Fear and Loathing in Nebraska

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The fear of losing the thread of return dooms us to sticking pretty close to home. And that is a high price to pay, for this is a very big and a very surprising universe. 

— Peter London, “No More Secondhand Art”

Staying tethered too close to home is definitely not what I’m after. And fear is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Recently, we Art Farm residents were having dinner at the Don’t Care Bar in Marquette, the town closest to us, population 229. A frantic bartender approached our table asking if any of us could help wait tables since their regular waitress had walked out wordlessly that night, and they were severely shorthanded.

Looking around at the empty restaurant, I shrugged and agreed.

I hate waiting tables and bar-tending and anything else that you do in that industry — mainly because I have worked in every possible post in restaurants and bars for many years, supporting myself though college. It’s not like I forgot about this when I agreed to take the gig on — it’s just that I feel like I should say yes more and see where it takes me.

But the day before my first shift, I found the anxiety sinking in. I’m painfully shy, I remember suddenly. Talking to strangers makes me excessively nervous. What am I doing???

My friend Aimee and I had been talking about how fear can sneak in and start to affect your actions, how younger, wilder, less wise versions of ourselves had led us to make decisions that were dangerous and eventually regrettable — and how that has led us to be — often regrettably — less spontaneous, less wild and less free than we actually hope and want to be.

We agree to let go a little — small things at first — and allow ourselves to return to those essential beings. And I watch as Aimee, afraid of heights, scales a tall ladder, climbs the scaffolding in a barn and jumps out on a rope swing.

I push forward in my own little ways. I go in and do the work. The evening is busier than I expected, a flashback to why I quit waiting tables long ago and a reminder that my current day job isn’t that bad after all. At the end of the night, Patricia, Ben and I put money in the jukebox, order extra large spiced rum-and-cokes and play pool with the locals.

Why is it important to face fears as an artist? Well because art is like life. Because making art is essentially facing fear, facing the blank page, facing your real, innermost emotions, looking at the world and having the courage to say, “This is how I see it.”

It’s balancing your feet on the edge of the floor, reaching out for the piece of rope and swinging out into the open.

And I think to create real art, you have to live for real. And that can be scary sometimes.

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