When I was 19 years old, I moved to Beijing, China with a one-way ticket and $400 to my name. I also didn’t speak any Chinese.
8 years later, I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail without any backpacking experience.
When I finished, I moved across the country to Seattle without a job or any family or friends there! Now I speak Chinese, have oodles of backpacking experience, and more friends in Seattle than I can possibly see as much as I’d like. The dividends that my risks-taking behaviors have paid back are truly unreal.
When I tell people these stories, they almost always accuse me of being “fearless”. My response: “Are you kidding?! I’m scared of EVERYTHING!”
“I just do it anyway!”
This type of mindset feeds on itself, because the stores of confidence that you can “make it work” in a variety of uncomfortable situations will slowly grow. I was scared out of my mind to move to a country where I didn’t speak the language, but it ultimately showed me just how resourceful I can be.
While I was on the Appalachian Trail, I made a new friend named Jenna (AKA Fatty). She would regale me with tales of ice climbing up frozen waterfalls, or lead climbing on cracked, sheer rock faces. My eyes would bug out of my head and I, too, would accuse her of being fearless (she’s not). I remember her showing me a camming device and me saying “uhmmmmm, nope”.
Fast forward four years, and I am leading my first trad climb up the south ridge of North Ingalls Peak. Sure, my legs were shaking and my hands were trembling, but I got up that pitch in due time.
My first day of backcountry skiing was in December 2015. I bawled and bawled, real giant tears, because I had learned how to ski in Indiana and had no idea how to turn in powder. But just last month I hiked to the top of the Mount Saint Helens crater rim and skied all the way back down without batting an eyelash!
All this is to say that those of us who are willing to try something new and challenging, despite deep instincts to run in the opposite direction, aren’t made up of different stuff than everyone else. We just choose to embrace our fears and try our best to push past them. I’m a scaredy-pants through and through – you can find me on any given day at the climbing gym, hemming and hawing at the top of a bouldering problem about whether it’s too high to jump off – but I’ve tackled my fears one by one and it has allowed me to accomplish things I never would have thought possible. I still have a lot to try. I hope you will join me on this wild adventure into the unknown!
Now’s your turn. Tell me about a time that you pushed through your fears!