Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a worrier — I have no irrational phobias — but every now and then, I come across something that will really freak me out. A year ago, it was taking on a client and temporarily moving my life to New York City. Last weekend, it was going down into the Catacombs of Paris. The saying goes “Do one thing that scares you every day”. But, why should you?
Here’s a few top moments/experiences that, at the time, completely freaked me out and why I look back at them so fondly:
Trekking the Perito Moreno Glacier
I had always loved the outdoors, but glacial trekking was new to me until I set foot in Argentina/Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier. The idea of trekking through it seemed thrilling, but just as I was getting my crampons on – I heard the thundering sounds of gigantic ice masts breaking off and slipping into the pool of water below.
*Gulp* The guide with me told me we would be fine and our trek would avoid that part, so I started to feel slightly better. He then proceeded to tell me that I had greater risk of slicing my face or hands open from falling, that people commonly have the misconception that glaciers are nice fluffy snow. In reality – the glacier was exceptionally compacted ice. Sharp. Very sharp. And there were quite a few bloody injuries as a result.
At that point, my fear of being in a pseudo-avalanche magnified with a new fear of slipping, slitting my face and hands, and falling into one of the icy glacial lagoons. The guide was willing to take me down to base instead of pushing forward, but I shook my head – no. Instead of worrying what may happen down the line, I instead blocked my worries and focused on carefully taking a single step at a time. I learned a great life lesson from the experience: fear is your mind playing out scenarios that haven’t happened yet. Instead of fretting over potential future outcomes, all you can do is take a careful, correct immediate next step.
Biking the MS150 Houston-to-Austin
I hadn’t been on a bike in ten-years, but when my company was recruiting individuals to participate in a 1.5 day, 180-mile charity bike ride from Houston to Austin, I said why not. I wasn’t able to “train” for very long, given my frequently traveling work schedule. But, three months before the event, I went out to buy myself a new road-bike and start getting myself comfortable with cycling again. The phrase “it’s like riding a bike” — I have no idea where it came from. My previous skills at bike riding were quite lost on me at the beginning. Six-weeks before the ride, I got into a pretty bad cycling accident: quite bruised and with cracked ribs.
I was in pain, and terrified of my bicycle from that point onward. I even started secretly calling it the “devil machine” in my head. I considered flaking out on the bike ride, but when I thought about it some more – I knew I just had to complete it. This wasn’t a bike ride just for fun, it was to generate funds to help research a cure and help those with M.S. Getting through my mental block and riding was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Last summer, work offered me the opportunity to take on my first NYC client. It came with a 6-month relocation and a corporate apartment smack in the middle of Manhattan for the duration. For a girl who had fallen in love with New York from afar (thanks to the many TV shows, movies, and books based there), it was an offer I simply couldn’t say no to. Only problem…I’d never lived solo before, or dealt with public transportation. Oddly enough, it was the subway part that really freaked me out. I was petrified of getting on the wrong line, or the wrong direction and constantly being late to meetings. And of course, there was the stereotype of all New Yorkers being gruff and selfish people.
With some self pep-talk and iPhone subway map in hand, I managed to successfully navigate myself through the city my first day, then my first week. Soon enough, understanding the public transportation system and city layout became second nature and people were asking me for directions in turn. The whole experience made me more comfortable with being plopped into unfamiliar territory and figuring my way around. And, the skill of reading transportation maps has become overwhelmingly useful and frequently used not only domestically but in my international travels as well.
Catacombs of Paris
Of course, I’d heard about the Catacombs before. But, somewhere between arriving in Paris for the first time and standing in line to enter the Catacombs, I started getting freaked out. Why on earth was I willingly paying money to see the bones of thousands of individuals dug up from one cemetery and rearranged into “artistic” patterns in underground tunnels of Paris? Suddenly, I felt like I was invading the sacred space of the dead. Fellow tourists were snapping up pictures next to skulls; I refused. It somehow felt wrong to me — like I was gawking at these once-individuals, now just mosaics and completely deprived of their humanity.
While I do not foresee myself ever desiring to go back, I did learn some valuable lessons from the experience. For example, should I ever be trapped in dusty, wet, underground tunnels — I know I will survive. I’d never come face-to-face with real human skull and bones before. And again, while I hope never to in the future – they won’t petrify me so much in the future.
It took me a while to realize it, but being scared out of my mind has only resulted in net-positives for me in the long run. Be scared. Be freaked out of your mind. Then, overcome it. You never know what lessons and skills you will pick up from the experience that will help you in the future.
*Note: I am not advocating being reckless, but truly examining your fears and as long as nobody is getting hurt (yourself included) – go for it.