When did you first realize that you disliked someone? Maybe it was when they made that unfunny joke that no one laughed at? Perhaps it was when you noticed they always seemed to have something to prove. In my experience, it tends to occur around the 5th or 6th stupid, off-hand, no-thought remark that just makes my blood boil. Stupidity is my kryptonite, and as much as I beg the Lord to give me patience each day, the temptation to completely blow people off due to their actions is as strong as ever. I try to find solace in humor: satire and sarcasm are some of my favorite tools, yet even their redirecting power can’t always save my psyche from the sting of perceived stupidity.
I am a firm believer in the idea that people should be as understanding as possible. Everyone is different, and everyone has different outlooks on life and different histories that color those perspectives. The beauty of humanity is to glory in our differences, right? At the same time, I also believe that people should do their best to analyze their situations before attempting to change said situations. A lofty standard to hold people to, I know, and its led me to more frustration than I should really have to deal with. My peeves stick around as long as I feed them, and I’m quite the efficient pet-owner when I want to be. This is especially true when it comes to the anime I enjoy.
I remember when Orange started. Coming off of the heels of shows like Erased and watching Re:Zero, I was excited for a new time-travel anime. The idea of sending letters to my past self in order to prevent disaster was intriguing, and I was interested in how the inter-character dynamics would play out due to the main character having new information. My interest began to wane, however, when the Nao (the heroine of the story) began to ignore the advice she was receiving from the letters. This irked me to no end: how can you get a message from your future self and just ignore it? This made no sense to me. I felt angry at Nao and disappointed at myself for liking her as a character when she was just, to my sense of judgement, an idiot.
So I dropped Orange. Enter my love for Re:Zero.
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I really enjoyed watching Re:Zero as it aired. The plot, the characters, the overarching themes of confidence and perseverance really rang true for me, and I empathized a lot with Subaru. I mean, if I were trapped in a fantasy world, I’d assume I was the main character in an epic quest as well. Throw in the mysterious and beautiful Emilia and the inter-species magical conflict going on, and you’ve got the stage set for a pretty cool story.
Towards the middle of the series, you follow Subaru as he makes mistake after mistake. He’s doing his best to protect the people he loves, but he ends up failing each time. His power causes time to rewind to a set point after he dies (not a spoiler: you learn it in the first episode!), but even that doesn’t seem to help, as each time he resets he just makes more and more mistakes. Watching Subaru go through this became more and more painful with each episode. I watched a character I loved and empathized with turn into a beaten-down wreck, and the more he tried the worse things became. I got to a point where I was questioning why I watched the series, because at that point, I wasn’t enjoying it at all.
Fast-forward to today. I’m a college student, working on engineering stuff, trying not to fail literally everything, and trying to be there for as many people as I can. I find myself disappointed at myself for not performing as well as I’d like, confused at friends for seemingly not thinking of me, and in general finding myself to be a bigger ball of emotions than I thought I was. My stresses seem to both have multiplied and have subsided a bit, as contradicting as that sounds. I’m confident in who I am, but I’m not so confident in what I want, which makes life just that more confusing to figure out. As someone who is entirely too introspective, my inner musings tend to amplify my fears more than pacify them, and it’s a constant struggle to keep my focus when I feel so many things could go wrong.
Thinking back, it’s definitely interesting how my fears are so closely intertwined with my pet peeves at the time. I get annoyed easily with people who are slow to understand, but also at myself because I hate feeling stupid. I hold myself often to standards of perfection in academia and social circles, and beat myself up when I don’t reach those goals; a perfect example of my fear of powerlessness. It’s almost as if…
I act through fear?
If fear is my motivator, then all of my actions are colored by a sense of not wanting a bad outcome to occur, not looking forward to how I can affect my outcomes. Fear pulls away at my potential, yet as the easiest motivation to come by, it’s not hard to see why I’ve so easily become accustomed to it. I’m afraid of a lot of things. But isn’t that natural?
I hold my fear as a close friend, a natural confidant, a small island in my sea of self-doubt. Yet if I were to let go of my fear, wouldn’t my doubt also begin to shrink? What am I afraid of losing…if not fear itself?
My problem is less that of fear, and more of motivation. Without my fear, what will my drive be? What will push me to expand my boundaries and test my limits? What defeats fear?
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
Few things in life amaze me as much as when a passage from the Bible lines up perfectly with the context of my life, and this verse from 1 John 4:18 fits my situation to a tee. If I believe that Christ loved me enough to die for me, that He took on all of my sin and struggle and overcame it, it follows that anything I struggle with now, He’s already given me the power to overcome. The moniker of “Christian” was given to the early believers, the meaning being “little Christ”. Thus, as a “little Christ” myself, the love that He had for me is more than enough to cast out any fear I might have. His love is my love
Funny thing about love: it’s never content being in just one person. It has to spread. Like wildfire, true, selfless love sets everything it touches ablaze with new life. Like Nao, love gives me the strength to trust in the unseen, hoping for a better tomorrow. Like Subaru, love gives me the grace to lay down my weaknesses and work with those around me to overcome our obstacles. Fear holds us back; love sets us free. And through love, anything is possible.
I don’t need to be afraid of people or my grades or what the future will bring. It’s not wrong to plan for the future or to think about possible outcomes, but living a life fueled by love rather than fear allows me to look outside of myself. Fear sets the focus inward; love sets the focus outward. By abandoning fear, I can truly learn to be the impact I want to be in others’ lives. I can push forward without being encumbered by my doubts or struggles. Life will get tough, it does for everyone. But, where fear leads to worry, love empowers, giving the strength to overcome. Our struggles don’t have to define us.