Getting Past the Fear

I have never had a fear that I haven’t done my best to face. When I was afraid of heights, I jumped from a cliff into waters that engulfed me and washed me from the tremble I felt before the leap. I climbed a mountain and veered over the edge, looking from a thousand feet at the ground below. I soared in planes above the clouds and watched out the window for hours until the sun set and there was noting left to see.

When I was afraid of speaking in public, I voluntarily took part in speech competitions and public speaking classes. I went out of my way to present first in classrooms and introduce myself to new crowds of people, forgetting to the best of my ability the lump in my throat that urged me not to speak.

When I was afraid to love, I loved deeper and harder than I had thought possible. I opened my heart and let the love pour out because I knew no good would come from holding it back and a life without experiencing love was not one I wanted to live, despite my fear.

And while I understood the sense of fear that came with each fall, stutter, and heartache, I also experienced the liberation that came with facing the very things I had never before thought to endure. There was freedom with each word I spoke. Freedom with each jump I made. Freedom with each beat of my heart.

I wonder, then, what I am so scared of now. If I am a repeated champion of facing what I fear most, what is there left to fear? If I know that in the moment my legs may shake and my heart may beat a little faster but I will ultimately stand tall and firm, what is there to worry about?

I believe life revolves around the conquering of the very things that try to hold us back. We must live with a trust that there is something just beyond our fears; our worries; our doubts. We trust that the water will break our fall and that the view will be worth the climb. Our attitude in day-to-day life should be the same. Even when the rain is pouring down and you can’t see a break in the clouds lasting long enough for your bones to dry, you trust that the storm will end eventually and the warmth from the sun is only so far away.

I’m starting to learn how the only way to combat fear of even the most natural of things like uncertainty is to simply trust.

Facing fear isn’t about bravery or strength, it’s about trust.

There is freedom and peace in the fall, but first you must get past the fear of the jump and trust in the landing.

Jump.

A few years ago, when I was a senior in high school, some friends and I were sitting around the living room of my friend’s house on a hot July day trying to figure out what to do. We bounced ideas off each other, but everything was either too far, too expensive, or not exciting enough. Then one of my friends had an idea. In a heartbeat, we all agreed, packed our things, and hopped in the car.

45 minutes later we showed up to Clifty Falls, a site known best by the local teenagers for, you guessed it, cliff jumping.

We all stood around at the top of the falls for a minute looking at the drop and talking to some other kids who were there.

“How high do you think it is?” asked one of my friends.

“30 feet or so,” agreed another friend and I. It had to have been at least 2-3 stories. It may not sound like much, but would you ever jump out of the third floor of a building? Probably not.

Without thinking, one of my friends walked back, took his shirt off, got a running start, and jumped, all within a few seconds. We were shocked. 

Next thing I know my other friends and I are all hyping each other up, preparing for the jump. 

One friend goes.

Then another.

Then there’s me.

“I can’t do it. I’ll just watch you guys, it’s fine,” I insisted. There was no way I was doing that. What if I land wrong and end up like the guy in A Walk to Remember? What if I don’t jump out far enough? What if I trip and fall off instead and end up breaking my neck or something? Nope. Not going to happen. 

At this point other kids started noticing my apprehension to the jump. One person came up to me and started trying to calm my nerves.

“The thing about the jump,” he said, “is that you can’t think about it. If you think, you’ll end up panicking like you are now. Just clear your head.”

Okay, I thought, don’t think.

BUT I’M ABOUT TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF – HOW DO I NOT THINK ABOUT THAT????!!!????

I was, to say the least, terrified.

Should I mention that up until this point, I’ve always been afraid of heights? Yeah, this wasn’t my brightest idea. But I love a good thrill, so somehow it balanced out.

I had made up my mind – I wasn’t going to jump.

“Maybe next time,” I said. But for today, I was okay with just hanging back and spending time with my friends that didn’t involve falling to my death.

I started to walk away from the ledge, ready to sit down and accept the fact that I wasn’t going to do it. Then, all of a sudden, I turned around and started running. And when the time came, I jumped.

Without thinking. 

I don’t remember what I thought during the fall. If anything, I felt peace. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t worried, I was just falling. In seconds I hit the water but I kept falling until I wasn’t. I made my way to the top, took a huge breath, and I just screamed. I threw my hands up and screamed an exhilarating, toe curling scream that can only be sparked by the rush of adrenaline and absolute bliss. I looked up and my friends were up top cheering for me, and even some of the kids who were encouraging me to jump were looking down at me. I have never felt a feeling like that before, and I have never felt that way since. 

Were my parents beyond angry at me for going cliff jumping? They sure were. Would I do it again? Definitely not. Do I regret it? Not in the slightest.

I learned an important lesson that day; I learned about the power of not thinking.

The thing about decisions is that they’re rarely hard to make, but they’re almost always hard to do. More often than not we know exactly what needs to be done. Maybe it’s something we know is right, but it’s hard. Maybe it’s a decision that seems the least likely to work, but it’s the only one that feels right. Maybe it’s something that seems incredibly stupid and the odds are probably stacked against you (like jumping off a cliff), but it will lead to the greatest outcomes.

Nobody likes making decisions, whether they’re minor like choosing where to eat or major and can lead to large life changes. But I think the reason a lot of decisions can be so hard and take so much time to make is because we spend an incredible amount of time thinking about them, when it’s possible that the thing we need to do most is just not think.

Take a few steps back.

Run.

And jump.

You’ll find peace in the fall and bliss in the landing.