The F-Word

We all have a word that pops into our heads when we see the f-word. When I wrote this over a year ago, I wasn’t thinking of a swear. Although I swear like a sailor, I wasn’t thinking of a curse but of the future.

I also think of being fine, having faith, and fear. People swear they’re fine. They swear by and on their faith. And they swear when they feel fear or frustration. It’s funny what swearing and the f-word have in common.

Etymologically, swear used to mean “take an oath.” Oaths accompany an understanding of the future. Swears exist to protect legacies and loved ones or to fulfill last wishes. So when I swore to myself and God, it was for all these things.

Less informed by fear and more by ignorance, I changed. My perspective on “settling for fine” and the future shifted. Now, I swear on and for greater things. See just how far I’ve come from time in the story I’ve included below.

An Anecdote

One Friday night during my freshman year of college, I was with a gaggle of would-be friends wandering the empty streets of Lubbock.

It was sometime in the fall because it was cold. I remember because of these terrible boots I wore not made for walking. They had these weird foldover pirate flaps at the top with built-in wedge heels. 

Imagine walking in see-your-breath weather with ridiculous things flapping around your legs. Frigid toes and heels rubbed raw by inadequate support. I wasn’t just wandering unsupported on cobblestone streets, but in destinations towards health and happiness.

It was one of my first memorable journeys into apathy, one I soon wouldn’t be free of. I had lots of fun with mental health the following year. And entertaining my apathy seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured not caring was better than hoping and getting hurt.

My big mistake was assuming that daydreams and self-centered wishes were on par with hope. And what I didn’t realize was the way those meaningless moments would all blur together into one greyscale spiral of indifference.

My first avoidance of dealing with fear (the real f-word) was this indulgence. I dubbed this particular day, Fuck It Friday. At the time, it was in the YOLO spirit. I can’t remember if the same night I championed for apathy was one more night spent just trying to feel alive.

Maybe it was the same night we snap-walked arm in arm across the lobby of a residence hall, as the street boys from West Side Story. Or perhaps it was another night of wandering in the frigid cold with “friends” I barely knew. At this point, it’s pointless.

I would say, “The end.” But there’s no one clear ending to this particular story. My journey through numbness, hopelessness, fear, and apathy was only beginning. I came out the other side (eventually) with a swear to live for today and tomorrow.

Now, I know not to place faith in fleeting feelings. I felt like I was embracing some spontaneity and an idea of freedom. But I was wrong. I was the kind of wrong you are when you’re not yourself.

I was the kind of wrong that made it seem like indulging indifference was a good thing. Thank God I’m not afraid of the future anymore. 

By no means am I insinuating that I’m fearless. No. What I am is aware of my fears and flaws in different ways. The future is no longer a gaping maw of uncertainty but a realm of possibility.

The Way of the Future

I used to fear the future. I used to have faith in the future. I pinned all my hopes and dreams on the future. I lamented my ignorance of the future. I pretended to be ready for the future. I made plans based on the future. I wished I could predict the future. 

I dreamed of what fantastic things or people I might encounter in the future. I stared into the weeks, months, and years of the future, instead of tomorrow or even later in the same day. My idea of the future blinded me. I used to curse the future. I treated it as a living, breathing thing, the future.

My eyes were closed to the gift of the present. I was invested in the unpredictable, ever-shifting future. I didn’t put stock in myself or my God, so how could I ever cash in on the moment?

I never pursued loan sharks but cashed in deals with my inner demons. The exchange rate wasn’t too bad, and I had quite a high percentage of interest from,which these demons benefited.

If I granted twenty silvery pieces of faith, patience, or love, I’d receive a small slice of feeling happy or fine.

Of course, I didn’t know what the actual cost would be. Like most young adults, I invested my hope in the wrong thing. I ended up paying emotional and spiritual dues with interest.

When I desired to overcome my fear of the future, I settled with feeling fine. The ‘F’ word used to be the future, and all I believed or felt about it. Now, my new ‘F’ word is ‘fine.’ To which I say, “Fuck that!” Who settles for average when they have all of today before them?

Fine is on par with average or boring. It’s equivalent to settling for less or treating the mundane as ideal. There’s nothing wrong with the ordinary, mind you, but it shouldn’t be a goal. Normalcy isn’t admirable. (At least settling for the same-old safe thing is just an excuse for not trying to grow.)

Most of the time, people don’t associate ordinary with fine. Most of the time, people say they’re fine when they’re anything but. And this kind of willful ignorance or denial of whatever you’re feeling or experiencing is detestable at best.

“Fitting in” is for those uncomfortable with themselves. It might be ideal for a spare few whose lives are challenging and whose definition of “fine” is surviving. Fitting in is for townhomes and cookie tins. Fitting your life into these four small letters is something we should swear at and against.

They feel unworthy. They’re ignorant of the present opportunities in their lives. Or they don’t have sufficient motivation. Any of these reasons aren’t good enough. If your life isn’t where you want it to be because you’re starting over, start small. Baby steps and living day-by-day are a good thing sometimes, especially if it’s all you can do.

I say forget being fine unless your life isn’t already average. If you’ve lived a life full of fear or faithlessness, then you are the exception. Most people settle for less than they can have or deserve. Even those in terrifying exceptions make it through with a faith in something greater than themselves.

For some, all they do is spend their entire lives trying to move from the bottom to “fine.” I think of those with chronic conditions of the body and soul, those whose every day is a battle. These should never be excuses, but reasons to seek out normalcy.

The beauty of average is its subjectivity, much like perfection. Yes, there are objective measurements of ordinary, but people aren’t objects.

Find your “fine” and flip it on its head. Turn your every day into a new starting point. Make extraordinary your average. If you fear swearing to yourself to have faith in a world and a God you just haven’t felt yet, I dare you to.

Don’t let your inner demons determine how you live. Don’t let fear define or limit who you can be for yourself and the world. Even if you’re afraid of failing, don’t forget it takes aiming for success to even fail at all.

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.

Stephen King

Stay tuned for more of my personal thoughts, reflections, and anecdotes. For now, expect them weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up for email reminders below so you don’t miss out.

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