This guest post hit me like a ton of bricks. As I’ve written multiple times, dear readers, I (Mabel) am a pretty big coward. I’m afraid of so many things — barking dogs, sudden noises, hospitals, theme parks, confrontation of any sort, saying something stupid, broken bones, and many, many other things I won’t go into here. I’m grateful for Andrea’s candid look at her own fear, and her encouragement for all of us to stop letting fear get the better of us. Life requires courage. It isn’t by any measure “safe,” and it’s not really supposed to be. That’s part of the adventure.
I never have been one to be fearful.
If you would have told me, or many of my friends for that matter, that I was living in fear I would have laughed. “I’ve held babies with active tuberculosis in Haiti,” I’d say. “I’ve worked with the underground Church in China. I nearly got attacked by a man with chopsticks while sleeping in the Vienna train station.” Fearful? Not me.
A recent move from Chicago to Washington D.C. showed me how fearful I had become, however. I had settled into a comfort zone—and quite honestly an awful rut—at home, needed to shake complacency, and wanted to try something new. But I knew I had to face every fear and insecurity I had in order to make a change, and I had no desire to do that.
In June, right before I decided to move, I went to Hawaii with my soon-to-be-leaving-for-pilot-training brother. We spent five glorious days on Maui and then six days on Oahu. While on Oahu’s North Shore one day, we visited the famed jump rock at Waimea Bay. Ascending 30 feet in the air at the highest point, the gargantuan rock was a playground for locals and visitors alike—crowded with intrepid daredevils diving, flipping, and belly flopping into the ocean waves below.
The thought of jumping seemed exhilarating, but also intimidating. I’m not scared of heights, but I had never plunged off a cliff. After much coaxing, I nervously climbed the jagged rocks and crawled to the top. I peered down to the waves below, overwhelmed by the enormity of the gap. The more I hesitated, my legs teetering on the edge, the more scared I was to jump.
After a few minutes, I knew I couldn’t stand there anymore—the anxiety was too much. I needed to face my fear or leave the rock. Somehow, I mustered a deep breath and convinced my toes to leave the safety of a solid foothold. I breathlessly glided through the summer air and surged into the invigorating sea.
That’s how my life was. The more I waited to take the plunge—to make a change I knew I could and should make, even if it was uncomfortable—the greater fear and anxiety grew. The longer I waited, the higher the jump looked and the more content I was to descend off the rock and not take any risk.
When I chose to jump, however, I chose to experience one of the most fully-alive, extraordinary moments of my life.
I cannot lie—I miss the Midwest and the most beautiful city in the world (objectively Chicago, obviously). But every day I start to fall more in the love with what I have been given in D.C. And every day I realize another reason why I am here; I’m so grateful I will not have to live with a “what if.” A wise former colleague of mine reminded me of the familiar notion that I seemed to have forgotten: often we regret the things we don’t do, not the things we chose to do.
Matthew Kelly wrote in his book, The Rhythm of Life:
“The measure of your life will be the measure of your courage. Courage animates us, brings us to life, and makes everything else possible. Fear stops more people from doing something with their lives than lack of ability, contacts, resources, or any other single variable. Fear paralyzes the human spirit. Life takes courage.”
No matter if you are at a turning point or merely the daily juncture of everyday life—it’s time to step out into the deep, whether that means moving halfway across the country or simply saying hello to the homeless man you pass each morning. There are moments in each and every day offering you the opportunity to take heart and choose to be courageous. There are opportunities to step outside of a settled-in comfort zone and live consciously, with passion and purpose. Retreating simply out of fear does not give us the opportunity to live an abundant life.
Choose courage. The measure of your life depends on it.
Andrea Scott is a writer and editor who works in DC. Follow her on Twitter at @andreajeanscott