The Trick to Being Scared of Everything and Scared of Nothing

Throughout the process of planning a 5 month backpacking trip on the opposite side of the world, I have plummeted into the world of deep introspection. How did I end up choosing this path? What does this mean for my future? Do I have the capacity to push myself to my breaking point and come out on the other side a stronger and more confident person? All of these questions are forming my decisions and fueling my research into what I’m actually getting myself into. During talks with my travel companion, I have come to the conclusion that I’m absolutely terrified of everything. He mentioned Sri Lanka. Nope. I read that all the most poisonous snakes are there. I can’t even step on land or I’ll be dead within 5 minutes, according to my vivid imagination.  Every time the plane hits a patch of turbulence, I’m grabbing the seats, thinking about my loved ones, and making internal bargains to myself just like Robinson Crusoe. Then there are the normal, functioning human being items: talking on the phone, ordering prime rib from the meat cutting guy at buffet, walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night without thinking there’s murderers and ghosts staring at me from the other room, getting in trouble in any sense of the word, committing to anything or anyone. Yet, every day I wake up and for the most part: nobody yells at me, I make it to work safely, the meat cutting guy at the buffet never feels inconvenienced for doing his job, phone conversations are productive, my relationships and obligations seem manageable, and my world keeps turning. Somewhere along the way, we develop these fears. According to some probably legitimate internet website, we are only born with two fears – falling and loud noises. It’s interesting to start trying to delve into the past and find the roots of why we’re afraid of all of these other things. Maybe we can’t pinpoint why it’s difficult talking to people, or why we sometimes feel paranoid that everyone’s out to get us or is mad at us. Is it fear of rejection?  Fear of death? Fear of the unknown? A little cocktail of all three combined? Regardless, those basic fears seem pretty inherent in our being, and we have to decide how far we want to push ourselves into the world of discomfort.  I suppose my solution has been bridging the gap between manageable fear and debilitating fear. Many debilitating fears keep us from making decisions. I’m afraid of needles; therefore, I don’t give blood and rarely go to the doctor. That’s probably the most debilitating of my fears, but when it comes to health or necessity I can transition that fear into something manageable by going outside of my comfort zone. Without standing the risk of being too preachy, this is more of a recollection of how I have been working on overcoming my fears, and not so much a call for others to follow the same steps. We all have our own boundaries and varying desires about how much change we want to incur in our lives. I spent much of my short life in a pretty controlled environment, not taking many risks. It has been a pretty peaceful existence, and is probably a factor in why I’ve never been diagnosed with high blood pressure. A majority of my time, I like to settle into this routine existence with little worry of being shaken up. Too long in this zone though, and I start to get very uneasy. A fire lights up inside me and no amount of Netflix or Tax Preparation can soothe my restless heart. At that point, I realize that I need some fear in my life. I need to be a little shaken up so I feel alive. That’s a bit cliché, but mundane contentedness isn’t working long-term with this lady. Fear, at that point, turns into adventure. The key is to try to turn fear into a challenge. If something is truly terrifying, I research it until I can feel prepared to deal with it. I accept the inevitability of the unexpected. I think forward to the Emily that has pushed past the mental and physical boundaries and is more confident because of it. That’s the best I can do with my upcoming trip. I can plan and plan and plan, but in reality I’ll just have to deal with each thing as it comes. I suppose I didn’t really need to write an entire article, because I just realized the basis of my mentality on fear can be stated by saying “don’t let the fear of losing, keep you from playing the game”. But there it is, hours of contemplation, all boiled down to a meme I’ve seen 100 times on Facebook.  I often find it humorous that when I come across a really big breakthrough in my own mind, it’s usually not some new and amazing concept, it’s just some part of myself I wasn’t ready to accept even though wiser people before me had been leaving these seeds in my head. It finally blossoms and then you realize all that stuff you thought you knew better just hadn’t sunk in or become relevant to you yet. I suppose my advice is let knowledge be your best tool in managing fear, accept that 97% of the things we worry about don’t end up happening, and think about all of the times you were scared to do something the first time and after realized it wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be in your head. So jump in…

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Me on the Rope Swing in Guam

Onward and upward,

Emily

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