Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Peacebuilder? On Decisions, Fear, and Taking Risks

Akhila Kolisetty
United States

"I want to be the woman who flies fearless into the unknown nevertheless, armed with a sense of casual self-confidence and a deep inner conviction that everything will be just fine. "


Ah, yes. The shallow pounding of the heart, the sweaty palms, the sudden inability to focus on the task at hand. The overwhelming feeling that everything might be lost, at any moment now.

Fear. A sadly familiar friend of mine. My worst enemy, turning me from a confident woman to a cowering child unable to make her own decisions.

For me, fear of risks has framed some of my more unfortunate life and career choices. Spontaneity and risk-taking are not my fortes, unlike many of you jet-setting international development professionals and human rights activists who fly to conflict zones to report on ongoing wars and genocides. I want to be that person, but I worry I’m not and never can be. I want to be the woman who flies fearless into the unknown nevertheless, armed with a sense of casual self-confidence and a deep inner conviction that everything will be just fine.

But no, not me. Instead, I am a chronic worrier. As I try to sleep, my worst fears force me awake. I ponder the choices available to me, rapidly glossing over the pros and fixating on the cons. And at the last minute, my fears overpower me, preventing me from making – perhaps – the right decision. I am paralyzed, like my favorite protagonist, Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock, a patient etherized upon a table. Like Prufrock, I have “time yet for a hundred indecisions / And for a hundred visions and revisions.”

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— [...]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

I am a wishful dreamer and endless optimist stuck inside a pessimist’s mind. The glass half-empty is my cage. My fears enslave me, forcing me to measure my life in coffee spoons.

A loved one recently told me, “Don’t make your decisions based on fear. Make your decision based on the positives. Ask What can I give back instead of What is the less scary choice. What would you do if you were not afraid? Go out and do that."

But it is far easier said than done, isn’t it, to take fear out of the equation? I’d allow myself to dream of going to Afghanistan for the summer, but then come crashing back to earth when I see 2 American Troops Killed in Shooting on Military Base and UN Staff Withdraws from Kunduz Province and UN Compound Set Alight. It is easier said than done to remember only the peaceful and lovely moments I witnessed there – speaking with young girls about their dreams of being a doctor, laughing about Hindi film stars and the latest Bollywood movies, enjoying a mango drink and chips at Bagh-e-Babur, seeing a spectacular view of the Hindu Kush, buying trinkets and a rug in Chicken Street – while disregarding the chaos and fear that is prevalent in the U.S. news channels today. My experience there was full of learning and beauty, but how can I ignore what might be an alternate reality I could descend into come summer? Read the entire article here.

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Tags: Bagh-e-Babur, Development, Frontlines, Hindi, Kunduz, Kush, Peace, Province, Risk, Voices, More…X, from, the, women, work


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