Fear is what makes living fun if for no other reason than it’s a pretty strong indicator that whatever you’re about to do must have some kind of significant value. From the time I was just a little girl, my grandmother branded me “a fearless little daredevil” due to my desire to swing over the swing set at age four and my love of being thrown into the pool by my older cousins when I didn’t even know how to swim.
But the truth is I never really saw myself as fearless. I was terrified of the dark, people in costume (I’m looking at you, Mr. Chuck E. Cheese mouse), and heights.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I finally realized my fears were not a weakness, but a source of my strength. Despite my fear of heights, my best friend had somehow talked me into getting on the Windseeker at Kings Dominion. For those of you who don’t know what that is: it’s a 304 foot tall ride where you sit in swing-style seats and spin around a giant pole. In my opinion, it’s basically a rotating ski lift on steroids. I remember sitting in that swing as our feet lifted off the ground and shutting my eyes so tightly that it hurt. At this point, I was about 303 feet past terrified. I kept thinking to myself, “Don’t be scared. Don’t be scared. Don’t be scared.”
And then I heard my friend laughing, and I opened my eyes.
It was beautiful. At the top of the ride, we could see 18 miles out. Past the amusement park was miles and miles of green trees, blue skies, power lines that looked like giant jump ropes, and birds that disappeared behind my thumb.
Just because the sight was incredible did not mean my fears had subsided. In fact, it was in that moment, especially when I looked down, that I was even more terrified. Instead of berating myself for being afraid, I shrieked at the top of my lungs (something along the lines of “I AM GOING TO DIE ON THIS DEATH-TRAP!”), and then finally I laughed. Although I was still afraid, the impact of admitting my fear and embracing it rather than hiding it had freed me.