This is a post about fear. It’s fairly obvious that a certain amount of fear is healthy. It’s what keeps us from walking across a busy interstate freeway, petting porcupines, and wearing jean jorts with white socks and camo crocs. But fear is a very clever, subtle creature. It sneaks up on you. It slowly creeps in, year after year. It begins to encroach in small little areas of your life. Its power increases bit by bit without you realizing it. Until one day you find yourself completely ruled by fear. Fear of change. Of something different. You tell yourself you like your routine. It’s comfortable. Why would I want to disrupt that? Or maybe you do want to make a change… but tomorrow. Not right now. I’ve got that big project at work to finish. Just a few more years and then the kids will be out of the house. I just need to lose this weight and then I can try that sport.
We’re all guilty of this to some degree. Some of us more than others. I’ve had countless elderly patients on my floor that literally never left their small town. Never traveled more than fifty miles from home. Raised kids, worked the same job, retired and spent their remaining time sitting on their porch watching the traffic go by. I can’t fathom that. I’d place my risk/fear tolerance maybe slightly above average. My interests trend towards the more extreme sports end of the spectrum. I’ll jump out of an airplane, but don’t ask me to dance in public. My social fears (what will people think?) are far greater than than my physical fears. Fortunately with age, the social fears begin to dissipate. The older I get the less I give a crap what people think.
So here’s the point where I have to laugh at myself. If you’ve been following my saga with the ginormous motorcycle, you’d know that my mission was to overcome some fears of travel and exploring. Fear in the sense of I’m not a big fan of the unknown. While I do like to travel, I like it to be controlled. I want to know exactly where I’m staying, what sights I’m seeing, have dinner reservations, etc… My goal was to bust through that. I purchased the ginormous motorcycle so I can hit the open road, be semi-spontaneous and see small town America.
The plans have been all coming together. I found the right motorcycle and started the process of outfitting it with racks, crash bars, and researching the right riding gear. I’ve spent this early spring improving my riding confidence and bike handling skills. I’ve spent countless hours with maps and web sites finding interesting routes with unique sights to see. A few days ago the final piece of the puzzle arrived. The luggage I’d ordered for the motorcycle, which was on backorder, finally arrived. I’m set – ready to hit the road!
Here’s the point at which I have to turn in my fear-conquering man card. I’ve been struggling with where to go first. The weather in our corner of the world hasn’t been great. We’ve had a spring full of non-stop wind, rain, and cold. Last night after work I was watching a YouTube channel I subscribe to. It’s a gal who travels the world by motorcycle. She’s currently riding solo across South Africa. She frequently makes random decisions to explore an unknown dirt road without any idea if she’ll have enough fuel to make it to the next town. She’ll ride the entire day in the backcountry without seeing another person. If she broke down, or encountered some unfriendly people, that could be disastrous.
In the middle of the episode I burst out laughing at myself. It suddenly dawned on me. Here’s this young gal, riding solo across a region of the world with some actual, non-trivial dangers. And what am I doing? Worrying about riding someplace and there might be wind or, gasp… rain. I literally have been going through my maps and trip ideas, looking for something that might be “safer” from weather. I clearly failed the Easy Rider, intrepid explorer test and I haven’t yet left the driveway. I’m such a dork.
We all have fears. Rappelling fifty feet off a cliff or giving a speech in front of a thousand people are legitimate fears. I’m not saying everyone needs to conquer those big fears. But what we all need to do – is overcome the silly little fears. Because those silly little fears start to build. The little fears become irrational big fears and it’s those fears that will hold you back from enjoying life. I don’t know much, but the older I get the more I realize we’re only here once. You get one shot at life. Make the most of it. Promise yourself that this week you’ll do something out of your comfort zone. I guarantee you’ll be happier for it.