Fear. Possibly the most debilitating feeling and the biggest barrier to freedom. I have felt a sense of fear for most of my adult life. As a child, I was fearless and would try anything. Yet, over time, that feeling gradually became erased and a new mindset became embedded within my thinking. Safety and security became central to my life. I went to university, trained to be a teacher, and was successful in my work. I had a regular wage, a brilliant career, a pension (very important), and the knowledge that I could pay my bills and my mortgage. This was safe and I knew that, as long as I was safe, I was ok. Was I happy? I thought so. I had everything that society dictated I should. I was everything society said I should be. Well, almost: that’s another story. Importantly, I was financially secure and independent. All good.

Two years ago, the pandemic hit, and something in me changed. Suddenly, I was not ok. Suddenly, I didn’t recognise myself. I felt a fear that I had never felt before; a terror. Everything I knew and understood was threatened. This terror was to become a turning point in my life; the beginning of an exciting journey.

At the time, it was far from exciting. Like millions of others, I was thrown into turmoil; so many unknowns, so many questions, so many fears. Fear. That word again. For 20 years, I had been living with the same mindset, a mindset that was debilitating and restrictive. A mindset that I didn’t even realise I had. I was fortunate in that destiny had plans for me and brought the most extraordinary, perceptive and truly wonderful friend into my life. A person who was so much like me in many ways yet, at the same time, the complete opposite of who I was, or who I thought I was. This was a person who was to unlock the closed door in my head and show me that there is a whole world out there. Freedom.

Deep inside myself, I always dreamt of something else. I didn’t know what that was but I longed for something different. As a teacher, I had become institutionalised. I loved my job but I had become defined by it. The person I had become was a construct; a product of other people’s expectations and conditions of worth. During my teaching career, I had developed another passion. A passion for supporting other people, listening, helping, supporting and guiding.

I then considered leaving my present job, but then the doubt set in. Of course I had to stay with my job. It was secure, it was permanent, it was safe. It was me. The thoughts in my head repeated this unrelentingly. Plus, I might fail. Leaving my job was too big a risk and it was all I knew. I did not believe that I could exist out of the teaching profession. I had reached a point where I had lost any concept of who I really was and could not see past the classroom teacher. Destiny once again stepped in and brought the most incredible people into my life.  People who saw the world in a different way and helped me to recognise something special within myself. I realised that I was being held back by fear and it was controlling me completely. Fear of failure. I was its prisoner. What would I do if I left my job? Who would I be? Would I survive?

I took the leap and believed.

Three months later, I am in the most wonderful place. I have learnt so much. Most importantly, I have learnt the importance and value of taking risks. I am working as a freelance tutor which I love, and have made some wonderful new friends along the way.  I am also studying to be a counsellor, I love my course and I am successful.  I have control and autonomy over my life and my choices. I am discovering who I am – not someone new but the person I really am; the person deep inside my soul was lost a long time ago. She still there and I’m connecting with her. I’m loving getting to know her – she’s amazing! She’s intelligent, kind, brave, caring, capable, courageous, confident, self-assured. People like her a lot because she’s good to be with. More importantly, she’s learning to like herself. She’s on a journey and it’s a lot of fun. She smiles a lot. She is happy. This is who I am.

I have learnt the value of positive energy. I have learnt that I have something to give, I have something valuable to offer; I am going to do it. For many years I was a prisoner within my own mind. I was afraid to take a risk because my self-worth had become defined by others. Changing that mindset and taking a leap of faith changed my life and I would never go back to where I was. Making the jump was scary; it was brave but it was right. In doing so, I have not just brought something to myself but I am able to give to other people. That means everything. All because I took a risk; a leap of faith.

Follow Alex on Twitter at @alex_7619

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