Throughout my twenty-eight years, I have been categorized at every end of every spectrum imaginable: fat and thin, friendly and bitchy, shy and shrill, a prep and - during one very confusing interaction on the streets of London two years ago - a goth. And, excluding the one marked "goth", these labels have been true at some point or another whether I've wanted to claim them or not. I know better than to consider myself a martyr in this regard. We're all constantly placing them on each other and most of us will spend years of our lives oscillating between the anxiety that comes from trying to shuck those labels and the anxiety that comes from trying to live up to them.
But I currently find myself in a very curious situation, one that I can't remember having encountered at any other time in my life. It seems that the one label I feel should be plastered largely and boldly across my forehead will not be given to me by you all. So today, I am giving it to myself.
I, Lacey Neel Taylor, am absolutely terrified.
Telling you this feels like a bit of a reckoning or, at the very least, a confession. I'm not sure exactly why that is but I think it's because for the past few years I've been wielding the label of bravery like a bad cop with his badge, flashing it at anyone who dares get too close or look me in the eye. I have proudly exhibited evidence of my courageousness and flaunted anything I thought would make me seem fearless. Even my vulnerability was calculated - sharing just enough to seem relatable but never enough to tip my shaking hand.
But today I am taking those shaky hands and using them to give all that false bravado the middle finger. The badge is gone and in its place are shaking boots. Because I am terrified. And before you get too curious about what is making me so scared, don't worry. I'm going to make sure you regret ever asking.
I am terrified that a snake will come out of my toilet pipes and bite me in the ass. I am terrified of cockroaches. I am terrified that I will never find work that fulfills me. I am terrified that I'm going to post this and offend someone or worse, bore them. I am terrified of the fact that I'm not even thirty and am already considering botox. I'm terrified of cancer. I'm terrified that the best things in my life will fall apart and the worst things will never change. At least once every yoga class, I'm terrified that I'm going to fart. I'm terrified that my plane will fall out of the sky or my car will crash or a piano will fall through the apartment right above me. I'm terrified that I have not adequately expressed the things that I feel to the people I love most. I am terrified by what I see in the news. I'm terrified that people will think I'm fat at my ten-year reunion this month. I'm terrified I won't find friends in Los Angeles. I am terrified that I've missed whatever boat was supposed to take me to the place where I become a responsible, healthy, well-rounded adult and that another one will never pass my way again.
These are things that keep me up at night. Sometimes they seem insignificant enough to laugh off and other times they are so insurmountable that the thought of putting on real pants is more than I can handle. One might say this seems like a classic case of anxiety disorder to which I'd say yeah, sure. One might say this could all be quelled by quality time spent with Jesus or Buddha or a therapist, to which I'd say done and done and done -- in fact, I'm still terrified my therapist doesn't know how much she meant to me because I was too scared to hug her goodbye after our last session before I left New York. One might say the fact that I am 'fessing up is proof that I am, indeed, deserving of the bravery label but to end on that feels dangerously close to the thing I am perhaps most terrified of -- being cliche.
So, instead, I think I'll just keep all of the labels every given me. I'll mush them all together and maybe I'll sort them out and figure out which should stick around once I finally get on the boat that takes me to the place where I can wear the label of confidence...confidently. But until then I'll be terrified. And brave. And friendly. And who the hell knows, maybe I'll even be gothic when it's all said and done. But above all of those labels, I'll hang the one I'm sure I am, and that I feel a little bit closer to after writing this.
I'll be human.