As I sit here in Costa Rica, surrounded by new friends and immersed in a culture I am slowly beginning to love, you are right beside me. You’ve been beside me my entire life. Sometimes a little too close for comfort, smothering me and holding me back, while other times I have fought back, doing things even as you insisted on coming along.
The thing is, Fear, that while many may run from you, I have decided to embrace you. In fact, I believe that you have made me stronger. I’ve learned to do things in spite of you. Being fearful of everything has taught me that it can be in my best interest do the things that I am indeed scared to do.
Smothered by Fear
It hasn’t always been that way. For the longest time, you controlled every action. I skipped recess in elementary school, parties in middle school, and avoided trying anything new for most of my life.
The thing I regret the most it is letting you dictate my actions for so long. I look back and wonder what I missed out on because I chose to be afraid instead of independent.
Eventually I had enough. The only way to break the habit was to do the exact opposite of what I would normally do – something like going on a school trip to Guatemala when I was terrified of flying and had never left the country.
From the second I uttered the words “Mom, I want to go to Guatemala” until my feet were firmly planted on US soil after the ten-day adventure, you never left me side. You whispered in my ear all the things that could possibly go wrong, preying on my phobias of flying, death, and tripping down stairs.
You weren’t very nice to me during that trip, Fear. Every time I began to relax into my surroundings, you so kindly reminded me of your presence. I survived, no thanks to you, and had such a wonderful time that I returned the next year.
Then I went to Panama, where we became best friends once again.
The decision to go white-water rafting was not my choice; however, it was a decision you much enjoyed, preying on and amplifying my already-existing concerns for drowning.
You almost won that round.
After listening to your pep-talk during the safety lecture, I was so terrified getting on the raft that during the first rapid I let go of the paddle and accidentally punched my best friend in the face.
Yet a few rapids later, I realized that I might actually be capable of rafting down a river.
It was then that I chose to embrace you rather than allow you to smother me and the rafting trip became one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Of course, I never managed to ditch you completely. I simply learned in that moment that I can live with you, that some of the things you are telling me to say no to are the things I should be screaming yes to — travel, in particular.
Traveling With Fear
You eventually left me alone for a few moments, Fear, and I decided to follow the one dream that you had been holding me back from, even after all those years: solo travel.
Five minutes alone and I booked a one-way flight to Costa Rica.
You chose approximately five minutes after I purchased the flight to return, but by then it was too late. I had the ticket and you weren’t stopping me. Though you did try and almost succeeded. There were many nights I contemplated canceling the trip, losing the money I had paid for the plane ticket, and biting my tongue as everyone else said “I told you so.”
History taught me that you like to lie, though, and I chose to refuse to believe you were right with this one.
Excitement shoved you to the side in the days leading up to me trip, but you booked a seat right next to mine on all three flights. For the most part, I succeeded in ignoring you, though occasionally concerns about getting through customs, my first night in a hostel and whether or not my ride would be waiting at the airport overtook my daydreams of beaches and jungle.
I’ve been in Costa Rica for 3 weeks now and, I have to say, I need you around less and less. The other day you almost talked me out of going on a weekend trip an eco-resort because there was public transport and strangers involved; but I went anyway and, surprise, it was a blast. Apparently I enjoy wandering through new cities and riding buses.
The more you are around, the more I’ve come to realize that the more afraid of something I am, the more I will end up enjoying it.
So, I must thank you, Fear, because you let me know when something wonderful is about to happen. I refuse to let you hold me back anymore so if you want to stick around, that’s fine, but be prepared to go on an adventure or two.
This article is part of an original Epicure & Culture series, #ProjectLoveNote. Click the link to read more inspiring stories.
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