I have a proverbial bucket list going in my head all the time. Occasionally, it starts thumping me in the head to do some things. Some things are ongoing, slow accomplishments that take time, like school. Other times, there are things that can be knocked out easily enough, but require a certain amount of bravery on my part. Case in point: I am fearful of heights. It doesn’t mean I won’t cross a bridge, because we do after all need to get to the other side sometimes. It also doesn’t mean I won’t get on an airplane. I don’t enjoy flying much, but recognize it as a means to an end. I would rather take a three hour flight to Florida and enjoy as much of the trip as possible than to drive that far.
Several years ago, I saw the opportunity to attempt overcoming that fear by going to “the ledge” at the Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly Sears Tower). It was an interesting experience, because I learned from the paid photographer there that I wasn’t alone in my fear, and that she was quite accustomed to seeing people hyperventilating and kind of freaking out right before she snapped their photographic proof of standing on The Ledge. The most troublesome part of that experience, besides the actual standing on the ledge itself, was that the logical part of my brain wanted more information on the construction of those ledges. They were not a part of the original build, something you learn as you work your way out to the viewing deck. So while all the history of the tower and ledge itself is quite interesting and fascinating, a person who fears heights want to know how those things are added! How were they tested? How much weight can they hold? Your fears seem slightly silly when you watch kids and teenagers lay down and make it look like they are falling for their pictures….but is it silly? Just writing that made my stomach flip a little.
Learning a foreign language was NOT on my bucket list, but a necessary requirement to get a college diploma. I know and hear of people all the time who change their major just to avoid having to take a foreign language, and it admittedly has been a deterrent for me. At this age, being self-made and not really planning to change careers, a free education meant following what was true to me and that was the arts. So if I wanted this degree, I was going to have to suck it up and take a couple semesters of foreign language. I’m taking my Spanish final tonight, and then I’m half way home with only one more semester of it. By Christmas, this will all be in my rear view mirror. What I didn’t expect was to LIKE it, and I guess that’s why college challenges you with classes you would not normally choose. I went from a prayer of “please let me pass” to an attitude of “I got this and could actually pull out an A or B”. I’ll probably never be an expert at it, and won’t pursue it further, but it sure is nice to be able to understand something so completely new.
So….back to the bucket list. Breaks in semesters usually having me NOT relaxing and figuring out how I’m going to fill up that time, because that’s just how I am. I have some things planned, visits with friends, etc. But I immediately start thinking about that bucket list. I reached out to my friend Laurel recently, and told her I needed her help to knock one of them out. She wanted to know if there was a deadline to which I responded….umm….before I die? Laurel is my beautiful friend with the beautiful voice who sings. When she insisted on knowing what this was all about, I told her I was afraid to karaoke and I figured she was the person who could help me overcome that.
Through playful conversation about it, she finally inquired, “Why are you going to do it if you are afraid to do it”? Fair enough question and the response required a small amount of thinking on my part. Like I everything I mentioned earlier, while I don’t have a death wish or anything like that, I am inherently attracted to that which I am afraid of. I don’t LIKE to be afraid of things. And while that doesn’t mean I’m going to fill my basement up with toy clowns (two things I don’t like…clowns and basements), it does mean I do my best not to be phobic of every single thing under the sun. I find facing the fear to be the best method of doing that. Am I still afraid of heights? Not as much as I was before. There’s always that lingering trepidation when climbing a ladder, but the impact has lessened and seems to continue to. I think when you don’t give in to the fear you take its power.
So what that means is that I’ll always being doing something, even stuff I’m not sure about. As afraid of foreign language as I was, as nervous about being this age in college as I was, my brain has already fast-forwarded to graduation. What on EARTH will I do with all that free time? Take salsa lessons? Start my novel? Watch television? What’s that like? Read a book? Any book I want?
While removing fear from my life, I add excitement at the same time. I create stories. I learn lessons. I have something to share the same way a musician shares his music or a painter shares his art. We all have something to offer the world, it’s up to you to figure out what that is.
Until next time, friends…be fearless.
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