Living Scared

What happened yesterday in Boston so sad and awful.  And it’s deeply scary.  All of the communities I’m part of — family, work, school, city — have been shaken by this.

But the most important thing we can do coming away from this is not get scared in our core.  If that happens, they win and we lose – way bigger than we lost yesterday.

I’ve been scared before — deathly scared.  For me, it was 1991-1993 when I was 12-14 years old, growing up in Brooklyn.  At that precise time, there was a lot of street crime in New York.  Pretty much everyone I knew got jumped, robbed, or beaten up doing things like walking home from school.  

For me it started when I was 12, riding my bike home from baseball practice in Prospect Park.  Two kids stopped me and relieved me of my bicycle (hand-drawn “Nick” license plate and all).  I was upset that day, and cried when I got home.  But the “terror” didn’t set in until sometime later — when I started getting harassed (usually in small ways, sometimes in larger ways) nearly every day.  

The world went from being a place to joyfully explore to being a place to be fucking terrified of.  I didn’t want to leave my house, not even to go two blocks to the grocery store.  Taking the subway home from school was a mission.  I detoured my route at the slightest sign of danger on the horizon. I was in a constant state of condition orange. It sucked. 

The terrorists (in my case, the kids on the street who were bigger and badder that I was) totally won. I hated it. I wanted to get as far away from NYC as fast as I could.   And in fact, by the end of high school, that’s exactly what I did (even though things were better by then).

I lived for years — a small number of years, but formative ones — in terror.  And when I got through with it I vowed never to live that way again.

Part of what makes it possible to live without terror is to be in it together.  If my 1992-era self had had a bigger posse (no offense, Dave; we did what we could), things would have been different, easier.  

I don’t mean that we need to be in a constant state of vigilance together — rather, we need to be there to help each other keep calm and carry on.  We — people in the US and elsewhere who don’t want to live in fear — have to be each others’ posse, coach, shoulder, and heart.

I refuse to be scared by this.