“Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us.” ~Steven Pressfield
We are so scared of the unknown. Anything that we haven’t yet experienced can lead to fear.
I will forever remember my first time skydiving. I was absolutely terrified. Are you sure this parachute is going to open up? “No ma’am, it’s not for sure. But it’s highly likely.” Great.
During pregnancy, I was scared nearly every day for nine months as I wondered, “How in the world is that going to come out of there?” Well, one thing was for sure—it was going to happen one way or another. I drove myself crazy wondering what in the world that was going to feel like.
At the moment, I’m scared of mountain biking. This guy I’ve been hanging out with has been asking me to go with him for the last couple of weeks. He’s really good at it. He has been on a bike probably more than he’s been on foot, on average, throughout his entire lifetime.
Let’s face it; I’m scared I’m going to fail. I’m scared I might not be able to make it up the bunny hill while he’s up ahead charging Mount Everest.
Did you notice how I so safely called him this-guy-I’ve-been-hanging-out-with? I’m scared to call him my boyfriend because I haven’t had one for over four years.
I don’t know what would happen if I did call him “boyfriend.” People might see me differently. He might not be ready for it. Maybe I wouldn’t be a challenge anymore and he would change his mind about me. Maybe I would change my mind about him.
What if I suddenly had no more precious alone time?! I would surely die of exhaustion. We haven’t even been hanging out that long. Isn’t there some kind of time chart that I could reference for this? Yeah, clearly I shouldn’t call him boyfriend yet. Scary.
I was severely depressed for the good majority of my life. I didn’t really know what contentment felt like. I didn’t realize that it came from within; I thought it came from the outside.
How could I be happy in the crap-hole town I lived in? How could I be happy with a slightly pronounced nose on my face? (I even got plastic surgery at age twenty because I was so unhappy with it.)
How could I be happy with my peers around me always judging me? How could I be happy with these people picking on me? Oh, alcohol? Yes please, thanks. How could I be happy when I’m always hungover?
How could I be happy when I lived in a low-end middle class family that never took me on vacations or took me on big back-to-school shopping trips that would fill my wardrobe with impressive fashion styles to show everyone else how cool I was?
Oh, that popular chick is having a garage sale down the street? Score. My problems were probably small but they felt larger than life.
I look back on my life at the point when I started to turn around my depression (because eventually I did, 100 percent). I was scared. Happiness was an unknown to me at the time.
Happy was something that I was not, and I identified with who I was very well. Even though I was unhappy, I knew what that felt like. It oddly felt like home. It was familiar and safe.
I knew what my day would look like and feel like and taste like and smell like. I knew that when somebody hurt my feelings I could retreat to my corner and cry it out and ask myself “Why me, oh unfair Universe, why me?!”
You know what I was even more scared of? What if I succeeded? What if I became happy and lost my identity? Forgot who I was?
What if my friends started calling me names and saying things like “Hey, here comes Andrea, that Happy Idiot. Man, she’s so annoying. Here she comes and she’s going to spew that happiness sunshine all over us again.”
Would I even know how to deal with every situation that came my way when I became happy? What if I became happy and then went back to being unhappy again?
Oh man, that would be even worse. To taste it and then somehow involuntarily spit it back out, as if somebody was giving me the Heimlich maneuver as I was attempting to swallow a delicious bite of the most heavenly chocolate cake on the planet. Yeah, no thanks. I love cake.
Seriously, though, I did grow up with a mother who struggled to find her happiness for as long as I could remember. I wanted nothing in the world more than for her to be happy from day one.
One of my greatest fears was that I would become happy and I would leave her behind. I didn’t want to rub it in her face. I wanted her to come with me. What if I succeeded… and she resented me? Why do I always feel so selfish?
I went through with skydiving. It was one of the most thrilling, freeing, incredible, indescribable moments of my life. The parachute did actually open. If I didn’t ever jump out of that plane I would have no idea what it really felt like. It can’t be put into words.
I did eventually have my baby following pregnancy (whew). She was born via planned C-section because she was breech. It was probably the most memorable moment of my life so far.
I can remember the smell of the operating room, I can remember every word exchanged between the doctor and nurses. I can remember how the doctor remarked “1:11 PM” as my girl wailed her first cries of out-of-womb existence.
Sometimes I’m a bit sad that I don’t actually know what labor feels like (yeah, crazy, I know). I still don’t know if I could successfully make that come out of there. But it was amazing all the same. My girl is the light of my life.
I’m going mountain bike riding tomorrow. I’ll get back to you on it (if I survive). The guy-I’ve-been-hanging-out-with thing is going one day at a time, as it should, so I’ll get back to you on that too.
I became happy. In fact I decided I wanted it so bad that I would do everything in my power to make it happen. I researched, I went to nutrition school, I read self-help books, I changed habits and perceptions.
My mom is doing great. In fact, she seems happier now too. I still have my friends and they don’t call me Happy Idiot (to my face). I eat heavenly chocolate cake at least once a month, and I even swallow it entirely.
My point is that happiness is often on the other side of fear. You know when you’re going to have one of the best moments of your life? It’s when you’re terrified and you somehow push through anyway.
It’s when you stop procrastinating and you just do it because that’s where the magic is. We procrastinate when we’re afraid. It’s so much easier to avoid something than it is to face it. But we’re not here to take the easy way, oh no, we’re here to have incredible experiences.
It’s time. Right now. Not tomorrow but today.
Are you scared? Good, be excited instead. You’re about to have a soul-changing experience.
Man jumping image via Shutterstock