Jumping In: On Fear
What would you do if you were not afraid?
A colleague asked me this question a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I thought of this question a week and a half ago when I was flying somewhere deliciously warm for a few days. We had hit an incredibly rough patch of turbulence, so bad that a passenger near me got sick.
I am afraid of flying. Every time I walk onto an airplane, I am vividly imagining all of the many ways I’m going to die. Sucked out of the cockpit. Wind shear. Engine failure. Bermuda triangle. So an hour of lilting side-to-side allowed me to work through many horrifying scenarios in my head. And yet, in the midst of this turbulence, the thought that I heard loudest was, “This cannot be how I go! Things are just starting to get really good! I’m so happy right now! I didn’t even get to finish my vacation!”
Spoiler alert: I did not die. It was just normal (albeit pretty heavy) turbulence. But that internal voice got me thinking about how we measure our lives. What does it means to live a life aligned with who we want to be and how we want to be in relationship to the world, our spirituality, our people?
At the moment, I am feeling like I am living a both/and kind of life. I feel grateful and content with so many parts of my life, myself, my work, and who I care for. And—-there are definitely things that I have been putting on hold, not because I want to, but because I fear what happens if they don’t pan out. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? I’d finish that shitty first draft, and ask for more constructive creative feedback, for one.
I heard this story the other day about an older sister who was teaching her younger sister how to jump off of the diving board in the pool. She kept trying to get her to jump, but her sister couldn’t make herself take the leap. An older woman who had noticed them swam up and asked the younger sister why she wasn’t jumping in.
“I’m scared,” The girl said.
“So acknowledge that you’re scared.” The woman said, “Then jump, anyway.”
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Maybe it’s time to name what scares you, then take the leap.