Fear and St. Croix.

Been thinking about fear lately. Prior to even coming down to St. Croix, all I could think about, and all that came to mind when picturing St. Croix, was violence. Friends who lived here had always told me about the dangers of the island. The rape, the shootings, the generalized lack of safety of this place. I would idolize about sitting on sandy beaches, but then I would worry about walking to my car after a night out, or even after a shift at the hospital.

I cannot pinpoint an exact moment when fear pushed itself to the foreground of my mind. It has been gradually increasing over the last decade. And it definitely took full control after I was mugged at knifepoint 3 years ago. He left me unharmed physically, for which I am grateful. But it was the mental assault whose effects were much longer lasting.

When I was 22, I traveled around the world. This was before Facebook, before the widespread use (or at least my widespread use) of cellphones, before I had a digital camera or an email address not affiliated with my undergraduate university. I was, for a 4 month adventure, on a ship which brought me from one exotic port to another, with minimal connections to home. I got to experience third world countries and explore areas I hadn’t even learned about in high school or college. I rode a motorcycle around the crowded streets of Ho Chi Minh city; I drank absinthe in a dark bar in Shanghai, I went swimming with jellyfish in Malaysia (and learned the wrath of their stings); I frolicked with Bollywood stars in India; went on safari in Kenya; wandered the post-apartheid streets of Cape Town, went sky-diving over table mountain, and got my nose pierced in South Africa; went to a remote beach in Brazil with 1 friend and 2 strangers; saw Fidel Castro speak in Havana. I did this all (mostly) without fear.

When I think back on my traveling days, I have extreme nostalgia, but I also fully realize how young and carefree I was. It was some of the best times of my life, but I’m not sure I could do it again with as much unbridled spirit as I had then. Because now, I have fear. I wish I didn’t. And it’s not to say I don’t do anything adventurous, or dangerous now. But I’m much more cautious and careful. I am constantly looking behind my back.

My job also helps perpetuate my fear. I see the end products of terrible decisions or of unfortunate outcomes everyday – whether in New York City, Boston, or St. Croix. Seeing two sexual assault victims on my first shift in the ED down here, I was dismayed, and it only served to somewhat cement the thoughts and preconceived notions I had already had.

Now, I should end this (long) thought with the statement that I love St. Croix. It’s a beautiful island, full of wonderful, friendly people. The locals have shown me so much love and kindness. And, they are far better, more considerate drivers than Massachusetts residents will ever be! I wouldn’t trade my time down here for anything.

But I will be (unfortunately) watching my back.