right college, would I be heartbroken if Mr. Whatever broke up with me, would I ever find love again, would I be able to graduate early, would I fail in New York, would I become a good editor, would I survive in the notoriously difficult NYC dating field, would I…?
While I’m not a negative person, it’s become a common reaction when I’m worrying to think of the worse case scenario. When I’m upset about my career or wonder if I’m on the right path, I automatically picture myself having to pack my bags and return to my home state, defeated and unsuccessful, hanging my head low while avoiding all of my old friends and sinking into a rocky depression. When I’m worried about love, I picture a messy breakup with Mr. P that involves screaming and hurt feelings, the end of a friendship and the foundation of trust and fidelity shattered into pieces that won’t fit back together. When I stress about how I look, I imagine myself gaining five pounds with each bite of cheesecake, my clothes not fitting and feeling like an ugly ducking that’ll never bloom into a sophisticated city swan that gracefully cascades down the streets of Manhattan.
But when I start seeing with a tunnel-vision of devastation instead of one with realistic consequences, I remind myself that the things I worry about the most never happen. Sure, I could take a few wrong turns on the way to the dream job and the dream may change. I could be silly to give Mr. P another chance and it could all blow up in my pretty little face, as so many have warned me. I could decide to let myself go, curse the gym and gain 50 pounds.
All of these things could happen and maybe they will, but it won’t be in the absolutely awful way I imagine them happening. None of these things would be the death of me – I would be hurt, I’d be a little lost, I’d have to take a step back and reevaluate, but I’d be okay. I would stand up again, I’d figure out a new path, I’d find a new love (or be happy on my own), and I’d build up my confidence again.
I may not have been able to survive if vampires were real and they attacked me when I was a kid, but as an adult, I can handle just about anything that life throws me. And I can spend my time worrying about these things that’ll never happen to me, or I can live my life. I can dwell in fear or I can be the brave person I know I am. I can waste time conjuring up all of the ways things can go wrong, or I can be thankful for all the ways it is already right.
Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for my lovely friends who always put everything perspective.