my life in south korea: the opposite of fear is love

it’s a cold afternoon in South Korea. i’m in this local cozy coffeeshop that happens to play my favorite playlist in the background. and it just occurred to me that may be there is nothing that a good cup of coffee, dark chocolate and myself can’t fix.

yesterday, with a group of friends and my professor, we went for hiking in one of the toughest mountains i have so far hiked. there is something about me that you may not know. i have a phobia of heights. despite my genuine  admiration and deep, deep love for heights, i am equally terrified of it. usually my mind fails me, takes me into a world where everything is spinning and i get extremely nervous and panic so i end up losing my balance and control over my next steps. but this time, no. this time i went a little closer.

there are two things i want to tell you about. fear and mountains.

i am not quite sure if there is a clear definition to what fear is really like. but i do know it’s like a monster that can chase after you and for as long as you let it. then until the day in the course of your life at some point you decide to stop and look at it. this is when you really realize that the fear you thought of a monster was actually a small, tiny, a little bit of an idea you made it into this big massive potential thing.

i have also learnt that the opposite of fear for me isn’t actually not being afraid. the opposite of fear is love. for everything i am afraid of, like the heights, i have the other side, which is deep love. if i am not afraid of something, then i have no love for it too. and it works the other way round.

yesterday, that big rocky mountain reminded me of fear. the moment i looked at it, and i thought to myself, “oh God, i am not sure i’m going to make it, this is too big and i am too small and i have phobia…” and all the negative thoughts started pouring into my brain and making me feel paralyzed.

well, until love stepped in and said, ” wait Ashna, you love heights,  i am here for you, you woke up this morning and you told me you are going to choose me and stay committed, what happened now? can’t you trust me? listen, darling, just take a deep breath, look at me. we are going to do this together.”

and so if i would have chosen fear, the scenario would go something like this;

“wait, everyone please, i am sorry. i cannot make it, none of you knows that i have phobia of heights and this mountain is too steep and rocky and i just cannot do this, i am going back.”

OR i would just sit and probably cry because nowadays i am just way too ready to shed tears and i would draw everyone’s attention and then they would help me go back and everything would be fine.

BUT, i chose love.

and i did not mention, not even a single word to any of them, of all the thoughts and emotions i was feeling at that moment. so every time they asked me if i was doing okay or if i needed any help, i would say, yes i am doing okay, i just need to rest a little that’s all and then i would smile and keep going. until we made it to the end.

where i come from, in kurdistan, there are mountains everywhere, and i have had the chance to hike few times,  but the ones i have hiked were never too difficult to hike, well except for that one time before i come to Korea. and yet despite that, i have had my moments of break down each time.

mountains seem to me very much like life. there are countless things i am afraid of in life ( which means that I deeply love too). some of my fears don’t even make sense to me but i think i tend to be afraid because fear is comfortable, temporarily. sometime i choose fear because fear seems to be easier for me to handle, the least i can do about it is to avoid it. while love tends to need hard work. it needs commitment and energy and your whole heart. and i tend to think that whole heart is something dangerous because then i have to also consider risks. but what i have learnt about human heart is that it can hold this entire world and still have some space for the galaxies. there is just no end to it.

with that, i can tell you proudly, that i went until the end. i hiked that difficult mountain and all the way, there were all many colors of autumn.  대둔산 (de-dun-san) which is a rocky mountain located in the northern part of South Korea is known for its beautiful autumn scenery. on the top, we had to cross a footbridge that linked two parts of mountain together, which is another fear of mine. there is just one time in my life that i have crossed footbridge before this one when i was in Malaysia for a trip and i almost crushed down. but i think doing it the second time made it a lot easier.

so i can tell you, my life in Korea is difficult and challenging and sometimes it’s this big massive potential monster that scares me but also it’s beautiful and purposeful and i know i am exactly  where i am meant to be.

each and every day, i am getting a little closer to conquering those mountains, the ones that represent fear for me. and that’s a true blessing.

one mountain at a time.


now let me take you through the beautiful scenery…