The Final Frontier of Fear

It’s no secret I’m a bit of a scaredy cat. I’ve been afraid for as long as I can remember. I don’t know if I was simply born this way, or if it was a case of instincts gone awry during early childhood.

The first ten years of my life were lived under the large dark cloud of my father’s alcoholism, a storm that rolled in occasionally to upturn our otherwise happy lives with chaos and insanity. When he left, I simply found new things to be afraid of, like my friends finding out that my family was ‘different’, roller coasters, waves at the beach, not having the latest in 90’s fashions, anything really. My fear didn’t discriminate.

On an excursion to the Victorian snowfields when I was ten, I spent most of the time on the team bus after I got hit with one too many snow balls and stepped into a puddle of  freezing water. I was even afraid of snow.

On the same trip, I stood next to Mrs Williams, our bad breathed, bad mannered chaperone at Luna Park while my friends rode the ‘Gravatron’, simply too terrified to board the spinning, gravity defying space-ship ride. The message was already pretty clear back then: be afraid and suffer the boredom of adult company while your friends whizzed around in a spaceship, then stumbled off in a fit of dizzy giggles.

Fear equaled missing out.

This wasn’t enough for me to overcome my fear, however. Two years later at my grade 7 camp in the bush-lands of southern Western Australia, I was the only one in my class who didn’t abseil down a 10 meter wooden platform. In my safety harness, two experienced guides shouted positive encouragement from above and below me, and even though I knew there was next to no chance of injury or death, I couldn’t do it. I edged out slightly over the platform, but couldn’t bring myself to take that first step.

Fear is a bitch. It takes fun, happy experiences from you for no rational reason, leaving you with memories of failure and separateness, which allow it to grow and dominate your every move. No one else in my class probably remembers that day in the bush, but I remember it clearly.

Fear never forgets.

Then a wonderful thing happened. I found a solution to my fear in my teens, and drank that liquid courage down like nobody’s business. I couldn’t believe my luck that I had finally found the answer to all my fears! It was wonderful for a while, enough to make me forget about how afraid I truly was. I worked, studied, socialized and traveled, adopting a persona of a strong, sociable, wordly person.  It was wonderful, for a while…

Until it wasn’t.

When I eliminated the crutch of alcohol from my life three and a half years ago, it didn’t take long for the fear to come flooding back in epic proportions; bigger, stronger and with more force than ever, carrying with it a decade and a half worth of back-pay.

Fear doesn’t like being ignored.

That’s when I began my intimate relationship with fear. I went from giving in to it, drowning it and running away from it, to simply giving it the attention it was so obviously wanting from me.

It was with me when I put the final cork in the bottle, telling me I’d never have fun again. It sat next to me when I signed the redundancy application to leave my job of eleven years, screaming, “you’re making a huge mistake!” and when I handed over the keys to my apartment, it taunted me with horror stories about ending up homeless and living with my Mum (sorry, Mum!).

It folded up neatly in my backpack as I prepared for our departure last February, though it took up a bit more room in my 40l pack than I liked.

Fear doesn’t come in travel size.

“I’ll give you six months, tops,” it mumbled as I tossed the bag onto the scales at the airport.

“That’s if you don’t die in an under equipped South-east Asian hospital!” came its muffled taunts as the bag was whisked away by the luggage belt.

“We’ll see,” I told it as I excitedly boarded the plane to Phnom Penh.

We’ve had a pretty good year in the world, Fear and I. We have become pretty close. We’ve ridden planes, trains, boats and buses together. We drove across India in a tuk tuk together. We’ve written about ourselves and created a new life full of creativity and adventure. We have jumped off rocks, dived under the ocean, spoken bad Spanish and tried to teach kids English.

Yesterday we went zip-lining through the jungle of Quintana Roo, Mexico, and fear barely made the effort to show up! I must admit, although we’ve been partners my whole life, it felt good to have a break.

THE FINAL FRONTIER…

The last year has raised the bar on my fear, diminishing it somewhat, but I know it’s still there, lurking and ready to pounce. I’ve decided to raise the bar so high on my fear that it’s negative taunts may never sound the same again.

I’m doing the one thing that scares me beyond any other thing. I’m going to jump out of a plane. Tomorrow. Today.

sky

I won’t be publishing this until it’s booked and the money is paid. The useful side of my fear, my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which doesn’t want to be the only kid not to abseil, or not go on the scary ride, will hopefully give me the impetus to follow through on my fear-crushing plan. I don’t want to be the only kid on the bus while the other kids smash each other in the face with snowballs.

Plus, it might even be fun. I’ve never seen a video of anyone sky-diving who doesn’t smile at least once during their free-fall through the air.

I have even had moments of being excited about this, but for the most part, I’ve been functioning under a haze of low to medium level anxiety for the last couple of weeks.

Today, my hands are shaking as I type this, and my chest is tight. At any moment I feel I may burst into tears.

I’m mostly afraid of my fear, which is quite a predicament, and although I am trying to stay in the moment, where perfection exists, my mind is imagining what it will feel like to sit on the sill of an open airplane door, then… jump.

Part of me wonders why I am making myself do this, when I’m so afraid.

But you see, that’s exactly why I need to do this. (I’m not actually sure about that, or of anything right now). Fear takes all the clarity out of life, moving into one’s psyche like a traveling carnival of terror, unpacking it’s dusty suit cases full of skulls, spooky soundtracks and bad ghost costumes.

Fear is not real, it is an illusion, but knowing that does not save me from it (unfortunately). I have to move through it, pulling down its spider webs of cotton wool and snipping the strings of its flying ghost puppets. It must be unmasked like the ending of a Scooby Doo episode. I’ve managed to do that in so many areas of my life, from traveling, to being sober, to creating a life of freedom and adventure, but this fear of falling through the air has been nagging me.

It’s time to face my final fear. Or at least it will be, tomorrow. In an hour.

Until then, the carnival of terror and I will be having our final fling together – a sleep-depriving, thought monopolizing, hand quivering pa de deux, of which we know the steps all too well, for Fear and I have danced this dance many times before.

I’m just tired of it always taking the lead.

You can subscribe here to find out how it goes, and like my Facebook page for updates.


Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…


Comments

The Final Frontier of Fear — 39 Comments

  1. As my siblings and I said to my mom when she was about to do her jump…”why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”

    Wow, what an exciting thing to do. I’m really impressed that you are doing this. I’m not sure I could. I hope you will post something as soon as you’re done so we know you’re ok!
    Carmel and Shawn recently posted..LEAVING THE JOBMy Profile

    • Your Mom has some serious cajones!!! Good on her, that’s amazing, I had the time of my life and loved every minute. No fear to be seen once I was actually doing it, it was the anticipation that was the worst part :)

  2. Fear is such a normal part of life, but I think it exists to be beaten. Like you I am scared of everything, but I suprise myself over and over again how many things I am doing that my friends back home would never do. They always call me brave for doing the things I am doing or living the life I am living. If only they knew that I am constantly scared as well – I am just not showing it. :-)
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Can an Englishman fall in love with Germany?My Profile

  3. Holy shit. I can only imagine what that felt like… because I haven’t done it yet. It’s one of those things I keep telling myself I don’t need to do (because I hate the whole idea of it)… but I can also imagine how amazing it must have been!

    Good for you! It’s harder to make that leap when you are afraid…you have a lot of courage :-)

    • Hey Tasha, I can totally relate, I used to feel exactly the same way. I’d tell myself “Nup, I’m, never doing that,” but deep down I knew I wanted to for the very reason that I was so afraid. Put it out of your mind until you are in a place that feels right, book it and go for it!!

  4. Great to hear you loved your skydive! I was terrified before skydiving, I’m so scared of heights! But the first thing I said when I landed was “I want to go again!” with a huge grin on my face. You say you’re naturally a fearful person but leaving home, travelling the world, driving across India; these sound like the stories of a brave person to me :) Really really, well done for facing your fears!
    Charlie recently posted..Top 5 Sights: Washington, DCMy Profile

  5. Way to conquer that fear with one of the scariest adventures you can do! I hope you took the lead! I can’t wait to hear how it went. I’ve always wanted to jump out of a perfectly good plane, for some weird reason.
    Jessica J. Hill recently posted..Stuck on a Plane in ChinaMy Profile

  6. I feel like I say this to you every couple of months but: this is the best thing you have ever written. I loved every word, every sentence of it… if you read this aloud in a church, I’d get to my feet and holler “amen”! By honoring your own truths, you also share those of so many others. I’m so incredibly proud of you & find you so, so inspiring. Seeing how you push through your own fear with your head held high makes me all the more determined to do the same.

    Big hugs & so much respect!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Chewing the Fat with Expat Edna!My Profile

    • Thank you so much Steph, truly, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Words like this make it all worth while, much love right back at ya girlfriend XXX

  7. I agree with STEPH, this was quite the profound post. It must have felt amazing when you hit the publish button. Chances are that the fear you conquered from jumping from a plan will act as a metaphor to eradicate most potential future fear.
    Mike | Earthdrifter recently posted..Miswak: Medicine for the MouthMy Profile

  8. Yep, nailed it with this post. I was always the kid too scared to step up and standing with the teacher and missing out too.

    It’s part of why I do everything I do now, and constantly push the fear envelope back.

    Nice work! Proud of all of you. Give my sis a hug for me.

  9. Jeepers sounds like you’ve had words with your fear and put him in his place. I sympathize with your struggles. Having had my own fearful companion wittering to my mind for quite a few years it can be tough to stop listening and begin making your own decisions and living your life.

    Cheers to you and your sky dive! Well done!
    Charli l Wanderlusters recently posted..Love, Fear and Literature | Dear TorreMy Profile

  10. Sarah, this post is fantastic!!! I love your honesty in this post. Sharing your past experiences as a kid reminded me of my own experiences where fear stopped me from doing things. Like you I never abseiled because fear was running through my blood. But I am glad I read your blog, because I am going to go conquer that fear and go do it!!! Thank you Jill

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  13. Holy s**t!!! I had heart palpitations just watching you!
    This is by far one of my top fears — I admire your guts — I don’t know if I will ever have enough to do it. How did you manage to even swing your legs out of the plane??? I am proud of you. Amazing
    Franny recently posted..My First (Brazilian) CasamentoMy Profile

    • Ha! Thanks Franny, honestly it must have been adrenalin (or temporary insanity) because I honestly wasn’t afraid, I was kinda numb! Until the actual fall came, of course, which was just so exhilarating!! The experience has really changed the way I think about fear, and what I am capable of, so I highly recommend it (especially if you are so afraid…). You can do it!! 😉

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