Friday, November 29, 2013

Seeds - Some Advice on Fear

I have a story that is practically a stereotype, almost a cliche.

Years ago, I worked at a job for the Immigration Ministry of Canada.  It was an excellent job.  I had been hired as a temp, and was employed pushing file carts from one place to another, but due to the intelligence and savvy of my supervisor and the other people in authority at the office, I was brought on board within a year (incredibly quickly at that office) as a full-time employee, doing vetting work on the reported backgrounds of people interested in immigrating to Canada.  I did security work, participated in anti-fraud investigations, background checks, and information exchange with CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).

I met high-ranking officers of CSIS and the RCMP, politicians, and even the Minister-Of-Curry-In-A-Hurry (actually, Immigration, but that was the media nickname for him), Stephen Harper's right-hand toady, Jason Kenny.

I was a cog in a machine.  Sometimes I'd interact with more important cogs, and sometimes even with (gasp!) GEARS, gears that people thought were centrally fixed and thus very, very important to the functioning of ... things.

As a result of being such a cog, I was well greased.  I was well-paid, and well-compensated for my time.  I had, for the first time in my life, a salary (one that I'd happily qualify as a FAT salary as well) and excellent benefits.  I had everything I needed, or so I thought.

Over time, though, I started to realize that the job was preventing me from quite a few things that I wanted to do.  After all, there was a clause in my employment that mentioned not being involved in "controversial social, political, or community" activities.  What could those be?  Why, a whole hell of a lot of things!

Protests, queer community groups, wild public events and parties, body modification, writing and speaking my mind and singing the songs of my soul, and even expressing my own gender identity.  I went once a year for a week to the Brushwood Folklore Center for vacation and had to lie out by rear end about what I was actually doing.  Instead of going to a pagan-centric, clothing-optional, spiritually uplifting (and sometimes intoxicant-soaked) event, I was going to a "campground" to "camp" - technically true, but any more information about that and I could have easily lost my job, or at least, so I thought.  I lied my face off about the majority of my life to my co-workers and superiors, I prevented myself from writing anything controversial and posting it on the internet (or trying to get it published) and I prevented myself from expressing who I really am to the point that I had a serious fight for my life on my hands, where suicide seemed like a better option that continuing to live.

I let my fear of losing the security blanket that was that cushy, comfortable government job get in the way of actually living, while convincing myself that I was doing something "worthwhile" and "helpful to people" when all I was was a glorified paper-pusher whose job it was to nitpick over people's self-confessions and reveal their lies to an uncaring bureaucratic machine.  In a lot of cases, the people who were caught lying to the government were pushed through anyway - because they had family in Canada, or (more often) because they proved that they would help to improve the country (i.e. had a lot of money probably gained through lack of conscience and abuse of financial systems and people).

So I spent my time there convincing myself that I was improving myself and the world while allowing myself to be ground down into dust by fear, all in the name of an admittedly surprisingly large paycheck and health-care benefits.

That job is gone.  The Minister of Curry-In-A-Hurry, the honorable Jason Kenney, decided that Buffalo was not a good place to have a Consulate, because it's not like it wasn't one of the biggest border crossings between the two countries, the closest to Toronto, and it's not like he didn't authorize the expenditure of hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for renovations in the Consulate and COME TO CUT THE GODDAMN RIBBON a year before he shut it and almost all of the other Consulates in the United States down.  In the process, myself and some people who had been working there upwards of thirty years lost their jobs - and the Americans who worked there have been treated like dirty kleenexes; Ottawa won't return our calls or letters requesting important things for tax purposes like, oh, proof of employment.  (Bitter rant over).

So, that being said, I spent many years of my life stunting my personal growth out of fear of losing a job that went away anyway.

All jobs will go away, in time.  In the modern market if you're employed for even a few years by the same place in the same position it's a miracle (it's an even bigger miracle if you get some kind of promotion).  Likewise, you're going to die some day, and then that job won't be any good to you or anyone else whatsoever.

Since I lost that job, my life has improved immeasurably.  I've been doing all of the things that I wanted to do all along, and I'm doing well with them.  I'm getting published in print and blog formats, I'm engaged to the perfect partner for me, I have a family, as in am part of a cohesive family unit, for the first time since I was a child, and I am living as myself completely unashamed.  My head is unbowed.

I could have lived like this while I had the Consulate job, but I would probably have lost it.  I think now that that would have been okay, though.  It would have been more than okay, it would have been good, because I would have lost the job for a good reason (I was growing and being myself) rather than for a stupid reason (the Harper Government is a sick machine).  I would have a reason to be bitter, to be angry, and to speak against my former employers in a way that could enlighten people as to how wrong the reasons that I lost that job were.

It would have been kind of cool, too!  I could have lost that job with style.  I might have had a meeting where very serious people said, "Allright, unless you change this, you're out." and I could have walked out with both middle fingers up (I did actually walk out the door the last time dancing, with headphones on, to Soul Coughing's "Super Bon Bon").  I could have lost the job with style, and with confidence, knowing that I was doing the right thing.

Instead I let fear dictate my actions.

Fear can do one of two things to you: debilitate you or exhilarate you.  It can make you freeze, and crush yourself, or it can make you run or dance or scream or attack.

If you let it debilitate you, you WILL regret it.  You will be sorry that you held back, that you cowered, that you hid.

If you let fear exhilarate you, it gives you a kind of wild, mad energy.  It causes adrenaline to pump, it sharpens your senses, it makes you want to sing and dance as you do that thing that terrifies you that you're doing anyway.

I'm not saying never to run from something that you're afraid of - sometimes running is a good idea.  Sometimes it's time to 23 Skiddoo, to nopenopenope, to get the Hell out of Dodge.  Freezing, though, is never a good idea unless you're in Jurassic Park and the Tyrannosaur is looking for you, and even then, it's no good against the velociraptors.

Okay, terrible analogy.  Don't let fear make you freeze, don't let it stunt your growth, don't NOT do the things that you know will make you a better and happier person because of that fear - especially social fears.  Fear of loss of a job, fear of loss of friends, fear of being kicked out of your church - all of these things are something that you can live through, something that you can survive.

Preventing your own growth is something that you may not survive, and if you do, you will regret for the rest of your life.  Don't cower, don't freeze, don't hide - enjoy your fear and embrace it and let it give you the power to be more alive.

1 comment:

  1. Sound wisdom for a confused population. I'm not sure who it was who said, "Sometimes you must let go of the life you have, in order to have the life that's waiting for you." Enjoyed this!!!