Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kick Fear In The Face

I'm afraid. Of lots of things. I missed a lot of opportunities, or didn't try hard enough and failed at too many things, so I'm afraid of failure. I want to succeed. More than ever. To make up for those past failures.

I'm afraid of heights. I fell out of a tree once and my vest snagged on a branch. It bunched up around my neck and I dangled there like a convict at the gallows in an old western movie. Now, climbing a ladder freaks me out. My hands start to shake as I get higher, but I still like climbing.

I'm afraid of water. I fell into a swimming pool when I was four and swallowed half the pool. My mom had to pump the water out of my lungs. I can't walk too far into the ocean before I start to feel nervous. If my feet can't touch the bottom I have to go back. I can't linger in the deep end of a pool even though I can swim. Canoeing terrifies me. But it's fun, so I do it anyway.

I'm afraid of things, things I shouldn't be afraid of, but I will not allow those fears to limit or define my life. When faced with an opportunity for adventure there's usually a situation that should inspire fear. I think it's a prerequisite for adventures. Those challenges can either be retreated from or passed through. You can either enjoy the adventure, or shy away from it. Have fun or play it safe.

You'll never risk getting hurt if you play it safe, but you'll never risk earning that sense of accomplishment either. When I found a narrow, damp, low-ceilinged cave in Arkansas, I started to hyperventilate while still sizing it up. It was no death-defying feat to squeeze through there and see where that cave led, but gasping for breath in that dark hole was a huge accomplishment for me, not in spite of my fear, but because of it. It's more meaningful if you're afraid of doing it because you not only conquered the challenge, but conquered your fear.

I hope to challenge myself with every adventure, great and small. I hope to learn from my fears and work through them rather than allow them to dissuade me from discovery and adventure. I hope to inspire others to do the same. And I hope to always find new things to be afraid of, so that I can kick that fear in the face and accomplish something anyway.

Things I'm Afraid of: Heights, Water, Enclosed Spaces, Large Groups of People, Failure, Public Speaking and Eating In Front of Strangers.

Things I'm Not Afraid Of: Bears, Alligators, Venomous Snakes, Spiders, Hurricanes, Fire, Being Alone In the Woods At Night, Camping In Swamps, Hopping Trains, Hitchhikers, Men With Chainsaws, Men With Guns and Getting Lost.

Funny. The most dangerous things don't worry me at all, but the trivial almost gives me panic attacks.