By Ashleigh Knott
Artwork by Ashleigh Knott
It is nearing dusk and a French tourist is walking down King William Street, meandering his way around the city. He is so loaded up with backpacks he would be rendered as useless as a turtle on its back if he fell.
I am waiting at a bus stop; he catches my eye. I, accustomed to holding the gaze of those who stare, look back. He says ‘hello’ in a questioning tone, his accent penetrating the word. I smile and shy away, turning my head. Then I think rationally for a moment, and reply.
He smiles, continues on his way, turning back once more to smile at me. I watch after him. I think the novelty of interacting with a local made his day.
Hesitant would be an accurate description of my general outlook on life a while ago. This interaction with a strange fellow, though only lasting a moment, would once have taken me completely off guard and brought fear bubbling up within timid little me.
For me, fear was the unknown – feelings, places, dreams, people, the future, imperfection. Expectations brought hesitations. Preparing for life sparks angst.
As a child, the beast beneath the bed made me leap from my bedroom’s threshold to the comforts of a familiar quilt (and into the arms of my ever-reliable teddy). Who knows what implanted the certainty that something lived there, but it was tremendously vivid for a while.
I had an extraordinarily stable upbringing so perhaps that’s why change seemed to be such an uncertain and therefore scary thing. I have grown out of it though. Venturing out alone was fearfully dangerous. Now, it’s an adventure, a new experience, and even fearful moments have their worth.
Caution is sensible, unreasonable fear is not. Sure, be fearful of your parents discovering the sneaky things you’ve done, of strangers lurking menacingly in the dark, of eating wild mushrooms foraged by an amateur, of untamed flames, of green potatoes, but don’t let that fear rule your life. More importantly I’ve learned not to fear what others think of me. I’ll show my art to people and, though I care what they think, I won’t let their reaction place a value on it. Same goes for what I wear, what music I listen to, how I speak, and how I live my life. Fear of judgement is not something you should concern yourself with.
Still, leaves skipping across empty streets become footsteps following me, but things no longer thrive in the darkness as they once did.
Reasonable fear is fine. Applications for irrational fear will not be approved.