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The Other Side of Fear

A man on a park bench sitting next to his happy dog
Giorgi And His Shih Tzu, Tbilisi, Georgia

It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, Corie and I were in a frantic race to empty out our little adobe house in New Mexico, getting rid of most of the stuff we had accumulated in our fifteen years together.


We had made several trips to Santa Fe to drop load after load of donations to Look What the Cat Dragged In, a thrift store that helps fund the Santa Fe animal shelter. By that time, we had made so many donations, we worried that the next time the staff saw us driving up, they would quickly turn out the lights and flip the Open sign to Closed with the line “Come back again” crossed out.

 Fortunately, that never happened, and they gladly took all our stuff, even though we wondered where they would even put it.

 During that time, I had near nightly panic attacks. At the time, I called that three-a.m. voice in my head Steve, a billy goat that jerked me awake with its panicked “BAAAAAAAAAA!” Steve demanded to know why we were leaving two well-paying jobs we enjoyed, giving away everything and jumping into the uncertainty of moving overseas to a country where we didn’t even (and still barely) know the language.

 Steve had plenty of ammunition from many well-meaning people who would ask us questions along the lines of “are you crazy?”

 If you would pick a person most likely to make such a drastic move, I would be pretty far down the list. In fact, I would be in Appendix Z of that list. The last entry. Most of us are trained to work to make a comfortable life for ourselves and seldom consider other options. I know because I was one of those people.

 I kept reminding myself of a quote I often heard, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

 What a difference twenty-four months makes.

 It feels like spring today in Tbilisi, and the parkway that runs several blocks down the street from our apartment is filled with people enjoying each other’s company, walking dogs, reading books, and eating lunch. Life has once again emerged from its winter slumber. The small playgrounds along the way buzz with the excited sounds of small children racing from one activity to the next. It was a time like this last summer when I photographed Giorgi and his happy little dog, who were enjoying the late afternoon view together on a park bench.

 I asked, in my limited Georgian, if I could take a photo of Giorgi’s dog. He smiled and slid closer to his shih tzu and grinned for the camera. Having been a proud dog father myself, I knew his joy of showing off his furry friend. I pulled out my phone and showed him photos of Puck and Psyche, our two dogs that passed away in 2021. Giorgi and I couldn’t speak the same language, but we found a bond.

 Many times on days like this, as I’m strolling along the parkway watching life unfold around me, a thought crosses my mind: I can’t believe I get to experience this!  Travel offers many rewards but for me, none compare to the joy of knowing that, despite borders, languages, and customs, we humans are pretty much alike anywhere on this ball of rock in space.

 Experiencing that gratitude does something strange. It starts to devour fear. It tells billy goat Steve, “Everything’s going to be all right, we can do this.”


There will soon come a time when I will forget the details of what we dropped off at the thrift store two years ago. But I’ll never forget Giorgi and his dog on the park bench. That’s the reward on the other side of fear.  


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