May 23, 2018

The Known and Unknown

We believe that as long as we’re aware of our surroundings and with our eyes open, nothing unexpected will approach us and we will be safe.

Perhaps as a child or even now you’ve had an irrational fear that if you glance away or close your eyes at the wrong moment something or someone will attack you. Say, for instance, you’re sleeping on a sofa and as long as you’re sleeping with your back to the couch then you’re safe, but the second you turn over, with your back to the room, you are in immediate danger of being attacked from behind. Or maybe you’re washing your face, and you fear that something is behind you as your eyes are closed. Or maybe if your foot and/or hand hangs off the edge of the bed while you sleep, surely something will come to grab it. I’m sure all of us at one time or another have experienced this sense of paranoia, and maybe some still do. I think one of the reasons is because we fear the unknown. We believe that as long as we’re aware of our surroundings and with our eyes open, nothing unexpected will approach us and we will be safe.

I’m constantly torn between fearing the unknown but also hating what I know. I wrote a poem about this that I’m not comfortable with sharing, but it talked about hating knowing when it will be your last hug, or that it’s going to be such a long time before you can see someone next, about how knowing this is your one chance to change things, or knowing you have to face reality with current events, pleasant or not. But at the same time, I hate being unaware of everything. Months before my grandpa passed away, I had the opportunity to see him and say goodbye before I traveled home, unaware that it’d be my last time seeing him. I remember we hugged and I think he kissed my cheek, that’s what I know and what I hold onto. But what I don’t remember is if we expressed that we love each other. I’ve always known he loves me and have never doubted my love for him, yet I still have this fear that I didn’t tell him, that it’s proof of my lack of effort. Perhaps that lacking memory will drive me to tell others I love them whenever I can, but it will never revive any clear memory of the last time I saw him.

Balancing fear in knowledge and ignorance can become tricky, but I think one thing to keep in mind is figuring out what actually matters. What does it matter if I don’t remember the last time I told my grandpa I loved him? I recall the last time I saw him, he kissed my cheek and we got to hug, and that’s what actually matters. It’s not a doubt of not knowing if he loved me, it’s a fear that I didn’t get to have a perfect goodbye. Knowledge of situations also scares me, but the struggle from that which I often face is determining if I actually need to worry and act upon it or if I’m overreacting. I tend to worry excessively, which I recognize as an issue, which then makes it harder to figure out what fears are logical or what I just need to let go. It’s a constant struggle for me and I’m working on it, but I think everyone else can too. We’re so caught up with the future and what all will happen and how one aspect will affect something else and it just becomes this long train of worries that began with something so minuscule that we’ve now grown to be gigantic. (That’s the long way of explaining how we make mountains out of molehills, in case you haven’t caught on.)

When these fears of the known and the unknown surround me, I constantly remind myself that I will be okay. A few months ago, I was in a really difficult situation for a while and was mentally unstable (and I unfortunately still am, to an extent, but not as bad as then). In times of fear, I would sit by myself and say repeatedly, “It’s going to be okay.” Over and over again I convinced myself of this, wanting the words to have some kind of effect to where I would stop worrying and I’d be reminded of the truth, that it’s not the end and it’s going to be okay. I soon realized this wasn’t helpful because nothing changed. Sure, situations improved to some extent but I was still unhappy and lived in fear. I was so focused on the situation and how it affected my mental well-being that I soon realized I couldn’t fix the situation, but at the same time, I lacked the effort and awareness to work on my mental health. So, I changed my repeated phrase to something different, changing one word all while changing the whole meaning. I began to say, “I’m going to be okay.” Because honestly, I will be. Maybe not great or ever perfect, but I know that if I get through this I will be okay in the end. The fear of the unknown disappears and the effect of the known dies down. I’m going to be okay.