A couple tough ones

As the “Get to Know Your Otis” series continues, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and tackle a couple of the tough questions together. They come from of people I respect and admire for their tenacity, maturity, and frankness. Before I begin, you should know that i have no idea how or if this post will end.

Question: Why are you afraid of life? What are you trying to avoid or escape? –Aaron

Question: Why are you so unsure of yourself? Whenever I’m with you, you project warmth and calm and confidence, but when I look in your eyes I see a very unsure young man. You have every advantage — you’re smart and good-looking, you have a terrific and beautiful wife, a respectable job, you’re funnier than hell and great to be with. Everyone likes you… except maybe you. So what gives? –SW

Bill Clinton’s PR people came up with a really good line when they prepped him to do the publicity tour for his book, My Life. When asked to explain why he did what he did in the Oval Office, he was instructed to preface his statements with a disclaimer (paraphrased): When trying to provide an explanation, please don’t think I’m offering an excuse. There is no excuse.

While no huge fan of the former President, I thought this was a good way to set up his explanations. More often than not, efforts to explain negatives often sound like poorly formed excuses.

So, while loathe to borrow from Clinton, I guess I will.

I have no excuse.

That said, I find it interesting that people perceive me as fearing life and efforting to run away from it. I’d like to think I practice the contrary, thus, loving life and embracing it. But perhaps that’s not the case.

I have to believe that I’m no different than most people in my inborn belief that it is my duty as a member of the breathing human set to become something greater than I was created. If not to grow intellectually, humanely, spiritually, and, sure, financially, then what is my purpose? I reject that my purpose is simply to be. And if that is my purpose, then I reject the notion that I cannot try to rise above the premise of my being.

I do not believe that growth has to be tangible or even realized outside of my personal recognition of it. That said, if I don’t see growth, or movement toward purpose, the stagnation scares me. I feel as if I’m moving backward.

Perhaps, you say, that’s a little heady. Focus more on being a good person, a good father, a good worker and then you’re doing your job.

Chris Rock has a bit where he takes parents to task, those parents who take credit for taking care of their kids. To paraphrase Rock, “Fuck you. That’s your job. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Don’t expect a pat on the back for that.”

Maybe that’s a little harsh, but that’s sort of where I am. I’m striving to be good at the things I’m supposed to do, then move past that toward whatever the greater purpose may be.

A lot of people I know would suggest that I’m lost because I have no underlying spiritual guidance, that my lack of regular church-going and tangible prayer are making my quest for purpose impossible. I reject that as well, just as I would reject most anybody else’s suggestion that they know how I should live my life. The only person that knows how I should live my life is me.

But that doesn’t answer the question. What am I running from? What am I afraid of?

The easy answer: Failure.

While I don’t know what the end-game is, I’m perpetually afraid of failing to meet the goal. Of course, it’s awfully hard to fail at a game in which I alone set the rules and I don’t know what the winning score is supposed to be.

There’s the rub, friends.

I am not a perfectionist in many things. I’m happy to let a paint drip be. I’m happy to miss a spot when Windexing the mirror. However, when it comes to moving forward and not growing stagnant, I’m always aware of the minor flaws in my action.

I can hear the chorus of the reasonable folk out there: You, Otis, are a puss. Grow up. Get in the game. Financial well-being means nothing. Success is defined in many ways. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Grow a pair and get out there.

I know. I do.

I’m not unhappy and I have no real need for material things.

Why am I unsure of myself?

In short, because I know, I know I can be better. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been fortunate enough to have no real problems in my life, especially in my childhood. I lived a happy middle class life, kept both my parents and all my grandparents until this year. There are so many people out there who’ve had to endure so much that I’ll never have to face.

Because of that, I feel like I am obligated to springboard off that good fortune and become…for lack of a better word…something greater.

So, that is it in a nutshell. I don’t really fear anything but failure. I’m only unsure of my ability to not fail.

I’m sure there’s probably some social pathologist who could pinpoint my neurosis, but, frankly, I’m not all that interested in hearing it.

I’ll figure it out.

Now, can we please get on to an easier question…

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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