GUEST POST: Marcy Kennedy – Icarus and My Fear of the Sun

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I am so excited for today’s guest blogger, Marcy Kennedy. Marcy’s blog, Life at Warp 10, is one  of my absolute favorite blogs. She is a fellow nerd and is a master at taking familiar stories that we nerds love and applying them to real life in some profound way. That is exactly what she has done with today’s guest post, this time through the story of Icarus. Without further ado, I will hand it over.

Icarus and My Fear of the Sun

I have an unusual fear, one I don’t normally talk about. I’m terrified of ending up like Icarus.

Icarus’ story is one most of us have heard. Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were imprisoned in a tower by King Minos so that Daedalus couldn’t share information with the public about the Labyrinth he’d built for Minos. Because Minos guarded both land and sea routes, chances of escape seemed slim.

But Daedalus was a talented inventor. To escape, he created wings from feathers and wax for himself and Icarus. He told Icarus not to fly too high, or the sun would melt the wax holding his wings together, and not to fly too low, because the spray from the sea would saturate the feathers and drag him down.

Partway home, Icarus, drunk on the joy of flying and freedom, forgot his father’s warning and soared too high. The scorching sun melted the wax, he lost all his feathers, and he plunged into the sea below. In the end, he drowned.

Like most people, I’m afraid of failure, of getting my feathers wet because I couldn’t figure out how to fly high enough, and simply sinking away into the sea. Forgotten.

But I’m more afraid of success.

It’s why I don’t know how to take a compliment. The first time my flute teacher told me my low notes sounded full and rich, I can remember not wanting to play any more low notes in front of her. What if that success was a fluke and I couldn’t replicate it? It sounds silly, but it’s true.

Every time I succeed, or receive a compliment, like Icarus I want to fly higher, do better next time. I want the joy in that moment to last forever. But I also I don’t want to disappoint anyone who had great hopes for me. I want to live up to all their good opinions and show them their faith in me was justified. Each success takes me higher and means I have farther to drop should I fall.

And with each success comes the fear that I’ve finally gone too high and reached a level I’m not able to maintain. I’ll scorch my feathers in the sun and free fall, disappointing everyone who glued a feather onto my wings.

I think, though, that I might have finally figured out the secret to staying in the air, even if I start to fall. Icarus and his father were alone on their flight, so his father couldn’t warn him in time and, when Icarus fell, his father wasn’t able to save him. One set of wings wasn’t enough to hold up two people.

But two or three sets of wings might have been able to support the additional weight. If we surround ourselves by a loyal group of friends rather than going it alone or only flying with one, we’ll have people who can catch us before it’s too late. We’ll also have extra sets of eyes to warn us if we start to fly too high and take on more than we’re capable of handling. Together, we’ll all be able to reach our goals.

Are you more afraid of success or of failure? Who do you look to when you’re afraid you’re about to fall?

Marcy Kennedy is a fantasy author who also works as a freelance writer for magazines, newspapers, and non-profits and a freelance editor for both businesses and individuals. Her current work-in-progress is a co-written historical fantasy about Amazons. When she’s not wrestling unruly commas, she spends her time with her equally nerdy husband, her Great Dane, and more cats than she’s willing to admit to in public. You can visit her at her blog, Life At Warp 10.

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33 responses »

  1. What a great post! You are so right, Marcy. I fear failure, but I fear success more. If we achieve what we really want, than we have that much more to lose. I like your suggestion of having friends help and guide along the way. That makes flying high that much less scary.

    • Exactly! It’s that fear of getting what I want and then losing it that really terrifies me. I find myself even thinking of future book advances in those terms. If I get a small advance, it’s that much easier to earn it out. But if I get every writer’s dream of a big advance, will I really be able to earn it out? Or will that success kill my career?

      Even though all decisions are ultimately ours to make, friends can advise on, help us, cheer us on, and pick us up when we fall. And I don’t remember now who said it, but I know there’s a saying floating around that the way to get your dreams is to help others reach theirs. I believe that 100% :)

  2. Great post, Marcy and thanks for having her, Jess! There is such a fine line between the fear of failure and success that it’s often hard to determine on which side your fear lives. I know I walk it like a tight-rope.

    • It is a fine line. For me, I think I fear success more because you can fail quietly. Privately. That hurts less in a way. (It still hurts, but at least you can nurse the wounds without everyone asking you them, wanting to speculate on them, and pouring salt in them.) When you succeed and then can’t maintain it, it’s always public.

    • If Icarus hadn’t at least taken to the air, he’d still be trapped in the tower. He’d be alive, but what kind of life would it really have been.

      Is that a play on Taylor Swift’s “a careless man’s careful daughter”? :)

      • I’m proud to go on record :) I’ll listen to almost anything in fact. Well, minus rap (hate it) and heavy metal (gives me a headache) and that style of music that always sounds like people are screaming at me (I don’t like to be screamed at).

        Is that you acknowledging that was a play on Taylor Swift? ;)

  3. Wonderful post, as usual, Marcy! I agree with Ginger that the line between the fear of success and failure is a thin one, but I think I fall on the side of the latter. Sometimes I get paralyzed by the thought that I’ll fail in my endeavors. It takes so much energy to battle that fear, but I’m working on it. :D

    • Thanks! I’ve sometimes wondered if whether we fear failure or success more is influenced by our personalities or our upbringings or a combination of both (sorry, that’s my psychology background bringing out the old nature-nurture debate :P)

      It’s one of the most exhausting things to fight our fears, but it’s well worth it in the end :)

    • One step at a time is always a great philosophy :) I recently read a post by Dan Blank of We Grow Media that asked a similar question as you just did. Do you understand how you life will change if you succeed at your goals/dreams? I think it’s an important and valid question for everyone to ask themselves because otherwise we risk the “grass is greener” syndrome.

  4. It takes a wise person to recognize and admit to a fear of success, Marcy. Your post made me think of Aimee Lui’s great book, GAINING: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders, speaks poignantly of people’s fear of largeness, not regarding physical body size, but emotional wellness, confidence and success. It’s a great read for anyone with failure/success insecurities—i.e., most of us?? ;)

    I’m pretty sure that I’ve feared failure and success and various points in my life. I don’t think I struggle much with either anymore. Then again, I could be in denial. LOL I find that proactivity, focusing on my passions and surrounding myself with positive, loving people helps kick fears of many kinds in the bud. Thanks for the insightful post!

    • I’ll have to check out that book :)

      I think based on my personality (I’m a perfectionist who’s struggled with feeling worthwhile most of her life), I’ll always fear one or the other. For me, the key is learning how to manage it and not let it stop me from doing what I love and what I know is right.

  5. I don’t think it’s succes or failure that gets to me, I think the reason for my lack of being published is that I fear actually being published and all the media and promotion and people meeting etc., I would love to have my poems published in book/booklet format other than my website, yet I don’t push for it because of all that goes into to it nowadays, same with my novel, heck that scares me even more ha ha!

    • Sounds like you’re a smart man. Being a published author is about more than just writing anymore. If that’s not the kind of life you want (and it does involve a LOT of media, publicity, promotion, networking, etc.), then find the way to write that makes you happy. Success means something different to everyone. Don’t ever let someone push you into published if you don’t want it. But if you find one day that you do want it, don’t let anything–including fear–stand in your way!

    • I felt especially bad for Icarus’ father the first time I read the story. He probably felt so guilty for his son’s death.

      Self-sabotage is something I’m extremely familiar with (more than I like to admit).

  6. Thank you Jessica for having Marcy here today! Fear is so crippling. My father used to use a quote, “There’s nother to fear but fear itself!” And it’s so true. But I think I fear failure more than I fear success. That said, I don’t want to succeed for the attention or recognition. Rather I would like to succeed for the internal esteem within myself. To be able to say that I did that and it was good. :)

  7. Thank you everyone for all these wonderful comments! I am so pleased to have Marcy here and to see that so many of you connected with this post just as much as I did. Thank you, thank, you, thank you Marcy for providing this honest and thought provoking post. It is a perfect example of why you are one of my favorite bloggers.

  8. Thanks Marcy, I really enjoyed your post. I think there are many of us out there who are afraid of shining because we are afraid of failing. Your point about it being even tougher once we have been complimented is spot on!

    • The strangest part is that we all (secretly or not too secretly) love compliments. They make us feel good. But then when we start thinking about what it means…yeah, it all goes downhill from there :)

  9. Hmmm, I think I’m more afraid of failure. As in, what if I publish my book and no one reads it? It’s pretty depressing to contemplate. But even worse is imagining being on one’s deathbed, wondering “what if?” That’s what helps me keep going – that and the fact that I love the actual process of creating. That as much as I love hearing people say they enjoyed my book, I’d still write even if no one read it. Probably not as much though! I can relate to the fear of success too, though – what if I don’t live up to people’s expectations? I hate disappointing others, especially if they’ve paid for my work!

    • Having someone pay for my work and be disappointed is definitely something I fear as well. I know how cheated I feel if I bought a book and then don’t enjoy it. The best we can do is work hard, seek the advice of people we trust, and then go for it :)

  10. What a beautiful post, Marcy! Fear is the great crippler. The act of leaping into the air to soar or fall is one of tremendous courage. Thank you for sharing your courage and your insight, reminding us all that we are stronger together.

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