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  • There are many things to fear in life. But the thing I seem to fear the most is a green minivan. Its more metaphorical than literal of course, but fear manifests itself in many ways. You see, about 9 or 10 years ago I was mugged on a quiet Brooklyn street a block away from my home. It was by 3 men, no less and it wasn't even that late at night. I didn't get a good look at the muggers, but I remember that they seemed very young and very fast. The only thing they got was $20 in cash and my college notebook. I sure hope it was worth the potential punishment. But most likely they were never punished because they were never caught.

    Someone who saw the whole thing happen across the street said they saw the muggers get into a green minivan and speed off. I assume the observation was accurate as when I called to cancel my only credit card later that night, I was told that someone has just tried to use it at a gas station not too far away from the incident site. I immediately called the phone number the cops provided me with to let them know where they might find the perpetrators. However, the person on the other line didn't seem too concerned. I suppose cops have more important things to do like catch killers and armed robbers and violent people in general. I told the cops how the incident had happened, that I was on my mobile flip phone with a friend during the 10 min walk from the train to my home and 3 men came up behind me and snatched my bag. I felt them walking behind me but I probably assumed it was just someone trying to pass on a narrow sidewalk. They grabbed my bag with such force that I fell down and my bag flew off and my phone came crashing to the ground. The next thing I remember is them snatching my bag off the floor and running away.

    The problem with this ordinary mugging isn't that mugging itself, its losing your peace of mind. It is just like that annoying ADT commercial about a family that was robbed and the thing they missed the most is their peace of mind. You see, back then I used to walk around at all hours of the night. If my dog had to pee at 2AM, out we go! If I went to see a midnight movie, on the train home I go. If I wanted to talk to a friend, out on the bench in the middle of the night I sit. When you're young and ignorant to the world, none of these things matter. How badly I miss those days! How badly I miss the days when empty streets meant room for daydreams and not unnecessary fears. When I didn't fear my own shadows created by street lights and that most people behind me on sidewalks are indeed just trying to pass me by. But over the years the fears just compiled to the extent that I lose sleep over them. Being prone to anxiety is bad enough, and paranoia does not help, its rubbing salt in the wounds.

    But what happens if you watch the World Trade Center towers burn with your own eyes just 2 blocks away? What happens when you constantly seem hear of train and bus bombs going off in cities where you had just visited or that your family lives in? What happens when a theater you had just seen a play in a few months earlier is taken over by terrorists (look up the hijacking of Nord-Ost) and over a hundred people die? What kind of fear does that create? What kind of awful world is that to live in?

    Its a world of macro and micro fear and its no way to live. To tell you the truth, no one has ever done more damage to me than myself. Given all these awful and uncontrollable things, being born with a faulty brain chemistry is no picnic. And its hard to see what the end of the world looks like with your own eyes while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge covered in ash and believe that things may one day be OK. I sometimes envy people who due to their own brain chemistry seem to lack empathy and turn their hatred outward and not inward. But dammit, my empathy and sensitivity are needed in this world too, even if its a world I fear. My fear makes me want to make things better and my empathy makes me a better designer. My logical thinking and understanding of the fact that some people are awful and some people are great but its also not black and white makes me see the world clearer sometimes. I don't believe that I am sheltered or protected or watched over by some magical being and that karma will always find its way, though I sometimes envy the people who do as they seem to have an inflated sense of comfort. It is what it is.

    So what is the conclusion here, if any? I suppose its that my biggest enemy is one I cannot control and that includes the one between my ears. It's the fact that I can watch the city burn and still fear old boxy green minivans when they seldom appear on the street and wonder who is inside of it. What I need to come to terms with is the fact that I am the one who has been driving that minivan for almost a decade now and maybe, its time to get a Ferrari.

    Week 16 of 52 - Story a Week in 2014
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