On Fear

“Only a fool doesn’t fear. Only a coward doesn’t face his fear. But the wise man always has a belay.”

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about fear. After all, I’m not only a horror junkie, but have also gotten paid to run a zipline. Also, I’m a human being. I’ve been the wimp. The crybaby. And I know how great it doesn’t feel.

We all have our fears. Some of us have our more childish fears—the fear of what’s lurking under the bed, in the closet, or behind you, down that dark hall. Then there are the mature fears: divorce, bills, losing a job, bankruptcy, rejection. The lists go on. Somewhere in each of our minds lurks that bug, scratching and crawling until we can’t stand it. Those fears worm their way through every fiber of our beings, informing how we think and act.

What hurts us the most, though, isn’t the fear, itself. It’s when we let it hold us back. When we won’t take that small little step up off the zipline tower, because that insect is providing us with a thousand and one deadly what-ifs. What if the cable breaks? What if I get stuck? What if my harness is too tight? What if I lose money? What if the pretty girl laughs at me? What if nobody else will hire me? What if they all laugh at me? What if I mess up?

But we all know what happens next. We listen to that nagging little bug, just to shut it up, and stay in the comfort zone. We don’t break out of our self-imposed boxes. The moment passes by. And we spend the rest of our sorry little lives regretting it—wishing we’d told that bug to shove it, and taken a chance. Because appeasing its behavior will only make it stronger, until it controls our lives. Until we can’t stand tall anymore, for that dreaded fear that someone might notice, and think badly of us. Until we become bound slaves to that pathetic little bug.

My brothers and sisters, I am here to reconfirm what we’ve been told time and time again, since before we could talk. Nothing can be gained without taking a chance. Without upsetting the status quo every once in a while, our lives will never make good stories, because there’s no conflict to be had. We’re not living, merely existing. And it’s a sad state to be in.

Working on a zipline, I have a thousand and one lines to coax a scared kid to take that step. The entire project is focused on facing fears and trying new things. Because that’s how we grow. The challenge is to face your fears, and push them just a little farther—to tell the bug who’s in charge. Try a zipline. Rappel down a cliff. Fall off a platform. Climb a wall. Walk on a wire. And know that you’ll be a better person for it.

So, today, I’d like to challenge all of you lovely people out there (myself included) to push back just a little bit more. Put fear in its place, and enjoy life while we have it. Ask the guy/chick out. Zipline. Walk through that dark hall. Talk to faces, not behind backs. Take a chance. Live.

Now, this is not the opportunity to jump out of a plane with no parachute and, if you somehow manage to survive, blame it all on me. The fears are there for a reason, after all. Which leads to the third part of the quote above. A wise man always has a belay.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with a belay, allow me to explain. When you’re climbing, a belay is the person to catch you when you fall, through various systems of pulling on the rope. Climbing without a belay is not a smart thing to do.

There are many different belay systems in life. For those of us who are religious, it could be your god, whoever you deem them to be. But there’s always that safety measure—that parachute. They allow us to be adventurous without being suicidal.

So, acknowledge those fears exist. Put them in their place. And always have a belay. Thanks folks, you’ve been fantastic. I’ll be here all night. You’re beautiful, people!

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