what dostoyevsky taught me.

A better title of this post might be: what my senior year English class taught me. Or maybe: what John Burke taught me. Mr. Burke had the most intense passion for seemingly ordinary things – his wife, his daughters, soccer, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, love, and passion itself. Truly, I’ve never met another human being who was so passionate about having passion. He told us frequently that having passion for your life was the key to happiness, success, and fulfillment. One day he admitted to us that he was feeling a bit tired because apparently he’d been up past midnight with his daughter after soccer practice. She was attempting to break her personal record in juggling the soccer ball with her feet, and, to Mr. Burke, nurturing his daughter’s passion and drive was worth burning the midnight oil on a school night. That story has stuck with me because it’s not something I would have ever done at that point in my life. I frequently stayed up very late doing homework in high school, but that was more out of a sense of obligation and guilt rather than because I was passionate about math problems. Mr. Burke’s passion for passion affected me deeply, and I think his zeal for life is part of what continues to inspire me to live my every day to it’s crazy, limitless, zesty fullness.

One of the things Mr. Burke was most passionate about, at least in front of our class, was Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. The only thing I have to say about that book is that I can identify with people when they claim that the crime was writing it and the punishment is reading it (sorry, Mr. Burke). However, it did produce one of my favorite quotes of all time. It happened to be a quote Mr. Burke loved, too, and therefore one that he used frequently.

Be of great heart, and fear less.

Pretty simple, huh? Be of great heart. Fear less. This quote popped into my head while I was flying over the Pacific yesterday, well on my way to Seoul. I was worrying. I should have been doing a dozen other things right then – watching one of the free movies, sleeping, reading, eating, anything! – but I was worrying. Worrying about what? Oh…worrying.

Read that again. I was worrying….about worrying.

I honestly can’t think of anything in the world stupider than worrying about worrying. It’s a completely downward spiral! By worrying, I’m fulfilling my worry about worrying. I’m an idiot. I was afraid that once I got here I’d be so worried about where I was going, what I was doing, whether or not my bag or wallet or passport was where it should be, whether I was doing the right thing or going the right way, that I wouldn’t have time to stop and enjoy where I was. Though that may be a legitimate concern, worrying about it was exactly the wrong way to avoid making those mistakes. Instead of being of great heart, instead of fearing less, I was fearing more, and that simply wouldn’t do. Not on this trip.

So, I did what I usually do when stress strikes, I turned to my journal to make lists. Digging it out of my bag, the first thing I see is the small square of paper two lovely friends had taped on the inside cover before giving it to me. It reads, I kid you not, “Emi – No Fear.” Did they know me so well that they could see my nervous irrationalities coming? Maybe it wasn’t me specifically they knew so well as people in general. They were wise enough to know that even the most nonchalant and unfazed among us experience fear at some point in our lives. That doesn’t make us weak. We are only weak when we allow ourselves to sink into that fear and wallow in it. When we forget Dostoyevsky’s timeless command to be of great heart.

So no more fear of fear.
No more being constrained by past negative events.
For goodness sake, no more worrying about worrying.

I’m chasing my own stars. I’m writing my own story. I am my own hero. If you take one thing from this long and rambly post, it is that: Be of Great Heart, and Fear Less.

I promise to try if you will.

(A more substantial, tangible update on what I’m actually DOING is coming soon, I swear. Thanks for sticking with me. Check out the new photos of Siem Reap on Facebook if you haven’t already!)


6 thoughts on “what dostoyevsky taught me.

  1. Hi Emi! I can honestly say,you are well beyond your years being in touch with your heart and soul. I did an entire bible study called Fear Less! It is not an easy thing to do sometimes in this day and age of such world turmoil and tragedy.As a mom, we fear many things for our children! However, we always do need to remember that God is with us wherever we go – and we are in His hands.
    Remember this scripture as you take your journey:

    God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.~ 2 Timothy 1:7,

    Love you!, Aunt Sue

  2. Samantha Staskiewicz


    I love this post and I feel the exact same way about Mr. Burke’s passion. One minor correction though, it was Dostoyevsky who wrote C&P 🙂

    I am looking forward to reading more of what you’re doing in Cambodia and keep the passion going!


    • Oh my goodness Sam, you’re so right. Thank you so much for coming to my rescue!! I knew something didn’t seem right, I but I couldn’t put my finger on it haha I’m an airhead sometimes.

  3. I once heard worrying described as praying for something you don’t want to happen. I’ll stop praying that way for you now because you’ve given us permission. What ‘ruminating’ can do, though, is cause one to make lists, plan, think things through. So you’ve solved your own issue, you smart woman, you. xoxoxo

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