When I was in fifth grade, I loved liked this girl named Victoria. Victoria was an angel. Ever since she let me cut in front of her on Taco Tuesday, she had my heart in the palm of her hands. She was everything I could have possibly wanted–she knew her long divisions, she always smelled nice, and she even had most of her adult teeth! That’s like… rare.

Problem was, she didn’t even know my name. To her, I was probably just the chubby kid with a bowl cut in row three. For almost a semester, I never worked up the courage to talk to her, and then one day, it was too late. Victoria walked into class holding hands with… Todd. To this day, the pain still lingers, marring my childhood with prepubescent heartache and disappointment. I was devastated.

Fear is an interesting phenomenon. It manipulates the mind into thinking one has everything to lose even when the risks are minimal. With Victoria, I was afraid of rejection and public humiliation. Kids can be so cruel, but what did I really have to lose? I was already the anonymous bowl cut sitting at the other table. Unfortunately, fear is still an impedance for me. I feel compelled now to share a little bit more about myself. My greatest fear in life is to die without doing something meaningful. Throughout college, this fear was consistently on my mind, maybe to the point of obsession. It brought me to an unhealthy place because I never really defined what “meaningful” entailed. Consequently, I avoided most activities in fear of wasting time on meaningless ones. I became hermit Joseph, the dorm-room dweller.

Even now with Project Ava, I still ask myself everyday, are we really making a difference? Are we really needed in the world? Are we the best people to do this? For me, I’m lucky because I have a beautiful team that reassures me. Just this past weekend, we were in a meeting and Courtney, our newest Creative, said something profound that touched my heart. She started crying, to everyone’s surprise, and through the tears she told us about how she hasn’t been happy in Denver for a long time. She told us about why she’s been unhappy. She told us that ever since joining Project Ava, she’s found her passion again; she’s found something meaningful again. I couldn’t help but also tear-up.

I realized something then. My fears in life do not just affect me. My choices in life do not just affect me. Anything I do can hold meaningfulness if I choose to view it that way. I never dreamed that Project Ava would be a tool of healing for me and my teammates, but when you’re afraid, it’s hard to dream about anything. Author Bob Moawad once said, “You can’t make footprints in the sands of time if you’re sitting on your butt. And who wants to make butt prints in the sands of time?” Not me.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”Merriweather” font_type=”google” text_size=”14″ align=”left” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]You can’t make footprints in the sands of time if you’re sitting on your butt. And who wants to make butt prints in the sands of time?[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″ width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]Just in the past couple weeks, I’ve learned three things from my teammates about facing fear that hopefully you find useful. If not, I apologize, but please still like this post:)

1. You don’t have to face your fears alone. There are people out there that care about you and want to see you grow and succeed. Lean on them. Ask them for advice. Talk with them about your concerns. Sometimes, the right perspective and words can change your whole experience.

2. It’s okay to be afraid. If we don’t accept this and acknowledge our fear, we then avoid the tasks, people, or feelings we are afraid of. In the long run, we miss out on some incredible experiences. As the saying goes, you always regret what you don’t do over what you did do.

3. Footprints are easier to make then butt prints. All the emotional energy and time we place into thinking about our fears is actually more draining than just doing it. Even if we fail, it’s then over with. No more dwelling on the subject.

So… Victoria, if you’re reading this, my name is Joseph and I really like you. I drew a picture for you in art class about 13 years ago, and my mom still has it. I have a new haircut too. Let me know if you’re interested! P.S. No one really liked Todd.

Tomorrow, we’re releasing a new Project Ava web series called “Ava Update.” It’s a chance for everyone to get to know the team, and I think you all will enjoy it, so stay tuned:)

Ava love,

Joseph

Written by Joseph Zhang

Joseph is the co-founder and Board President of Project Ava. He believes a well-told story can foster understanding, promote awareness, and inspire people to action. He has a love for writing and film making, both of which has led him to various parts of the world in search of meaningful stories.

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