This happens to me a lot.
I’m in the middle of a rock climb and freeze. I’m rolling down a trail and slam the breaks. I’m about to ski a line and side step my way down. It’s not that I can’t do what sits below me or towers above, but rather that I hear a voice say “stop.”
I hear this voice everywhere I go. I hear it when I put pen to paper and before I speak. I hear it every time I buy a flight, leave a relationship, or stare down a dark path, not knowing what lines the sidewalk ahead.
But more than ever, I heard it last year.
I found myself in Los Angeles this past October, having just left everything I knew to chase after freedom, to lose myself in the unknown, whatever that means. Sitting on the roof of an apartment one night, I watched the sun fall away while opening a letter from a friend. She wrote about fearlessness, about all the ways she’s stepped into the abyss, without so much as a hesitation or a whimper.
Looking out into a wide, glowing yet uncertain future, I wrote her back about fear-fullness.
I told her I’m scared. Terrified of the unknown. Lonely. Lost. Yet, fearless. Because I don’t think fearlessness has anything to do with lack of fear. On the contrary, I think it means to hold fear close, to find strength in what we’re afraid of.
I’ll admit I get scared, and not just rarely, but often. I get scared on two wheels and on four. I get scared before conversations, before decisions, and before phone calls. But what I’ve come to learn is that there’s another side to anxiety. That dread is a wall. A thin, penetrable, deceiving wall. And the only way to get past that wall – the only way to overcome what scares us most – is to go through it. Not around it, but right into its seedy, sticky, murky depths.
And yes, my legs quiver and my fists shake as I walk on, but what I’ve recently realized is that fearlessness is not to be without fear – rather, it is to do despite of fear.