We’re all familiar with fear. It doesn’t matter if it is fear of a person, a thing, or simply the shapes we see in the dark. We all know what it is like to have our hearts pounding in our chests, to feel on edge and jumpy, ready to run or hide. But what do we do when what we fear is something from which we can neither run nor hide? How do we cope when we are afraid of the future?
I can remember when I started my first full-time job and moved into a flat of my own. Suddenly I had to think about grown-up things like pensions and planning for my future. I needed to look ahead and work out in which direction I wanted my life to move; I needed to think about my career, my hopes, and my dreams. I’d graduated to the adult world, and I didn’t feel equipped for it. The future looked vast and scary, filled with uncertainty. I wanted to pull the covers back over my head and hide from it.
Fear of the future can leave us paralyzed, too scared to work toward what we want. It can stop us from chasing our dreams for fear of the day when we may fail. We can get stuck in a present we don’t want if we’re too afraid of where change may lead us.
It can be hard for us to appreciate the life we’re living now when we’re anxious about the future. We can become dissatisfied with our job when we imagine what it would be like to still be there in ten years. We can miss enjoying the freedom of being single because we fear it will always be this way. We can be distracted from cherishing times with our friends and family when we focus on the change that may be on the horizon. Fear and worry steal our peace and leave us torn, unable to face the future but not rooted in the present.
One of the challenging things about the future is how unpredictable it is. We don’t know what it will hold, what circumstances will come our way or how our lives will shift and alter. When we get scared, we imagine the worst. We think of the most difficult times in our life playing on repeat, year after year. We rarely take into account all the wonderful things that will happen to us: the amazing people we will meet, the opportunities that will come our way, and the times of laughter and celebration.
The truth is the future will be made up of good days and bad days. There will be times of joy and contentment but also times that are difficult. It’s these contrasting experiences that give life its richness. They shape and mould us, providing fresh opportunities to learn and grow. They build character and give us the tools and insight to help others.
But we won’t be alone. There will always be people we can lean on for support when times are hard. There will be people we can face the future with, giving each other courage when our own waivers. Whatever comes our way, it will never be more than we can handle with the help and support of others.
Some days the future can stretch before us. We can see year after year of time looming over us, clouded with doubt and difficulty. It’s no wonder we can feel afraid and overwhelmed. If the years ahead feel like too much, then it’s time to break it down. The future is made up of years and decades, but it is also made up of minutes and hours. We may not know where we will be next year, but maybe we can make a good guess at what the next minute will hold.
Sometimes the future needs to be faced in small increments. It’s OK to take it one day at a time, minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour. What matters is that we keep moving forward.
Let’s not be so preoccupied with the future that we miss the beauty of today. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and notice what’s happening around us. Perhaps it’s time to feel the air fill our lungs and appreciate what it is to be alive. Let’s stop and celebrate the good times or find those golden moments within darker days. The future is yet to be discovered, but the present will always be ours to explore.
If you find yourself feeling afraid of the future, know that you’re not alone. We all get scared sometimes. While the future may feel huge and unpredictable, you can choose how you write the next chapter of your story. And you can do it one day at a time.