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September 10, 2013

For much of my life, there’s been very little that I’ve feared.

This statement is probably best depicted by the years I spent living in southern California.  One of my best girl friends in southern California is a celebrity publicist for a pretty impressive list of clients.  As such, many of my evenings in my early 20s were spent going to red carpet events laden with everything from A-listers to C-listers to really disastrous reality TV “stars.”

When I began going to these events, my friend that I would go with and I would generally hang out and be low key in the back of whatever store or space the party was overtaking.  Our general thought was, “We sure don’t belong here.  We better not make ourselves noticeable.”  To put it mildly, we were afraid that someone would catch onto our being there and quickly escort us out, much to our embarrassment. 

After attending a few of the parties, though, something struck me:  Nobody else in this place realizes that we are a) not celebrities and b) probably not supposed to be here.  Like them, we had traversed the red carpet.  Like them, we had passed through the velvet ropes.  Like them, our name was checked off the list (albeit from the bottom of the list). 

Given these realizations, I quickly realized that our “back of the house” antics were anti-productive.  I noticed that we were missing some key opportunities to network with powerhouses in the entertainment industry because of our mere fear to approach them. 

One day, as we were driving to some party for Guess!, I broached the subject of just chatting up the celebrities at these parties with my friend that I would go to them with.  As she should’ve, she thought my idea was crazy.  However, I was fearless.  So, after we passed over the red carpet and through the velvet ropes into the Guess! store on Rodeo Drive, I began making my rounds.  I chatted up Marc Jacobs.  I grabbed the arm of one of the Marciano brothers and we discussed his latest designs as I mused about “just how fabulous the spring 2009 collection” was.  I may or may not have had a terribly awkward encounter with the guy who played Ryan on The OC.  He was by far the most unwilling participant in my escapades.

The point here, though, is that I was fearless.  After the last glass of champagne was poured and my friends and I piled in whatever car we came in, they would giggle about my antics.  “Shameless” was a word they threw around a lot when it came to me.  It later would become a game, where they would eye a celebrity and essentially dare me to go chat them up.  I always performed and save for Ryan from the OC, everyone was actually pretty cool and willing to talk to me.  The fear of being rejected or my pride being insulted was so far from my mind that in all honesty, I couldn’t be stopped.  I was a party planner’s worst nightmare. 

For me, though, this approach was second nature.  Throughout my entire life, I have been taught several important lessons by my parents.  The first, is that we are all equal.  We may look different, come from different economic backgrounds, have different educational experiences and different titles.  But at the end of the day, not one of us is better than the other.  The second important lesson they taught me, was that if I set my mind on something, I can achieve it.

I have armed myself with those lessons throughout most of my life.  And that armor has opened up great doors for me.  It has opened up great doors for me, because at the end of the day, I am not afraid to put myself out there.  I am not afraid to ask for what I want.  I am not afraid to be rejected.  I am not afraid to go after my dreams.  Failure in any of these areas does not scare me.

Knowing about the fearlessness that drives my personality, I was stunned when I realized something earlier this summer:  I am afraid of something. 

Earlier this summer I turned the page on a three-year relationship.  Getting to that point was difficult, filled with tears, a lot of pain and many sleepless nights.  Getting there involved long talks with friends, a lack of understanding from my family and general confusion on my part.  The relationship wasn’t abusive or anything too horrible.  Rather, it was something that wasn’t up to my standards.  To put it mildly, it was going nowhere mostly because of the circumstances we found ourselves in.  Yet, for three years, I held on tightly to it.  At the time, I couldn’t tell you why, but I believed in it with all of my heart.  Even when all signs pointed in the direction of, “Alicia, you need to pick up your stuff and move on,” I would stay or come back.  I couldn’t let go.  For someone who prides herself on being strong, having high standards and not putting up with nonsense, these actions of mine were so confusing to me.

Finally, on a Sunday morning filled with a lot of tears, prayer and what I thought would be regrets, I let go.  I hit my breaking point, made a call and pulled the plug.  In one of my bravest moments, I let go. 

In that moment, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  In the days after, I wondered if I could go on.  And about three days after it all unfolded, I did something I had never done before:  I drove to Barnes and Noble and purchased a self-help book.  The question I sought to answer, was how a person like me–who is generally void of fear–was so afraid to let go of something that wasn’t as good as it could be.  Why was I afraid to move on from this relationship that at the time, I thought was comfortable, and throw myself into the unknown?

In the days that followed, as I read that book, I learned that I struggle with the thought of losing people in my life.  It made sense, given that I grew up next-door to my elderly grandparents and stressed a lot as a child about their deaths.  As such, I have a tendency to hang onto people in my life for longer than I should.  I also work hard at maintaining relationships that probably don’t deserve maintenance.

So, why am I sharing this with you?  Why am I opening myself up like a person lying on a therapist’s bed?

I’m doing it so you can see the power of fear.

For three years, fear held me back.  It held me back from better relationships.  It held me back from men who may have actually given me what I want–a ring and a chance at building a family.  It held me back from realizing my full potential when it comes to relationships. 

Fear held me back, because I was afraid of letting go.  Fear held me back, because its ugly grasp convinced me that there was nothing better out there.  Fear held me back because the thought of doing things on my own scared me more than doing them not as well as I could with the person I was with.

A year or so ago, I was strolling through one of the kitschy gift stores that I love visiting so much.  I passed a stand of quotes enscribed on canvas.  One of them read, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

“Interesting thought,” I thought.  At the time, I didn’t think I was afraid of anything.  I put myself into the world of the media, even though I had no formal media training.  I fearlessly pursued relationships in the sports industry, even though in my early days, I really had nothing to offer those I was seeking to get to know.  I had no fear in cold calling TV stations and radio stations and asking for the opportunity to discuss stories on air.  Traveling alone, eating alone and living alone didn’t even cross my mind as things that should scare me.

This summer, though, I finally realized that I do have fears.  And while it was scary and painful, at the end of the day, it made me feel human.  The vulnerability filled my soul, and in a crazy way, it gave me hope.  It gave me hope, because by recognizing what I was afraid of, I could begin dealing with it.  And the best way to deal with fear, is to decide that you are no longer scared of it.  The best way to deal with fear is to look it in the face, tell it has no place in your life, move around it and get to where you need to go by escaping it.

I’m no longer afraid of losing someone.  And because I am not longer afraid of losing someone, I can finally work on letting the right person in.

Each of us has our own fears.  Like I say our dreams are, our fears too, are personal.  What do you fear?  How is it holding you back?

I ask, because I want to tell you a secret:

The sooner you stop your fear from controlling you, the quicker you can make your dreams come true.

So, let go.  Move on.  Take that big dream and make it a reality. 

Fear says you can’t.  Reality says you can.

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