A new project! Congratulations! You’re starting off on a new project!

It doesn’t have to be art, necessarily. It could be design, writing, a new job, entrepreneurship, whatever. There’s something you want to do and there it is, right before you!

Actually, no. What’s right before you looks exactly like a dark, scary forest. Trees with spasmed branches, tangles of vines, leaves clotting the ground — all that stuff. Perhaps there’s a mist, the sun goes behind a cloud, and someone cues the ominous music.

And there’s an entranceway — a break in the forest wall that reveals a sliver of a path. And that’s the path you’re going to go down.

Standing at the entrance, contemplating the path, there you are.

The hair on your back, the rows of hair on either side of your spine, your hackles, twitch and stand up. It occurs to you that in that forest, down that path, somewhere on it, is a bear.

A huge bear. And it’s waiting for specifically you, in the forest, so it can kill you.

If you go down that path, you’re going to have to fight that bear. You know this. You see the battle in a flash in your imagination, the bear pulling your arms off, a swipe of its paw knocking half your face into pulp.

Are you going down that path into that forest? Your project lies through it.

You going, or is the bear scaring you off?

One time, I stood at the forest entrance, and softly called, “Bear… Mr Bear…” and waved around a piece of raw steak. Eventually, I heard a snuffling and shuffling, the cracking of twigs, and then the bear, it appeared.

It was about my height, and kind of mangy. As it got closer, I thought I could see a zipper, and… well, it was clear that the damn bear was actually some fucking guy in a bear suit.

Man, I was pissed!

I threw down the steak, strode over to the “Bear,” gave it a huge push, knocking it to the ground. Before it could recover, I grabbed its head and pulled. It popped of easily, and behind it was a scared, confused face.

It was the face of boy that was just tearing up after getting yelled at by dad. It was the face of an awkward kid leaning close to a bathroom mirror to pop a zit before running downstairs to catch a bus to school. It was a face in pain from multiple failures. From criticism. From not quite trying hard enough, and knowing it. It was the face of jealousy, the face of not being the best in the class. The guilty look of too much time on video games and not enough practice.

It was my face.

The two of us sat there looking at each other for a bit: Me, and me in a bear suit.

Finally, I said, “Well, now that I know just what you are, you’re going to go away.”

Me in a bear suit laughed. “Nope. I’m never going away. I’m gonna take that steak and go back in the woods and wait for you. There’s no getting rid of me.”

Bear suit picked up the steak, tucked it under his arm, then recovered his head and slapped it back on. For a moment, the Bear was back in all its awesome threat. Big. Angry. A killer. And then a moment later it was a scared boy. A nothing. A fucking guy in a bear suit.

And then in was gone, down the path somewhere.

That bear will always be there, dressed in the cheap costume of all the worst times of your past. Events half-remembered, fears no longer causal or even logical, the criticism of the dead or the mostly forgotten, and just enough truth so that the claws and teeth have true menance. The bear, after all is you, and it knows you right up to the reading of this next word and then beyond that.

But the bear ultimately can’t kill you, because it IS you. To kill you is to kill itself, and the bear is nothing if not a survivor.

You see, the bear is trying to keep you from going down the path. The bear doesn’t even want you in the forest. Because the bear is afraid, too. Not of you, but for you. The bear knows the path is hard, and it think’s you’re soft. And it’s right, especially if you are going to be afraid of a fucking guy in a bear suit.

Some of what you will face on the path will be real, but the bear you sense at the beginning— the bear that is always ahead of you lurking — is YOU IN A BEAR SUIT.

Don’t let it scare you off. I guarentee once you’re in the forest you might hear it growling or thrashing around in the underbrush, but it will never attack you.