There I stood, head down and repeating the same few words over and over in my mind. My chest began to constrict as the thought of what I was about to do sank into the pit of my young stomach.
For weeks I had ridden past this very spot, watching a group of older boys as they peddled down the hill with seamless ease towards what was no doubt the biggest jump in our local neighbourhood. I stared in wonder as they glided effortlessly through the air, clearing what seemed like miles before hitting the ground safely as their friends cheered in approval of their heroics.
The yearning to feel this sensation of flight had consumed me. I would lay awake for hours visualising myself launching through the stratosphere as the popular kids at school watched on in amazement, whispering to each other in an effort to discover my name.
So here I was, some 50 metres up the hill from the biggest jump in my neighbourhood, one foot on a pedal, the other gripping the sole of my shoe. After what seemed an eternity, I began to roll forward, rapidly gaining speed as the jump approached. I covered the short distance in seconds and as I hit the mound of dirt, my front wheel began to lift and point skyward. All that I had dreamed was coming true. For a fleeting moment, and for the first time in my life, I had realised a dream. One that I had achieved through facing my fears.
Some 20 years on, I still think back to this profound moment in my life when I realised that while I would always have fears, I would have to learn to face them in order to achieve what it was I had my heart set on. As you will no doubt know, believing this and putting it into practice are two completely different things!
I have let fear stand in my way of doing a lot of things. I missed an incredible chance to travel alone back in my early 20’s due to nothing but my own fears and insecurities getting in the way. Before a good friend of mine passed away, I didn’t tell him how much I loved him and to the degree by which his presence in my life had shaped me for the better. That moment passed me by and it is one that I think back to everyday of my life for one simple reason: I was too scared to face my own fears and insecurities.
In the past, I have settled for jobs in which I was unhappy. I have settled for relationships that were not healthy and did not allow me to grow into the person I wanted to be. Making this notion of facing your fears into a reality is something that takes practice and revolves around one main idea: Not being afraid to make a mistake.
Truth be told, that day when I finally worked up the courage to face my fears and ride my bike off the biggest jump in our neighbourhood was one of the most painful and humiliating of my life. While in the air, I let go of the handlebars and lost hold of the bike before hitting the ground. I knocked myself unconscious and tore my arms and knees to shreds. I came around to find myself in the middle of a circle of concerned local mothers, some of whom belonged to the popular kids in my class.
In between that day and now, I have fallen on my arse a lot of times, both physically and metaphorically speaking. The bad news is that a lot of the time, facing up to your fears often sees you getting burnt. The upside is that you won’t die wondering. Facing your fears and insecurities is an on-going process. It allows you to grow and is the only way you can become the person you want to be.