What To Do When Fear Takes Over: A Letter From The Editor

 In Culture, Feature

I pulled my canvas coat around my shivering body and looked down at the mud on my day-old cowboy boots. Cold water had tipped out of a hanging bucket that precariously swung on the side of a sliding wooden door. It made for a thick puddle that was unavoidable for a thirteen-year-old coaxing an old horse out of a barn stall. I stepped in the wet dirt eagerly, more concerned about solidifying my place as a true rider and less concerned about my cold feet. My boots, the halter around my horse’s head and the crisp saddle he wore were a medley of birthday presents I’d received the day before.

My charger stood about 15 hands and had grown a thick black coat to shield him from the January wind. He wasn’t a touchy animal; in fact, my parents had chosen him because he was gentle and not easily spooked. A safe bet for a young, inexperienced horseman. We both shuttered a bit as we walked into the sun and the freezing air nipped us. A light snow had fallen the evening before and was slowly melting away from the frozen grass. But I wasn’t deterred. I grabbed the reins and saddle horn with my ungloved hand and swung my long leg over his back sliding my new, wet boots into the stirrups.

We easily trotted out behind my older cousin who had started riding into the field below the barn. We hadn’t walked 100 yards when in the distance an old truck backfired—or maybe it was a gunshot, at this point it could have been an imagined January firework—the horse was spooked. My easy going old steed was at once a startled mustang. He dug in, I held on, and he started sprinting away from the barn, away from whatever danger he had interpreted through his pinned-back ears. I was terrified, freezing from the wind blowing my long hair in front of my eyes, and fearful I’d soon be bucked from his back, or, at the very least, driven into the barbed fence that was growing closer by the second.

Through his snorts and snapping bridle, I almost didn’t hear my cousin yelling, “Give him his head! Lock your heels down! Stop pulling him back!” But I did hear her, and I released my clench around his withers, hugged his ribs with my legs and dropped the reins so he could do what he was made to do. His speed slowed; he stood straighter. I felt the fear leave him, and he stopped by the safety of a bare tree that grew near the edge of the pasture. Most animals—not unlike most humans—when given respect and left to their own devices, will find the right way out of a challenge they’ve stumbled into.


This issue brings us a group of people who we can bet have been frightened a time or two when walking their path. Lucky for us, they kept on.

Chris Swanson realized early that his love for music needed to drive his career, and he scraped by, working odd jobs until he could make it happen. Swanson’s wildly successful roster of musicians and labels has bolstered the careers of Grammy winners like Bon Iver. Writer Eileen G’Sell illustrated Susan Barrett’s jack-of-all-trades approach to work and life, unapologetically pursuing what moves her (even when it scares her) and successfully building her world around not being “just one thing.” Artists Katelyn Farstad and Amy Stroup—while working genres apart—are both mixed-media artists playing in music, illustration and design. Danez Smith is so much more than an award-winning spoken-word poet, and it’s far too simple to say that Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon are simply the proprietors of Scratch Brewing Company.

The vulnerability and occasional fear that a creative life demands is familiar to most. What we can remain confident in, is that when we feel scared or reluctant to take a risk, the best approach is to lean in, trust your gut and hold on tight.


Find me on Instagram @rachelebrandt and Twitter @rachelebrandt. I’d love to connect.
This letter was originally published in our first print issue of 2018. Find the full issue on alivemag.com/subscribe.

Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino.

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