It was a compliment this time. Though I usually hear it in a chiding tone from someone who thinks it their right to comment with displeasure on my life-journey. But this time, surprisingly, it was in admiration from someone who has known me a long time. It made me smile.
I am different these days. I am....happy. Confident. Free. Comfortable with myself and my place in the world.
But mostly, I am unafraid.
Fear has shadowed my entire life. I can never remember not being afraid. My earliest memories were tainted with fear, even the happiest of them.
But these days, that fear is gone. It's amazing how that changes a person.
I am no longer afraid of god. Afraid of displeasing him. Of not following his will for my life. Of making a mistake and disappointing him. Of him ruining my life because that's what god does when you rebel, it's how he shows you he loves you, by not letting you get away with your own selfish desires. His plans are so much better than yours, after all.
I am no longer afraid of hell. Of accidentally sinning and dying before I can repent. I had nightmares about that as a small child. I was terrified of spending eternity in hell. It seemed so easy to screw up and end up punished after you die. I was so afraid of my friends going to hell too. I was so afraid that I wouldn't get to tell enough people about Jesus in my life and would be responsible for them dying and going to hell.
I am no longer afraid of punishment. For most of my life, I lived under fear of punishment. From my parents, from god. Messing up meant harsh punishments. Spanking, grounding, losing friend privileges, having to do extra chores, writing out a hundred sentences that say "I will not blame-shift". But mostly spankings, until I became a teen. Then it was lectures, control of resources, and groundings that killed the small social life I had. For every little infraction, because all sins are the same, and foolishness must be driven out of the heart of a child. Afraid of punishment from god who could not only send me to hell if I died unrepentant, but he could make my life miserable too. He could do all manner of horrible things to teach me a lesson if screwed up. He could even take my child's life if I loved her more than I loved him, if I loved her too much. That's what god does, because he's a jealous god. My entire life, death, and afterlife could be punishments if he decided I needed them.
I am no longer afraid of missing god's plan for my life. I make the plans for my life now. I take the responsibility, I pay the consequences, good and bad. No one is waiting to punish me for planning badly. I'm not going to ruin my life if I don't hear god correctly and take a wrong step. I'm in charge. If I screw up, I will try again. There are many different ways to live a successful life, I'm not fucked if I miss The One. There is no "hedge of thorns" sent to hem me in and bring me back to god's plan.
I'm no longer afraid of failing to be who god wants me to be. I don't have to ask permission to be me. To follow my heart. To love whom I want to love. To be passionate about what matters to me. I don't have to make sure my character fits someone else's idea of right. I choose my values, who I want to be and what that looks like.
I am no longer afraid of what other people can do to me. Of whether the ones I love and used to be dependent on will walk away, reject me, and break my heart. Because I realize now that giving my heart to them means they can hurt it, but they cannot ruin it. Only I can do that. I am not dependent on how others treat me for my validation or my success in life. I adore all the people that are part of my life, but my life is not dependent on them anymore. I am no longer defenseless and powerless.
I am no longer afraid of the darkness in me. That part of me that is just as much human as the light, happy parts. That part that scared people, that they taught me to fear. I am those things too, in all their rich glory, and they don't scare me anymore. I don't have to deny the darkness exists or pray it away because it turns out it's not evil. I know evil; and the anger, passion, depression, anxiety, rage, rain, storm, and shadows that reside in human nature are not it. I can be a whole person now.
I am no longer afraid of being happy. It's OK to be utterly happy with myself and my life. It's OK to love and to live. It's OK to feel satisfied and enough. Conversely, it's OK to be sad. To be unhappy. To want more. To wish and not be OK with how things are. I am no longer afraid of the entire range of human emotions. They are not good or evil, they just are.
I am no longer afraid of my passion. I am a passionate person, and that is perfectly OK. Though I still get shamed often for this, get sanctioned, invalidated, told I'm too much and not enough, told my passion doesn't belong or is misplaced, told to be quiet, be nice, sit down, shut up. But since I no longer need validation from others, I am no longer afraid of my own passion or what others think about it. I can shout from the rooftops or speak in whispers in quiet places, and it is enough and it is valid.
I am no longer afraid of so many things, fears that have been a part of my life for as far back as I have memories. And that changes a person. It takes a huge weight off their shoulders that makes every aspect of their life lighter.
So, yes, I am different these days. I am whole. I am unashamedly, gloriously me.
And I am not afraid any more.