Forty Things I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Thirty-Six

I have learnt not to hide from fear, but use it to fuel me. Growing up I remember fearing many things; dogs, snakes, public speaking. If we’ve had a bad experience with something, we naturally will develop an aversion to it, but we often fear things that are unknown to us. I’ve come to realise how absurd that is; how can you be afraid of something that you don’t know. Why would you give power to something unnecessarily, when you haven’t given it a chance. Essentially you are allowing someone or something to live rent-free in your mind; taking up space and energy that could be better used elsewhere. There’re so many other things that our mind and our lives should focus on, rather than unknown entities that may or may not even be harmful to us.

A quote that has stayed with me ever since I saw the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’ back in 1992 as an eleven-year-old, is ‘A life lived in fear, is a life half lived.’ If we are constantly worried about things that may or may not happen to us and therefore don’t take up opportunities that come our way, take risks, are we even living? Who can really say with conviction that they will look back on their lives and remember all those times that they played it safe. The most memorable moments that stick with you throughout your life are those where you felt those butterflies in your stomach but you took a leap of faith anyway. As Veronica Roth (author of the Divergent series) says, “Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.”

Jay Shetty reflects on fear in his book ‘Think Like A Monk,’ explaining how to handle fear is the first lesson of the Gita (short for Bhagavad Gita, considered to be one of the holy scriptures for Hinduism). He discusses how when overcome by fear, it’s best to face it, rather than bury it or run from it. “It’s often said that when the fear of staying the same outweighs the fear of change, that is when we change.” When we choose to ask for help in the form of insight we make the shift from being controlled by fear, to understanding it. In Chuck Palahniuk’s novel ‘Invisible Monsters Remix,’ he writes, “What you run from only stays with you longer; Find what you’re afraid of most and go live there.” A lot of growth occurs when we chose to confront what scares us, taking a look inward as to the reasons WHY and finding ways to use these feelings to fuel us to move forward.

Damon Davis, an American multi-media artist, musician and filmmaker said in a TedTalk, “Fear is like a disease. When it moves, it moves like wildfire. But what happens when, even in the face of that fear, you do what you’ve got to do? That’s called courage. And just like fear, courage is contagious.” It’s not only contagious to those around us, but even within ourselves. The more we challenge ourselves to confront our fears, the easier it becomes for us to do more and more often. Courage becomes our default setting, not fear. It can take time and experience for this to occur, but as American musican, songwriter, mixed-media artist and writer, Morgan Harper Nichols says, “You do not have to be fearless. Doing it afraid is just as brave.”

French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Andre Gide says, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” One of the most frightening, yet exhilarating experiences for me has been travelling overseas on my own. The first time I dared to do so was a trip to Bali. I’d only had one overseas trip before this, that I’d made with my brother, which was meticulously planned out together. The solo trip to Bali, was made a little easier as I knew friends would be travelling there at the same time as me, so I had the safety net of knowing I had familiar faces to lean on should I get into any trouble. And trouble ensued, not life-threatening danger, but situations that threw me outside of my comfort zone, that in the moment scared me, but afterwards I was able to laugh about, over a poolside cocktail with friends.

Described as an author, songwriter, dreamer and wanderer from Sweden, Charlotte Eriksson says, “There’s something about arriving in new cities, wandering empty streets with no destination. I will never lose the love of arriving, but I’m born to leave.” The last overseas trip I made before the world shut down due to Covd-19, was to Europe. Usually I’m quite the planner; having made all my travel arrangements months in advance, having everything printed and organised, however this trip I decided to challenge myself, booking things only three days in advance. The idea was to allow myself time to really see and experience a place, without feeling the pressure to rush around to see things before moving onto my next destination. It was a completely different travel experience, but one that I resulted in so many incredible memories I’ll treasure forever. Taking the time to walk around and discover a new city, immersing myself in the joy of happenstances that come from aimless exploring. Whilst it was extremely challenging at times, not knowing what I was doing, where I was going, the feelings of excitement I found from travelling between and arriving in new cities completely outweighed any fears I had. I felt empowered by the fact that I could leave at any time, when I had seen all that I wanted to see.

At times, everybody wants SOMETHING different, something better for themselves; but are often too afraid to take the necessary steps to get it. Brene Brown says, quite rightly, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” A song that inspires me to step outside my comfort zone in order to move forward is Delta Goodrem’s ‘Wings.’ She sings

Everybody’s looking for a new horizon
Everybody wants to leave the world behind them
Everybody’s looking for a new horizon
Everybody’s looking for a second chance
Everybody’s wishing they could take a stand
Everybody’s looking for a second chance

What if I lose my self control
What if I choose to let it go
I wanna let you and me collide
Baby, these wings were made
These wings were made to fly

A quote I love from the inspiring book and film, ‘We Bought A Zoo,’ is “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” Choosing to be fearless is the best way to becoming the next best version of yourself.

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