InterviewWhat's New

Bike Stories: Fear

Hi, I’m Brunella, a young international girl living in Groningen and curious to know the everyday nature of the inhabitants of this city. One thing connects all human beings, regardless of gender, color, class, or sexuality, and that is the need to question everything and seek comfortable answers–as irrational as it might be. So, that’s how this series called Bike Stories began: where I ride my bike, find strangers, and interview different people with a question essentially related to what makes them ordinary humans.

This week’s theme: Fear. It’s such a natural thing to feel fear, to be afraid of real things, of abstract thoughts, of nightmares, of people, of rationalities and irrationalities. I think everybody has a memory of being a young child and feeling fear towards something that nowadays, as an adult, seems ridiculous. However, how ridiculous can our fears truly be? I wonder sometimes why we fear the things we fear, and what exactly that reveals about our subconscious or our experiences. Fear is something very natural and often not talked about. People don’t enjoy exposing themselves and their vulnerable fears to others, and sometimes I wonder why this is.

In honor of this week’s theme, I chose to approach people who – for one reason or another – I wouldn’t normally approach out of fear. Fear of discovering things I don’t wish to know, or things I should find out. This time, I let my curiosity out for a stroll in order to challenge some fears, and I asked two people the following question: What is your biggest fear and why? Here I present their answers:

Person 1:

– I got it, it’s routine! I dream about it and it’s quite petrifying. I have always been this way, I like to do a lot of different things. I like to be busy, making projects, and completing tasks. I don’t like feeling bored, and I don’t like scheduling my life. Someone within me is quite against the idea of scheduling what I will do because it suddenly makes it something I am supposed to do and this doesn’t sit right with me.

What exactly scares you about routine?

– Particularly, I think I am scared that if I settle for a routine I will stay there and stop moving. I don’t want to stop moving, I want to continue to drive my curiosity towards new findings and answers. I don’t want to spend my time settling for a routine, I don’t think I can, I would be unsatisfied for the rest of my life. I know that a balance is necessary and sometimes, we must give some type of routine into our life. There are times when you also have to be organized and set aside your fire to do what you must do, like for work or during the exam period. But, if I am already going to have to do that out of the necessity of my career, why would I actively choose it in every other aspect of my life? Why would I throw the towel and give up on my wish for newness?

Why do you like to always be moving?

– I like talking to old people a lot. I like the stories that they have to share with me. They tell me about their lives, what they have lived through, what they enjoyed, and what they didn’t. The fact that they have lived their lives like I am doing now, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, getting their routines shattered by the ironies of the universe, and still continuing to move. Their perspectives are truly intriguing to me.

Through them, I have learned about the shortness of life. I think that our society highlights the irrelevance of life. Nihilism is the new epidemic in our society, and as seducing as the philosophy might be, it unsettles me at times. Talking to old people allows me to attribute meaning to this meaningless world. Through them, I realize that this piece of existence – as irrelevant as it might be to the major cosmical meaning of things – is all I have and will ever really have. Hence, I like to find meaning in everything I do. I like finding projects, people, and things that provide purpose to my existence; stuff with meaning that spikes my curiosity and motivates me to look for other stuff with meaning. 

Why does meaning matter to you?

– I am curious about many different things and that gives me meaning to keep living and experiencing everything as I go. I enjoy letting go of the worries of expectations, of the boredom of routine, and just doing certain things because I feel them. This detachment is so freeing, it brings back all colors to my life, and it makes me very happy.

I am also still very young and I refuse to limit myself now. I don’t want to stop yet, I want to continue living with excitement and ambition. I am afraid of having regrets, of not doing things and missing out on opportunities, and life-changing alternatives that I didn’t explore out of fear. I want to reach an old age, look back, and feel satisfied with what I did with my little time here. I refuse the idea of getting lost in the monotony of routine.

Do you think routine can be meaningful?

– Not for me. I understand that some people enjoy it as it gives them structure and, in a sense, provides them with a clear purpose. However, I fear that in my case, routine would stop me from evolving, and I am addicted to newness. During one of my classes, we studied how traveling can be addicting to people since it slightly activates addiction patterns and provides an effect similar to adrenaline. Seeing things for the first time, sensing the newness of colors and sounds, of faces and moments, makes us experience satisfaction like no other. It activates our reward system. 

For me, the newness in my life is addicting. It makes me be in constant awe of life. It makes me feel passion, drive, ambition, and fire. The idea that there are things out there – waiting for me to see them, to feel them, to learn them – makes me fall in love with my life. Everything seems to fall into place and makes sense when I find meaning in the things that I do, and routine does not allow me to explore what I truly want to do, as opposed to what I should be doing.

So, in a nutshell, what is your biggest fear?

– I am scared of staying still. Think of it as sharks. When a shark stops moving forward in the water, they die. I feel like that sometimes. I feel I cannot stay still, it goes against my nature. I must continue to move forward in whatever direction. I cannot settle for a nature that doesn’t correspond to me, I must continue feeding my curiosity – I must live through it, I have to in order to live.

Person 2:

– I am afraid of having war in Europe. We would lose everything we have built, everything I have always looked for and thought I had found. My friends, my family, my home, my entire life. Just the thought of it terrifies me. I cannot afford to start over, not now, not again. 

When did you come here from Palestine?

– I came to Germany 30 years ago. It seems so far away now, so distant from my life now. I loved my life in Palestine, my family, my youth, my people, my places, my tongue. I reminisce on it quite often. I sometimes like to picture how my life would’ve been if I had stayed. My original plan was to move to Germany for my studies and then go back. But life got in the way, I met a German man, married him, and formed a beautiful family with him in Europe. I don’t regret  

Sometimes, I look at my daughters, I see what they have that was once mine, I notice how they resemble me and I wonder how my life would’ve been if I had stayed, if I hadn’t escaped before time gave me reasons to. The war crushed every single hope I had ever had for returning to live in my motherland. My close relatives and family have emigrated to the country, the war has not let us continue the path of our legacy. I still have some people left behind there, but most of the people I love have escaped and that is as much a relief as it is a break of heart.

How is the situation internally, if you don’t mind me asking?

– I dread watching the news and seeing another Palestinian life being ripped from the world, another dying child, another mourning mother. The situation back home breaks my heart into a million pieces, and the fear of the war coming into my new home does not let me be at peace.

The people that I did leave behind are situated in the West Bank, not in Gaza. I have lost contact with many of them, and retain scarce communication with the rest. But the Israeli occupation has made sure that all are punished for the situation in Gaza, regardless of where you are. My relatives there are punished with a fear I hope I never have to feel, and I am punished with a grief that few can understand.

Why do you think war could be coming to Europe?

– The situation in Ukraine made me quite anxious and sensitive, I am now in constant contact with fear. I am afraid of losing my dear ones, of losing the life I have constructed to the curse that has followed my people for decades now. My dream was to live in peace. I knew that in Palestine we could not live in peace, and with the utmost pain, I took the decision to choose that peace over my love for my country. Hence, I came to Germany and now, I feel like war is coming after me. 

Here in Europe, nobody can see the truth of Palestine. In Germany, because of their history, they deny the Palestinian suffering to protect the Jewish legacy. I am not free to say my opinion. I am not free to grieve out loud. I would be arrested if I wore the flag of my nation if I publicly stood with my kind. It breaks my heart that my home has been wrecked by war, it scares me to death that my new home might be in danger of falling, and the apathetic responses I receive in Europe just let my view on humanity down.

So, in a nutshell, what is your biggest fear?

– I am scared of the war following my footsteps and coming after me. I am aware that Europe is not at war at the moment, but they are preparing to defend themselves. From Russia, from China, from whoever that may come their way. This thirst for the evil that men hold scares me, and Europe is no exception. I have nowhere to run, even if there is no war there is no rest, as war could always come and no one likes surprises.

Their prevention terrifies me, I once saw it and look at Palestine today. I cannot afford to lose my life again, I will not be the subject of another cruel sacrifice. War is about power, to a point where it supersedes humanity itself. It is a corrosive being that conquers men’s desires. War has control over me as well, war has me gripped by the neck and tied by the hands. I have been terrified ever since I met war in a man’s eyes, and I don’t think I’ll ever recover from this fear.

Fears can be real or abstract, they can be something relatable or completely unique and niche. Fears can come in different colors, temperatures, sizes, and faces. However, in spite of its diversity, fear is something all humans feel, and somehow dread. We fear being afraid and therefore try to avoid situations where we must face up to our fears. Yet, life works interestingly sometimes, and fears appear in places or responsibilities we cannot escape. We cannot avoid fear, so in the end, it all comes down to how we face it.