0019 – The Origin of (some of) My Fear

Police cars in Berlin blocking off a street for a demonstration against Israel, October 2023

I used to be less scared of failing, or at least I think I did. I’ve grown up in an environment that encouraged ambition but at the same time placed a heavy penalty on failure. This is paralyzing. Speaking of The Membrane, that I wrote about a few days ago, I think parents who are able to provide that kind of shield may also feel guilty for doing so and in response simulate the harshness of the world.

Trying to teach your child about the harshness of the world instead of letting them experience it for themselves is a noble yet dangerous approach, I think. Instead of letting them develop and understanding of the reality of things, it sets the parent up as the presenter of reality, a representative of the harshness. 

This sets up the parent and child for disaster in the sense that the parent is trying to keep in mind what the world needs from the kid and the kid is chasing that dynamic projection of the world in the parent’s mind. The parent doesn’t treat the kid as their child but also as a potential participant in the world as they imagine it. If ‘the world’ is seen from a scarcity mindset that can be unnecessarily harsh.

Therein lies the tension. You spoil your kid, feel guilty then turn up the heat on the simulation to the point where it becomes unrealistic. Instead of the kid trying to navigate reality, it tries to navigate a shifting representation of reality. It feels like a game whose levels don’t make sense because they don’t come from anywhere realistic. 

At some point we have to let go of things but it takes a long time to depattern oneself. This is why I’m writing. I wrote to a dear friend last night and she told me she reads this blog. I didn’t even know. I mean, I shared the link but I don’t have tracking on the site (that works) so I have no idea who is and who isn’t reading. If you are, please comment or tell me or something because then I know:) 

Maybe you’re reading this after a few years, maybe it is me reading this after a few years. Even a few weeks makes a difference. S told me that he doesn’t recognize me from a few weeks ago. I do, I feel I still carry my fears the same way but sometimes it takes someone else to tell you how far you’ve come. 

This is my fifteenth day on the streak, can you believe it? I feel like we’re going somewhere, together. We’re climbing a peak or descending into a labyrinth, whichever you prefer. I’ll be here and I’ll be narrating my journey.

V said something last night: “All that you have that’s integral to your life cannot be lost. Your heart, soul, skills and close relations”. I’d like to keep and ponder on that. It will be fine, not because of The Membrane but what it seemingly protects. 

I’ve been in pretty stressful situations before. A client even threatened to sue the company I was working for. I was in a video call and he looked at me and said: “Aren’t you a bit young to be a CTO?”. That stung because I felt like my imposter syndrome had been turned up to 11. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. It’s hard to know what you did right and wrong in a certain time. It takes perspective. Are you a bad captain if the ship had a leak that no one saw? There’s that illusion of choice, maybe if I did x or y. There’s a balance of course where you have to maximize your agency, be aware you did and then just take a break and do something relaxing. You have to know when you’ve done your best (regardless of result). 

It goes for everything, relationships too. Sometimes it doesn’t work and it’s nobody’s fault. You can be happy that it worked for so long to begin with. A says “it is the general state of things to not work” and yeah, it’s our lifeforce that actually makes anything happen. Be ok with it going slowly and maybe janky but as long as it goes that’s what matters.

I may also be feeling this way due to the winter closing in rapidly. The leaves have deserted the trees here and everything has become a hard grey. Part of me fears this Berlin. It seems so harsh and unforgiving. I feel very much taken care of and at home in the flat but in the city? Not so much. I thought of Oslo a lot this morning. It’s clean, safe but I also imagine myself walking around and looking for food or something to do and I always come up short. I’ve walked those streets so much I can walk them in my mind, backwards, blindfolded. I feel full to my neck in many ways. 

On the other hand, I look at Germany and Berlin. I test the ground under me and it seems so spiky and unwelcoming. I’ve never been treated as well as I have than by random Norwegian bureaucrats, they are paid well and are taken care of. The same can’t be said for everyone here. People seem just a bit more miserable. Germany is real but I’m not sure in a good way. You have more possibilities but the floor is lower and maybe the ceiling is higher? I guess that answers it. Within Norway, I don’t have that many more questions left to answer but in Berlin I have a lot more without any real answer. That’s a good way to think about directionality, I think.

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