A Wanderer's Fear

Dear Wanderers,

While wandering in life, out on one quest or another, did you ever face something that made you super nervous and made your heart feel heavy? Almost like birds flying in your stomach instead of butterflies?

What did you do when that happened?

For me, I felt that numerous times in my life, different fears in different occasions. Here's one:

Once I was on vacation with my family and our friends, one day a group of us (all different ages ranging between 11-53 years old) headed to the long walkway that ended far into the ocean. There we found that they had an opening in the railing for people to jump into the ocean (with a lifeguard present of course). Everyone got excited, each of them taking the plunge again and again...and again. Now let me tell you a secret *I'm afraid of heights, anything higher than ground level and I freak out* so I started getting the heavy heart, sweaty palms and birds punching me in the stomach sort of feeling. But everyone was enjoying it and encouraging me, even strangers stood to the side and started cheering me on. It got to a point where everyone stopped jumping and formed a line to my left and right motivating me to do it. So I stood, took a deep breath, counted to three and ran...only to stop right at the tip before jumping off. I just couldn't do it. They started encouraging me again, so I thought I'd give it another attempt, with the lifeguard "jokingly" threatening to throw me off if I didn't jump this time. So again I go one, two, three and run...only to stop again right before jumping. This time however the lifeguard was right there and he half carried me and threw me into the water. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I freak out? Yes. Did that break my fear of the jump? No. Even though I went through the experience of the jump, because it wasn't with my own will and determination I still couldn't bring myself to do it.

The next day I went again with them, but try as they might I couldn't do it, even my 11-year-old brother did it. But you see, fear doesn't have an age limit and each person has a fear of something different mine just happened to be heights. After a while they all headed back to the beach, but something kept me from going with them. Was it the disappointment in myself or the feeling of not wanting to disappoint others or the feeling of not wanting to be the "scaredy cat" in the group? I'm not sure, I think it was all three. I stood there watching random people jump and laugh, internally talking to myself. 'Come on Dana, all these people are suddenly super jumpers and super swimmers and you're not? What makes them different than you? They're just as human. Dana stop being a scaredy cat and just do it. Dana what's going to happen, the guard is right there!'. You get the picture.

The lifeguard on duty then was a different one, he didn't comment as he saw me standing there silently watching people jump. But when he saw me trying to stand near the edge then retreating, he came over to talk to me. 'So you're afraid to jump? Nothing will happen, I'm right here if anything does. How about you don't look down, just look at the horizon, look at the people laughing in the water and do it. Don't count. Just jump.' He said that then left me be, it didn't work right away but I kept thinking of what he said, then I stood near the edge, I looked at the laughing people, at the horizon, I closed my eyes and I jumped. It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world!! To people watching, it was just another person enjoying a jump in the ocean. But to me it was so much more, I felt pride for overcoming my fear, exhilaration for doing the jump alone without anyone pushing me and happiness that I did it for me and not so my friends could say I did it (because none of them were there to begin with).

I realized that fear is a feeling that weakens a person to a point where no matter how much you try and will your body to do something, it won't. Because fear freezes everything in you. And the only driving force to overcoming it is YOU. Even if people 'push you' it still won't remove the fear. That day I also realized that overcoming fear needs to be for yourself, not for others because that's when you feel the true rush of happiness.

Some of the people there watching my many retreats at the edge may have been thinking 'Oh come on, what a baby, it's not that high'... just making fun of something that to them was easy. But guess what, everyone has fears, and they may fear something that I don't.

So I vowed that day never to undermine anyone else's fear even if it didn't make sense to me. And never to push someone to overcome it, because the best thing I can do in that moment to help is to advise and encourage...and wait.

With peace and smiles of encouragement,

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Dana