Cowardice is hard to admit. Like that question most kids ask each other, “Are you afraid of the dark?” The truth is no, I wasn’t really afraid of the dark. But when I was younger I had insomnia. I couldn’t go to sleep sometimes because of worry and fear. It wasn’t the fear of the dark. It’s more than just being afraid of the dark – because in that moment between closing your eyes and then opening back up, who knows what will happen. That was my fear. Whether it was a fire, being kidnapped, or just the fact that world around me might disappear I wasn’t worried about monsters or demons – I was worried about the cautionary news tales that seemed so very real and likely to happen. As I got older this fear gripped my social life as well. The concept of humiliation in meeting new people – or being open with emotions – and being rejected by a society that didn’t accept unique or different. I began to turtle and hide from the world, only to peer out every so often to see if it was safe to move.
Surprisingly enough, this is how I dealt with my insomnia. One evening, restless around one or two in the morning, fidgeting under a thin blanket on an uncomfortable mattress, I realized I was tired. Nights of restless sleep had already caught up and I was worrying myself in circles as I realized that the lack of sleep would eventually ruin my chances of doing well in school. In that moment all my fear became regrets: The regret of not being able to shut down my cowardice so I could sleep, so I could have struck up a conversation with my classmates and make a friend, or to have the courage to tell the scary, mean old librarian I had to use the restroom and not to have the humiliation of wetting myself (as a by-product of having to hold a full bladder for a whole lunch period as opposed to a fearful reaction). At that moment I realized I had all these regrets I felt tired. Yes, I was a coward, but it took so much energy to be anxiously agonizing in fear. I was so tired enough to finally not care about these fears that I resigned myself to fate – and have the courage to just deal with life. Because the tired you feel after that rush of adrenaline when you say hello to that beautiful stranger, give a speech in front of a huge crowd, play in a championship game, or take a plunge with your heart pumping in your chest – that’s the tired I wanted to feel.