I was once told that the opposite of fear is love. Truthfully, I am scared of a lot of things. When I used to live in Tel Aviv, I was so brave, so fearless. Yet lurking in the background there was the imminent threat of death. Most Israelis are used to it, and they are some of the bravest people I have ever met.
But I digress. We are here in San Francisco, the US of A, and I am currently in a coffee shop on a Thursday, afraid I won’t finish my article in time. Again with the fear. The only way I can beat it is if I rely on my own courage.
To me, the most prominent and comical form of this is: fear of missing out (FOMO). I have heard it being incorporated into weekly sermons, popular news sites, blogs and hearing it from my friends. FOMO can be caused by being invited to multiple events on a regular basis. Birthday party or going away party? Dolo or hiking? I am bombarded with these choices everyday. So what is a girl supposed to do? I make a decision and stick to it. Yes, I may miss out on something better, but I try to be thankful for the moment I am in. Making a choice, even for the most mundane things, is one of the bravest things people can do.
So else what am I afraid of? I would say the most prominent risk I take on a daily basis is walking through highly trafficked areas in S.F. God forbid riding a bicycle. The way people drive or are forced to drive is super dangerous at almost all times of the day. I have mentioned in prior articles about cars blocking crosswalks and intersections. After talking to more and more people about this issue, I came to understand that it was even more dangerous trying to figure out the bike lanes and how to make various turns with cyclist commuters. I for one have almost been hit by several cars when I had the right of way at a crosswalk. If you want a real scare, try walking across Oak and Octavia at any time of day. I had to take it upon myself to learn the laws of road, though I don’t drive. I also NEVER look at my cell when crossing the street. It makes me feel more confident when I am fully aware.
Besides transportation, I am terrified of crime in the streets. Countless cars are broken into, whether to steal things or because of aggression and anger. Two years ago, my mom’s rental car windows were all smashed in on the corner of Haight and Laguna. Ask anyone you know if this has happened to them. While it may not have been them personally, they will probably have a story about it.
Call me a wuss, but walking around at night in San Francisco is downright spooky. No one is out, and it is dead silent. I refuse to go running at night, because if something happened to me, no one would be there to help. I recently spoke with a friend who was so cautious about walking alone that she keeps her finger on the trigger of her pepper spray, ready to defend herself. Maybe we are being silly, but maybe we are responding to a real, deep seeded fear of being a lone woman walking home at night. I feel better knowing that I don’t have to lose my independence by carrying around a little bottle. Here, the only thing I can do is believe in the best in people while having my finger positioned firmly on that pepper spray for peace of mind.
Forget about the actualities and physical representations of fear. I, like many others are afraid of change. As the beautiful high rise is completed in my neighborhood, I ponder to myself how much my rent will rise once new tenants start moving in. Five percent? Eight percent? I don’t really know, but I do know that I am losing some of my favorite places due to gentrification. I mean, it is not all bad, considering I have new and different places to frequent on a weekly if not daily basis. I love it. But I miss some of the places that had to close down. I am afraid of losing some of my communities.
Along with change is the fear of uncertainty. Yes, it is very much in line with change because I don’t always know or can predict what will happen, but that is life. What I do know is that startups have been laying off people left and right, and it has been hard looking for a job. It is important in times of uncertainty to stay grounded. It is easier to take it all in and be understanding when I realize there are things that I can’t control.
The saddest fear I have, and the one I am reluctant to share, is the fear of being myself in a city where self-expression is celebrated. Due to the need to be professional and support what many call their “personal brand,” I am scared to wear certain clothes outside of themed parties. Sometimes I just want to walk around in my snapback, Jordan’s and leather pants. But there is this small voice inside of me that reminds me how many looks I will get, how I will feel like an outcast among the yoga pants, black jeans and curled hair. It is an issue of choice.
I, like many others, are put in a situation (beyond just clothing) where I have to really have my own back when it comes to self-expression. I was bullied most of my life, so it has been a hard decision to stand out or fit in. I just want to look and be my own way, even if it is different. I wrestle with it everyday when I pick out clothes or write these articles.
I believe that in all of these situations, being aware is the best I can do. FOMO, the traffic, crime, change or lack of security won’t go away. What I can do is nurture my best, ignore all of the haters and let my weirdness fly. Because I am a person in this town that has something to say, I will be damned if I become a cowardly lioness. I will never quiet myself out of fear.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.Melissa Eisenberg