Fear Itself

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Don’t look down. Never look down.

I’m afraid of heights. I never realized it until I was hanging onto the ladder on the side of that thirty-story silo twenty-three years ago, and I looked down. Everything was so far away. The people in the field across the way looked like ants, but that thought was fleeting because it all started spinning. Yeah, I should have never looked down.

Then I got on a plane for the first time two years later, and I was so nervous because I figured if being up on the side of that silo was terrifying, how would being 30,000 feet in the air affect me? Needless to say, I wanted an aisle seat, so of course I ended up next to the window instead. I told myself I wouldn’t look down, but I couldn’t help it. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but they had to drag that air mask out for me. I didn’t look down again.

I guess I learned my lesson when it came to heights. As long as I don’t look down I can handle them. And that’s the way I decided to approach my other fears, with the goal not to become fearless, but to avoid that which I fear. Now, I realize it’s not always possible to avoid those fears, but when I’m faced with one I cannot avoid somehow it has become easier to hit it head on when I know I can avoid so many of the others.

Becoming a parent has also helped me get through some hard situations. It has indeed been a curious side effect. When I’m the one they look to when they’re afraid it makes me just that much stronger. They believe I can’t be afraid of what they fear, so somehow I’m not afraid of what they fear. If I had known that was all it took to be fearless, perhaps I should have had kids sooner. Regardless, it’s a rush to feel strong, to feel like even though those fears are still there they can be avoided or overcome.

And I’m still not looking down.

Sam

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