Today I woke up to news of a friend from high school being severely injured in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan - by late afternoon it was confirmed that he had been flown to Germany to address his life-threatening wounds and died soon thereafter. David Smith was a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and a graduate of Frederick High School. He and I trudged through several classes together and shared many of the same friends. David was always a big guy with a big voice and I always felt like he could turn out to be the ultimate macho man, rambo tough guy, or an educated softie living a quiet and simple life in Frederick. He ended up choosing the former and as far as anyone can tell, enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t know much about David’s history after high school and what I knew I gathered from facebook: he was a Marine and many of his political views annoyed me, but I could never argue his love for our country. David was a brave guy with a kind heart and everyone who knows him will remember him dearly and miss him greatly.
I know it’s selfish to think of one’s own morbidity at the behest of a friend’s death, but I think there are salient lessons to be learned through such introspection. It hit me today that I live life crippled by fear. Not in the sense that I lack a certain machismo or physicality (I’ll never be that guy), but a fear of failure and judgment; the type of fear that will ultimately lead to a life of mediocrity and personal disappointment. Insecurity is paralyzing and irrational. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that dying an enigmatic, under-appreciated figure was somehow more dignified or admirable than leaving behind a trail of clear and honest words and actions. Clear and honest. Living and dying in fear of judgment or ridicule only leads to being misunderstood both in life and in death - that sucks.
So what is the real takeaway here? No more fear. Well, less fear. To hell with the ‘what if…?’ questions. If I have words to say, say them. If I have songs to sing, sing them. If I have dreams to chase, chase them. The cost of failure is nothing when the veil of fear is lifted. If and when I die, I want to be clear where I stood, what I believed and what I wanted to do.