Death · Third Culture Kids · Trauma · Travel

Afraid To Do

Day 9 of the Ralph Waldo Emerson “Self-Reliance” project. Click here for my project archives.

Today’s Prompt:

Today I find myself at odds with Emerson’s words: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” This takes on a new meaning in the shadow of trauma.

What, so I’m supposed to walk into gang territory wearing the colours of a rival gang so I can get shot? I should travel to current revolution sites so I can be among the growing number of journalists and writers who have been kidnapped, tortured and gang raped? I should physically confront the neo-Nazis I see around Prague? I should walk around naked to test for potential consequences?

I don’t think so.

Before trauma I always prided myself on my fearlessness. That changed afterward. But somehow I’ve always found the space in writing to embody that fearless quality by talking touching on things that many other people think but are afraid to vocalise. My novel American Monsters is a great example: much like Rihanna’s new video “Man Down”, the story is the fantasy that many women have about finding and dispatching of the people who have hurt, assaulted or raped them. In the world of my monsters, men should feel as scared as most women do simply walking around or trying to do their jobs.

For me there’s nothing too scary to write about.

But there are places where the consequences for my expressing myself may or may not be worth it.

If we move to Istanbul or Sri Lanka, gone will be my cultural and political commentaries and analysis. Internet freedom is a luxury in those places and I will not risk going to jail or worse because I’ve inadvertently offended someone or broken the law by speaking my mind.

Even living in the United States, speaking out in support of issues like abortion and health care can get you death threats or actually killed. People proudly display National Rifle Association stickers on their car, but God forbid you put a pro-choice sticker on your bumper lest you want your car vandalised or have a fellow with a baseball bat waiting for you when you return.

I have a great deal of admiration for the journalists who work covering the tough stories and everything they have to go through. The difference between them and me is that they get compensated financially and in other ways for doing that job. My blog and my writings are, at least right now, a labour of love; my garden of words that keeps me sane especially now in this time of huge upheaval and transition.

Being a Third Culture Kid, I’ve learned what is and what isn’t appropriate depending on the time, the place, the situation, and I am always aware of those boundaries before I begin putting my writings out into the cyberverse.

The things I’m afraid to do are not metaphors, they are potential realities with which I could be faced at any time, many of which have disastrous consequences for me and my family.

Mr. Emerson, I have a great deal of respect for you, but you can take this piece of advice and shove it.

©2011 Sezin Koehler

4 thoughts on “Afraid To Do

  1. Hee hee. Yes self-censorship is not always the same thing as self-preservation or vice versa. Takes a self reliant person to know the difference — because you know exactly why you’re not doing something and you trust that instinct!

    1. Yes, a valuable lesson in returning to my instincts. It’s amazing how we can lose sight of them without even noticing!

  2. Dear Sezin,
    You are a smart girl.
    As for the #Trust30 prompt, “Always do what you’re afraid to do” are Ms. Jaksch’s words, her interpretation of Emerson’s quote. I learned from the info on her website that she’s a well learned woman with many degrees, a psycho therapist and Zen master. My initial response was: How Zen is this?
    On a whole the prompts provided by the “authors” don’t even come close to Emerson’s quotes.
    Self-Reliance is what you make of it.
    Telling someone to shove it shows you trust yourself. That is Self-Reliance.


    1. Dear Judith,

      Aha! My misreading then, but still, a piece of advice that I am tossing out the window.

      And thank you for your words of support. I found the first few days of prompts much more insightful than the ones that have been popping up since. Lots of repetition, not very useful.

      I’m happy to be learning that I’m far more self-reliant than I had ever thought. What about you?


Comments are closed.