One of my biggest fears in life is not being in control. This may seem like a foreign concept to a lot of people, but to me the idea of not being able to control everything and everyone petrifies me. Recently, when I noticed how afraid I was of letting go of this control I was reminded of my teenage years and the uncertainty that life seemed to bring with it.
I spent my teenage years in the country and by the age of eighteen had sadly grown accustomed to funerals. To give you an idea of the present situation, last year road accidents were the single biggest killer of 15 to 24-year-olds in New Zealand, and were the leading cause of permanent injury for this group (ANZPAA, 2011). Thirteen years ago it was the same and driving while drunk was a very common occurrence for young people living in country towns.
There was a time when it felt like every week another friend, or friend of a friend, was dying in a car crash. It was an incredibly sad situation that left me in a constant state of dread as I tried to avoid worrying thoughts of who would be next. I remember, as if it were yesterday, sitting in my friends lounge at the end of a party and hearing a siren scream down the road at the end of the driveway.
The look of terror in the eyes of my friends must have mirrored my own as we scanned our minds hoping beyond hope that it wasn’t our sisters, or brothers, or best friends, or classmates, or anyone, for that matter, we knew. This night was no different. It was six young men we all knew, my friend’s brother was among them, and it was one of the most horrible accidents imaginable. No teenager should have to go through that. Not once, not twice, and definitely not to the point where you lose count of the number of times it has happened.
It was this uncertainty that left me grasping on for dear life. I would do anything, and everything, to avoid this heightened sense of stress and as a young woman I used alcohol as a coping mechanism. The irony of this does not escape me, as it was the very thing that had caused all this pain in the first place.
Today I no longer have alcohol in my life to rely on as a way of escaping these fears and anxieties and I have come to realise that life is uncertain. Bad things happen, there is no stopping this. There are also many joys that come with life and it is when I focus on these that I have a good day. My friend has encouraged me to say, “my name is Tess, and I do not know” when I am in the grips of fear, and she is right. I am unable to predict what is around the corner and, more importantly, I have no control over the outcome. It is when I take hold of the reins and gallop full steam ahead that I suffer. However, when I sit back and let life unfold, everything seems to run smoothly. This means letting go of the reins and trusting my healthy steed will lead me exactly where I need to go.