I’ve been meaning to write about fear for a while. Everybody fears something and most people fear many things, whether it be death, spiders, heights or plain old failure.
I’ll admit, all four of those examples are pretty accurate for me. I don’t walk around looking over my shoulder expecting the reaper to take me away with his scythe – rather, I just shiver at the thought of this glorious life, one day, being over. Spiders are just gross, heights make me queasy and I really hate letting people down.
That was a dark intro…I swear there’s a point to all of this. My parents are the best, in part because we can be very honest with each other. So here we go: as parents are wont to do, mine sometimes let fear get in the way of life.
Case in point: I’m house sitting in Walnut Creek this week, about 3.5 miles from our house. It’s 20 minutes away on a bike, 10 in a car, and is a route through mostly neighborhoods and back roads. And granted, it’s dark and cold as balls outside right now, but Mom and Dad were overly worried about my riding here, even though I had a helmet, headlamp and two blinking signal lights (front and back) on me.
They trust me and probably know I’ll be safe, but I’m their son. So, fear. Worry. Repeated offers to drive me over to the house.
And that’s fine – it’s what parents do. I understand why Mom didn’t like the idea of me going to Jakarta, Indonesia. I get why Dad asks me to text him upon arrival when I travel somewhere new. I assume that it’s hard to let your kids go like that.
But part of the reason I wanted to ride is that the cold air and the dark streets are eerie and exciting. The 10 seconds it takes me to bomb down the big hill on Walnut Blvd., wind drowning out all my senses as I angle my tires down the middle of the right lane, is intoxicating. For some reason, it’s even better at night, and even better still when I can barely feel my face. The momentum carries me for an extra 30 seconds at the bottom – time spent smiling, stretching, sighing.
That hill is the reason I’m okay with working my leg muscles to exhaustion on other parts of my ride, showing up sweaty to work and giving up the warm, comfortable convenience of driving.
I look forward to that hill every time I ride my bike in Walnut Creek.
Adventure leads to exhilaration, which always trumps fear. I’ve learned that a million times over in my travels. Whether it be a 3.5-mile bike ride in my hometown or a four-hour solo hike in a Malaysian rainstorm, there’s nothing like it.
It’s why I always urge people who ask (and some who don’t) to just go. Go travel. Plan a trip, buy the flight, pack your bag and go for it. There will be a million reasons to let fear change your mind, but you have to recognize that the doubt vanishes upon the first drop over the crest of that big hill.
It’s hard to talk yourself into the first time. But then you inhale, start the descent, and slice through the cold, dark wind. Your heart races, your tires wobble and you let the breath catch in your throat. You feel so alive that you know fear doesn’t stand a chance. Fear won’t ever stop you from feeling alive again.
Because now you know if it did, there wouldn’t be much point in living.