I turned forty a few years ago, and as I neared the big date, I decided it was time to face old fears by trying new things. Up until then, I’d surrounded myself with coziness and rejected discomfort. But it was time to spread my wings.
First, I tried running. I’ve never been a runner and I absolutely don’t have the body type for it, but I live in the mountains surrounded by gorgeous trails, so I decided to be brave and try it.
I failed miserably. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s no oxygen in the mountains. I mean, there’s probably a little bit, but it’s hard to come by. I couldn’t run more than a quarter mile and I felt awful for a whole day afterward, tired and coughing. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do something that so many people do.
At some point, I realized my physical reactions to running were symptoms of asthma. I went to the doctor, got an inhaler, and a whole new world opened up to me. I would get out of breath, but when I slowed to a walk, I could actually recover and catch my breath! This was a brand new sensation. And after a bit of training, I became a great runner! Ok, that was a joke. I eventually got up to running three miles at a time, and I still hated each second with every fiber of my being. So I stopped. The end. I still count it as a victory, though. I tried it and I didn’t like it. But I get a gold star sticker for effort! I immediately got back to hiking. Same trails, slower pace, no wishing for death.
I also decided to face my oldest, deepest fear: public speaking. For the first time in my life, when someone asked me to be a keynote speaker, I said yes. I said yes! And you know what? The worst thing that I thought could happen…it did happen.
In the middle of my speech, I got a frog in my throat and I had to stand there, coughing in front of the whole room, my eyes watering so much I couldn’t see my notes. It was awful. I gulped water. I sniffed. I coughed directly into the microphone. It was a disaster. My voice would not come back. So after a few more fortifying gulps of water, I just forced my throat to rasp out the last few minutes of the speech. I’m not sure if anyone could even understand my words. But I finished, and then I waved and got the hell off the platform. And you know what? The next time I spoke, it was easy as pie! I’d already faced the terror of screwing up, and I wasn’t shunned or mocked or anything! People were still nice to me. They liked the parts of my speech they heard. I did it. (And next time I’m feeling a little scratchy, I will take a shot of whisky to the podium with me to clear my throat.)
As for other new things I tried, I’ll address them in upcoming posts. One was rock climbing. And one was writing in a whole new genre.
Next time: how I decided to try stepping out of romance. And just how long I fought it.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about the big fears you’ve chosen to face! Please tell your story in the comments!