ORDER Paper 16.03.22

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Write about your biggest fear.

I have a pretty long list of fears, including but not limited to; extreme heights, getting lost in the middle of the ocean, and being sent to outer space. I’ve had nightmares about being lost, being left and being forgotten. And yet, no matter how disconnected, a common thread always leads me back to the same place: I’m afraid of nothing.

Most of all, I’m afraid of amounting to nothing. That in thirty years from now, despite all the wanting and trying, the doing and dreaming, I’ll look back on my life and be sidelined by my previous definitions of success. But how exactly do you describe failure? The shape of its efforts, the bitter taste in your mouth. The sound of all the things left unsaid.

And there are plenty of things left unsaid. Between the stranger in the street, a man who used to lay safely in my sheets. Between my mother, and my mother’s mother, and down the line it goes. Between my ex, who I’m not sure really understands how I feel or how I ever felt. Or why we left everything that way.

We aren’t taught how to fail, and we aren’t taught how to put the fear of failure into words. The trying, the wanting, regretting and forgetting, backstepping and recalibrating. And each time I think I’m on track, I look to my left and I’m right back where I started.

What if I peaked too early? Where do I go from here? When will you forget me? Because you will forget me. Don’t worry, I’ll forget myself too. One day, I’ll regress to an outline of what I used to be. Nothing more than a few memorized words and, if I’m lucky, a couple of children to take care of me.

Luis Bunuel describes it best, “You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realise that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all… Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.”

I think that’s the keyword here: nothing. The thing I fear the most is movement in an empty space. The way a room crumbles, dried paint spilling from the wall. Cities filled with lights that will either shatter or burn out. The temporariness of it all. Everything I have seen and will ever see will die. That is what frightens me.

by Jamie-Lee Rowley

Credits

WordsJamie-Lee Rowley
GraphicJacob Corbett