Prompts: “My Biggest Obstacle in 2014″

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays. I’m a few days late or a few days early, depending on how you look at it.

No one ever failed playing beer league softball. I am bottom right, celebrating Roadside Attraction's Chumpionship.

No one ever failed playing beer league softball. I am bottom right, celebrating Roadside Attraction’s Chumpionship.

My Biggest Obstacle In 2014: Fear of Failure

I started playing baseball at age 5. My dad would toss the ball as high as he could outside our apartment complex and I’d circle the ball and catch it. I played through my early teens and I planned to try out for my high school team as a freshman. I even got the physical required to play team sports the summer before I began high school. And yet when it came time to try out the next winter I no-showed. I had heard whispers about how difficult the team was to make, and that led me to believe I wasn’t good enough. I elected to not try out rather than risk failure.

The next year – after training with a private coach – I tried out and made the varsity. My earlier fears were irrational. The team had players better than me, yes, but I wasn’t the scrub I thought I was the year before. In essence, I cost myself playing baseball my freshman year because I was afraid to fail.

Though I wish I had left behind the fearful 13-year-old described above the truth is fear of failure continues to shadow me even as I approach my 30s. I’ve taken two big leaps of faith in my 20s – moving to Portland from my native south Louisiana and then moving from Portland to New York City. Yet, it is the times fear has overcome me and prevented from taking leaps that stick with me. The concept, irrational as it is, has prevented me from taking risks in other areas – i.e., my decision where to attend college, asking girls out on dates in high school, applying for jobs, switching careers, going to the gym, etc. It’s led to a lot of indecision and consternation and, frankly, unhappiness.

Fear of failure has hampered me in seeking full-time employment since I moved to New York City. Part of that is indecision about what to do – should I get a writing job, go back to school for something else, etc. – but even that is linked to fear of failure. It’s easier to spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because there is nothing at stake. And yet that leads nowhere.

I’ve been reading a book called The Tools the last few days. It’s a self-help book. I no longer feel squeamish about mentioning that on occasion I read self-help books. Anyway, the book instructs the reader to think about the pain they’re feeling (fear of failure, in my case) and visualizing moving toward the pain and then beyond it. There in lies a major goal of mine in 2014 – if not move beyond my fear of failure entirely then take strides to address it. I figure, why let fear of failure take the ball out of my hands before I’ve had the chance to throw it, right?

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