Moving Past Fear

ParachutistAs I shared in a recent blog post, I used to be terrified of flying.  I’d get nauseous and cranky days before I was supposed to fly. The day I was supposed to actually get on a plane, I couldn’t eat and everyone knew to stay far away from me because the possibility of me breaking down into tears or going off on some horrible rant was very, very high.

For some dumb reason, I decided to watch ‘Final Destination’ two days before I had to get on a plane.  For those of you who don’t know the movie, it starts off with a school trip gone horribly wrong.  A student boards a plane to head off on this exciting adventure with his school friends.  As he sits down in his seat, he notices that the latch that is supposed to keep the tray up in front of him is broken. Very next thing … he has a vision that shows the plane blowing up on take-off and everyone dies. He freaks out and runs off the plane.  It taxis down the runway without him and blows up on take-off.

I swear, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing for forty eight solid hours.  But I went to the airport anyway.  I stood in line to check my bag.  I went through security.   I sat at the gate for an entire 45 minutes convincing myself that all would be fine.  Then I got on the plane and found my seat.  It was an aisle seat of course, as far from the window as possible.    I pulled out my book and, as I leaned over to tuck my bag under the seat in front of me, my head bumped the tray in front of me.  I sat up. The tray fell down.  My heart stopped beating.  I took a deep breath, spoke very sternly to myself .. “Laurie, chill out.  You bumped the latch. That’s all.”  I lifted up the tray and went to secure it with the latch. It was a little loose, but after watching ‘Final Destination’, I was pretty sure it was an omen … the plane was going to burst into flames and we were all going to die.

As much as I wanted to run screaming from the plane, I didn’t.  Instead, I sat down and gripped the arm rest a little bit harder.  At that moment, I knew that if I got off the plane, chances are I would never get back on one again. That would mean losing my job and giving up on my dreams of overseas travel.

We all have fears.  Many seem irrational to us and those around us.  Some fears are small and don’t impact our lives significantly, but some can.  There are people whose career stalls because of their fear of speaking in public, either in front of a room, around a boardroom table or in a face-to-face meeting.  There are people going to jobs they hate because they are afraid to step outside of what they know and are comfortable with.    Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what other people think about us, fear, fear, fear.

Fear has the potential to hold us back from realizing dreams. It keeps us from exploring the unknown, taking chances and realizing our full potential.

Whatever your fear, the only way to get past it is to find your own, very personal reason to do so.  It was not statistics on the safety of flying that kept me on that plane. It was my very real desire to one day get on a plane and visit the little town in northern Italy where my grandfather came from.

Moving past fear is a journey.  It took a lot of flights before I became so comfortable that I forgot to grip the armrest at the slightest hint of  turbulence.  Truth be told, I will probably never love flying, but I love planning and arriving at new final destinations and that helps overcome any sense of discomfort that still lingers.

If there is a fear you have, big or small, that is keeping you locked in a place you don’t want to be, take a deep breath, hold on tight and start the journey.  You will be glad you did.

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