Some years ago my friend Ronni was training to go on a bicycle trek with friends. She would ride through neighborhoods in Atlanta to get in shape for a weeklong ride through mountains – and I so admired her! I had never bicycled as a kid. I tried a couple of times as an adult, but it made me nervous.
While in Washington State I watched people kayak on Birch Bay and thought, “I’d love to do that but I am petrified of the thing turning over and getting stuck under water.”
A thought came to me a few years ago. “Fear is a useless emotion!” It just sits there – it eats us up and prevents us from getting out there and living.
The first fear I remember is as a 4 year old. I was trying to show my mom how I could jump into the pool and ran to the edge and jumped before she could scream that it was the deep end I was jumping into. For years my mind’s eye saw pasty white legs kicking around me for what seemed like an eternity before strong arms hauled my little wet butt from the water. I was safe – and rationally I knew that, but the emotional fear had been placed firmly in my subconscious.
School swimming lessons as a 12 year old were excruciating to the extent that I would become physically ill to my stomach and would get nosebleeds so I could prevent putting my face in the water. Then came summer! Blossoming hormones innately knew that the public swimming pool and lawn around it was the best place to check out the guys. I started going to the pool alone early in the morning. I tried placing my face in the water while on my knees in the shallow end. Progress was slow, but I finally trusted myself enough to float, then to copy what I saw my friends do with their arms and legs – and by the end of summer felt brave enough to try diving from the board. Water holds a strong attraction so this was a fear which needed to be overcome. I love swimming now – but still get skittish if people are horse playing in the water around me.
Freeway driving was another butterfly, sweaty palm inducing experience. I was in my 20’s and had to go on an out-of-town sales trip from Vancouver to Victoria, BC. I had never driven on the freeway let alone onto a ferry. This was pre-GPS and trying to find my way in a city I didn’t know, frankly, scared the hell out of me. I have now driven across this wonderful country of ours 3 times!
I’ve learned something about myself through my fears. I appear to be someone who faces fear head on. Since turning 60 I have zip-lined across the Honduran rain forest; my neighbors who bicycle regularly patiently cycled ‘round and ‘round our neighborhood until I was ready to head out of the gates. We took it slow, rode the beach and no traffic areas until this morning when they thought I was ready for the ride to Fort Clinch, a beautiful park on Amelia Island. Total mileage today– 13!
Last week I joined the Newcomers of Amelia Island on a 2-hour kayaking trip through the beautiful marshes of the inner coastal waters off our island. Our guide from Kayak Amelia was a patient and wise teacher – and I’ll be back!
I’m a little baffled at my 60 something gutsiness. Perhaps it has something to do with being responsible for just me for the first time in my life. I’m cautious, and not a huge risk taker. I won’t go surfing, but may someday jump out of an airplane. Fear however has become quite useful. It has become something I realize I need to work on within me. What an exhilarating ride this life of mine is!
Read Antje's bio in About Us.