Someone once said, “do something every day that scares you.” The first time I heard this, I thought it was an awful idea. I imagined myself putting my hand over a wasp nest or jumping in front of a bus on a daily basis. This not only seemed unwise, but I could not see the benefit. Since then, I’ve realized that the message was lost on me. The point isn’t to do dumb, disastrous things every day, but to do things that are worthwhile even if you are afraid, because that’s how we grow.
Well, I’ve never really applied this slogan to my life, but I do seem to have my own. “Do something ever semester that scares you.”
The fact that I am starting to think about life in semesters is scary in-and-of-itself, but life in a college town seems to have that kind of rhythm. Every semester there is the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to so many things and God continually pulls me toward new things. Bigger things. Scary things.
I have yet to submit my skin to wasp stings or make a flying leap in front of a moving vehicle, but I have allowed myself to be frightened. The amazing thing about this practice is not that I gain confidence, but that I continually have fewer and fewer fears. What scared me a year ago is commonplace now. What scares me about the fall will probably seem simple and not so intimidating by next summer.
I have learned to introduce myself to strangers, to make new friends without the fear of rejection, to voice my opinion in groups. I have been called “a natural leader”–something I never would’ve imagined about myself a few years ago when I was too shy to order my own meals. I have opened up about my goofy habits and confessed my best-hidden sins. I have gone without make-up and not thought about it all day. I have made jokes that nobody laughed at and it didn’t keep me up that night.
Through the crisis pregnancy center, church small groups, service teams and outreach programs, I have done whatever it was that needed doing, setting my inadequacies aside. I’ve written (closed) letters to officials on issues I care about (having learned that open letters are usually more self-inflation than communication.) I have written notes of encouragement to people I thought might think I was weird for doing so. I have learned to drive without having to pull over for panic attacks, to drop off books on doorsteps where I think they may be welcome, to ask some hard questions I had avoided for a long time. I have learned to give my stuff away without feeling nauseated. I don’t need extra anything.
I wear what I like and don’t think too much about it and I have started to kick the habit of feeling like every acceptable thing I do must be recorded on social media. I get angry and do not sin (I mean, sometimes I do, but anything is progress in this area.) I leave my drawing pad open on my desk and don’t shred my sketches into tiny pieces. I find new recipes and actually try them and sometimes I cook without a recipe.
I work out sometimes, probably not quite enough. I don’t work out to look different, I work out to feel healthier. I eat things like mushrooms and beets and onions without plugging my nose. I actually enjoy these things. To enjoy as many things as possible-this is my goal! And to do this, I must fear fewer and fewer things all the time. I used to fear driving, now I enjoy it. I used to fear onions, now I adore them. I used to fear a busy schedule, but I’m learning to control it. I used to fear speaking in front of groups, but I’m getting over that.
I will never be an extrovert, a high-energy doer or a fearless superhuman. The greatest victory is perhaps that I’m okay with that now. I am not distraught over the fact that I’m a slow, hesitant, introverted, often lazy girl. I don’t feel guilty about being me, because I can tell that I’m trying really hard to be less fearful and more content every semester, every day. And, as strange as it feels to say it, I’m kind of proud of that. What use would I be to the people I love if I never improved or progressed? I don’t want to simply be loved and accepted, but also useful, also helpful.
There will always be pitfalls. I’m sure I’ll discover new fears. But how can you overcome a mountain if you don’t first stand at it’s base and appraise it’s awesomeness? And how can you have a victory, without a battle?
So wasps and buses aside, I’m doing the things that really scare me and becoming all the braver for it.