Fear of the unknown and change are two things that can be powerful in their ability to paralyze someone, to make one panic, to create immense doubt in oneself. It does get easier to handle as time moves ahead, but those first couple of times can be awful.
That first time for me was going away to Chicago for college. I realize Chicago is not far from the burbs of Detroit, but as someone who had always lived in the safety and care of his parents at home and had never been on his own in any capacity, the fear of adulthood, of independence, of leaving friends, of the (perceived) loss of the safety net that were my parents, all terrified me. I wanted to delay it as long as possible because I had so much doubt.
The weekend of August 21st, 1999, it was the start of orientation week and registration for classes. My parents and I drove to Chicago a day or two early to spend time with my extended family. However, I had made a deal with my parents I would drive back with them to Michigan on Sunday because I wanted to spend one last time with my friends -
at an REM concert on Monday, August 23rd, 1999.
To this day, I still remember and cherish those final moments I had with my best friends in high school before we all parted ways to college. Daddy at first didn't understand why I wanted to do it, but when he saw how important it was to me, he said okay.
On the drive home, it was silent in the car. I just stared out of the window as Daddy drove back home. In hindsight, it was probably as hard, if not harder, for my parents to let me go, but I couldn't appreciate it at the time.
The concert was amazing; I can still hear and remember how I felt when "Nightswimming" played through the night. My best friends wanted to see me one last time the next morning before I left to the train station with Daddy, where I would take the train to Chicago by myself. That morning was an absolute emotional maelstrom. We all were crying so hard; it seemed to mark the point where my childhood had officially ended. Daddy gave us our privacy, and when it was near time to go, Daddy quietly called for me and said it was time to leave.
On the drive to the train station, the only sound in the car was my sobbing. Daddy was very stoic the entire time. Before I boarded the train, Daddy gave me a huge hug, kissed me, and told me something along the lines of "everything is going to be fine. You will be fine". It didn't feel like he was telling me the truth at the time, but of course he was. And the reason he knew it was going to be fine is because he went through the same thing growing up.
My Neelam Buaji once told me a story of how Daddy was supposed to go for an interview at IIT-Bombay for college. However, Daddy did not go because he was scared about being away from his family, with the familiarity in which he grew up. Obviously, his parents were very upset with him, but that fear of the unknown and change paralyzed him. Finally though, when an amazing opportunity to attend BITS-Pilani appeared, he swallowed his emotions and followed through with it.
And everything ended up more than fine as is evident in everything I've written thus far.
He traveled half-a-world away and built an amazing life for himself and his family. Each new unknown and turn in life was simply viewed as something else he knew he could navigate, and his fear decreased more and more each time. Life is unpredictable, and what Daddy did was focus (mostly) on the things he had control over. And I (try to) do the same thing.
Be proactive, not reactive.
Daddy's blood flows through me, and his spirit lives on within my heart. As a result, I know his strength resides in me. His life taught me many lessons, most importantly that moving forward, no matter how hard the struggle, is infinitely better than standing paralyzed in fear.
I can overcome my fear, my doubt. I am Mahendra Dalmia's son, after all.