In general, I have fear. I’ve always been a pretty cautious person, thinking ahead, aware of my surroundings. My feet tingle when I’m near a cliff, I picture myself falling over. I use an x-acto knife, I picture myself slicing off my thumb. And I hate our knife rack. In our old apartment it hung comfortably on the wall in a recessed niche between cabinets over the sink. In our new apartment, the only place it fits is right by the kitchen door. Any direction I point the knives (up, down, angled) I picture myself impaled on the tiny, gleaming blades.
This fear is especially powerful when I’m working with new tools or technology. I’m afraid of physically hurting myself. I’m afraid of looking stupid. And with things like new software, I’m afraid of clicking the wrong thing and deleting hours of work. I hate it. I wish I could use new tools without fear. It is dangerous to have this fear. I am a liability. (Actually, this could be why I do user research, because then it’s not the user’s fault if the thing won’t work, it just wasn’t designed right in the first place. Ha!)
I greatly admire those without fear.
My old roommate Leina does not have fear. She would wield a blade like she came out of the womb with it in hand. Need help cutting into that hard plastic “clamshell” packaging? Carving a turkey? Tearing down that wall? No problem. She could do it. Be it with a saw, knife, sewing machine, nail gun, didn’t matter. She’s 100 pounds of pure brawn and balls. She also loved putting together furniture. Best roommate ever!
My friend Courtney does not have fear. She makes art, installations, and crafts of all kinds. Give her any challenge and she’ll make it a reality. You want an 8 foot tall giraffe made of paper and plaster? A hanging mobile of thousands of flowers made from old plastic bottles? Glass, metal, light, wood, it is all putty in her hands.
My mom does not have fear. Fabric melts to her touch. She’s teaching me to sew right now. Unlike her, I let out a little squeal the first time I ran a piece of fabric beneath the needle. “Pull yourself together,” I imagined her exclaiming, shaking me by the lapels. She didn’t do this of course. She just giggled a little and said that I shouldn’t be afraid. “There’s nothing you can do with a sewing machine that can’t be undone,” she insisted.
I think that’s key. Knowing that you have the power to make things right if they go wrong. Having the knowledge to prevent the bad things from happening in the first place. Watch one, do one, teach one, right? And so I force myself to use new tools. I took a glassblowing workshop, even though I was sure I’d burn my face off. I’m making a skirt even though I’ll probably sew my fingers to the fabric. And I’m going to sign up for a butchering class – fear of knives be gone! I’ll never be as good as the fearless makers I mentioned above, but I hope to be able to pass the knife rack one day without fear.