The Girl Next Door

When I was 12 years old I lived next door to the most beautiful girl in the world… at least my world back then. I had a massive crush on Pam Diekman, the proverbial girl next door.

Every school day morning I stood poised at our living room window, lunchbox in hand, ready to hustle out the door when Pam left her home to walk to the bus stop. The moment she stepped out of her front door, I quickly rushed out of mine, walking frantically to catch up.

My goal was to arrive at the end of Pam’s driveway exactly when she did, so we could walk to the bus stop together. For a heavenly four minutes I would have her undivided attention.

As time went by I noticed that Pam left later and later each morning, until eventually we both ended up running to avoid missing the bus. Looking back I suspect Pam delayed and delayed, looking out her window, hoping I would leave my home first so she could walk to the bus stop without me. 

Every December our junior high school held a Christmas dance. Each morning while walking Pam to the bus I dreamed that we might walk into the dance together. But on no given morning could I summon the courage to ask Pam to that dance. 

Since I didn’t have the guts to ask her in person I decided to do it by phone. Each day at school I committed to calling her that night. But on no given night could I summon the courage to make that call. 

I even lied to my dad when he offered to drive us to the dance. I told him I had called Pam, and while she desperately wanted to go with me, her parents insisted that she was too young for a date, so we had to wait until next year.

As I look back, I wish someone had whacked me and said, “Greg, your #1 enemy in life, in the battles you fight, in the challenges you face, in the dreams you won’t achieve… is the BIG F. It will be the most negative force in your life.” BIG F – FEAR. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of embarrassment. 

It’s commonly thought that laziness is the cornerstone of failed dreams and disappointing lives. I don’t agree. I’ve found that most people will work vigorously to achieve their dreams. But their doors of opportunity don’t open because they don’t push hard enough or kick them down. Fear holds them back. 

At the age of 12 I didn’t realize that fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, and fear of failure are merely mental bruises. They hurt your ego, not your body. When you don’t keep pushing, don’t keep asking, and don’t keep trying, you’ve said no to yourself. 

Beginning 2020 I look back on a life of exciting chapters. But I could have experienced more (like taking Pam to the school dance). The BIG F held me back.

We all fight the Big F, concerned about the possible rejection, criticism, and embarrassment that can come from taking risks, forging paths, and pushing hard. I find guidance in Herodotus, written in 440 BC, a founding work of Western literature. 

“It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.”  

Thank you for reading my articles this past year. I wish you noble boldness in 2020… and beyond.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
-Susan Jeffers