I enjoy thrilling moments. I relish that space in between seconds when my mind steps over the line of familiarity and into a place where uncertainty and impulse blend their meanings. I am a free climber, an outdoorsman, a down hill skier and a gymnast. I have plummeted out of an airplane and clambered across the roofs of inverted cliffs. Yet, I would not have been able to do any of those things if fear had not pushed me forward.
If I had to give a reason as to why I enjoy doing dangerous sports, I wouldn’t say it makes me feel alive. I would say it makes me feel important, it makes me feel unique. Not everyone can hang by four fingers from 50 feet up on an overhanging ledge. That takes refined skill, discipline and above all determination in the face of possible death. Just knowing that my life is only worth the remaining strength in my hands makes me feel like I am in complete control of my fate, and I love that feeling.
I think fear stems from pain for many of us. We were afraid of it since we were infants. For me, there is always the possibility of hurting myself when I climb, and often I do get hurt. Bruises, cuts and free falls have left me in bed for days on end, but I will never stop doing the things I deeply enjoy because of a sprained wrist or bruised back.
Over the summer I fell 11 feet off a cliff while I wasn’t wearing a harness. Much to the shock of my friends, when I got back up I was fine. For me pain is fleeting. It is only a reminder that I tried reaching a little too far that day. Despite not being able to walk properly for a few weeks, I was ready to go back out and be a daredevil again.
I think it is something I picked up from my father. He was the original adventurer of my family. I’m talking about a man who can ride a skateboard while doing a handstand and has over 1,000 recorded skydiving jumps. Still, for all of the motocross races and base jumps he’s been a part of, he knows the benefits of fear. He told me once that whenever he was about to jump, if he wasn’t a little nervous or anxious, he wouldn’t go through with it. I never asked him how many times that had happened, but I assume it was more than once. Anything could have gone wrong when he jumped, and he knew fear would help him react better. It happens with me too. Fear can give us the force of will to do better.
Fear makes us push a little more when we think we’ve reached our limit. I decided to write for this paper because of fear. If the thought of failing as a writer didn’t push me to give at least one shot at being a journalist, I think I might have been consumed by my fear.
Now I am an editor for this paper. That is a feeling everyone should be familiar with: the fear of failure. Sometimes it stops us from trying again. It makes us feel like we are worthless and sometimes it challenges you to play it safe. It makes us wish we could fall asleep and never wake up, though we still need to try even when it’s difficult to recover. The famous science fiction writer, H.P. Lovecraft, once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The hardest part of trying is not knowing how things will turn out. For some, that is enough to stop them in their tracks, but for me, it’s my change to show myself just how strong I am.
Fear takes many forms. Sometimes it is a handicap that prevents us from pursuing the things we want the most, and sometimes it is a coach, teaching us to better ourselves when a trial arises. Though for everyone, fear will always be a companion, loyal and annoying. It is not a crutch or a disease; it is a cocoon that shapes us into something new. Perhaps fear has been very kind to me. I sympathize with those who don’t feel the same way. I know, however, that I will never regret the choices in my life because of fear, and I am proud of that fact.