Updated: Jul 17, 2020
For quite a while, it seemed I had life figured out. I had survived all those “firsts”: renting an apartment, buying a car, getting a “real” job, getting married… It felt good to finally feel like I had a handle on things and had weathered everything pretty well. “It’s so great to be in my 40s”, I would tell people. “Your 20s are full of terrifying experiences, your 30s are spent building a solid foundation, then you reap the benefits in your 40s.”
Life doesn’t work that way, does it? As soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, Life decides to present you with new challenges. Why let you rest on your laurels? There are new hurdles to overcome! I used to think that once you made it through the big stuff, you’d get to coast through the rest. While that seems as though it could be an ideal situation, in truth it would mean that you have stagnated and are no longer growing as a person. What feels like safety and comfort is in fact paralysis and fear.
In an interesting twist, I have discovered the best way to overcome fear is through…more fear. Let me explain.
We had to change the location of our club in January. This has proven to be the hardest move EVER with a myriad of problems I won’t take the time to disclose here. There’s a lot of fear involved when you move your business and a lot of questions come up: “Will our clients follow us?”, “Will we be able to handle paying back the loan we took out for the buildout?”, “How do we find more people to help pay for this space when we have no money left over for advertising?”, “What’s a vacation?”, “Was X (insert one of several thousand options here) a good idea?” Fear can be found at the heart of each of them.
Faced with the prospect of lots of newly-created fear, I found a way to help deal with all of it: more fear.
That sounds crazy, I know, but the secret is to choose the fear and then overcome it. Pick something that scares you and then DO IT. Own that motherf*cker. Once you get through your chosen fear and are no longer afraid of it, you’ll realize you survived THIS terrifying thing so now you can absolutely handle THAT terrifying thing. The key is choice. You choose the fear to overcome which, after you traverse it, empowers you to get through the other random fears Life likes to lob your way.
I chose learning to ride a motorcycle to help me practice vanquishing my fears. I’ve always been afraid of motorcycles but I’ve also always secretly wanted to ride one. There are so many things to be afraid of when dealing with riding, most of which I hear about repeatedly from well-intentioned friends and family. Every time (I’m not exaggerating here) I mention that I ride to someone new, they invariably tell me how “just the other day” they saw/heard/read about a fatal motorcycle crash. I get it. It’s dangerous. But people slip in the shower and hit their head; no one warns me about the dangers of showering when I mention I’m about to take one. People die in car crashes but no one alerts me about the dangers of driving when I’m jingling my keys. Anyway, I digress.
The first year I owned my motorcycle I barely rode it. I was too afraid. I did small rides through our neighborhood from time to time but that was it. Then one day I simply got tired of Being Afraid. I took it out on the highway and rode from one exit to the next. One mile. That was huge for me. I was so scared the whole time. But there was exhilaration under the fear. And determination too. Next came trips between our apartment and the club. Only two and half miles, but…
I resisted riding to my university job for a long time because there is a big hill that leads up to it that has three stoplights all along its length. The thought of having to stop on that hill, keep the brake on, and then get it moving again without killing the engine was just too much. Then one day I got tired of just riding around the same places and rode to work. I didn’t have to stop on the hill. The odds were in my favor. I had worried for nothing.
That moment really spoke to me. Yes, there are definitely good reasons to worry and to be afraid. But sometimes I create fears that don’t manifest at all. I had let myself be held back because of an imagined difficulty. Eventually I did have to stop on that hill. I killed the engine while trying to get my bike going again. You know what happened? Everyone patiently (I think) waited behind me while I got it going. I was a bit embarrassed (I am trying to look like a badass out there, after all) but that was it. No. Big. Deal. Another lesson learned.
This week I commuted almost entirely on my bike: two rides to Texas Wesleyan (14 miles each way), all the trips to the club, and one ride to the homeschool co-op where I teach PE and Fencing (16 miles each way). I drove the car the day I needed to take all the gear to the school. It was so scary. It was amazing. Riding over the bridge and seeing the Fort Worth skyline to my right as I was zipping by was such a tremendous moment. So liberating. I felt free in a way I haven’t in a while. A little bit of the load lifted for just a moment.
Life right now is so scary. But it gets a little better with each passing day and with each motorcycle ride. I am so proud of myself for overcoming a past fear and using it to tackle some pretty significant current ones. I’m still nervous while riding as its still a relatively new skill and I encounter new (read: scary!) situations all the time. The confidence I get from reaching new riding goals leaks over into other areas.
How have you handled fears in the past? Did it help or hinder you?