Do Things That Scare The Shit Out Of You

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about going dancing, I was completely bowled over by the response. It turns out that lots and lots of us had the need to put on our uncomfortable shoes and get out of the house. It seemed we just needed a reminder, a motivation, a kick in the pants. That same week, I was down in L.A. and had a long talk with Becca of A Los Angeles Love about the response to the post. Why had that post hit a nerve? What was going on? Her theory was simple and really resonated with me. She pointed out that, as adults, we have the ability to stay in our comfort zone. We don’t even have to push ourselves to do little brave things, like going dancing. We can easily surrender to inertia, not leave the house, not leave the couch, not leave our job, not change our lives. We’re not forced to try new things, and when we stop being brave, we forget how to do it. When we stop being brave we forget that the fear of trying something new is almost always worse than actually doing something new. When we stop practicing pushing through the fear, we forget that the fear is a lie, not the truth.

So, last week, APW Editor Kate and I went on a long-planned trapeze outing. It was to celebrate the end of writing the book. We’d picked trapeze because I’d made a promise to myself to knock trapeze off my life list this year. In fact, let me back up fifteen years or so. When I was in high school, the L.A. Times Magazine ran an article about a Bay Area girl who’d fallen in love with the trapeze and had run off to join the circus (literally, she was touring Eastern Europe). I cut the article out and carried it with me for the next ten years. It wasn’t exactly the trapeze part that caught in my heart, but the idea that she’d abandoned a conventional life to do something that made her feel like she could fly. And that she’d found her family there. This is something I’ve worked hard to do, in various ways, my whole life.

I’d wanted to try the trapeze for a long, long, time. It just so happens that I’m also rather afraid of heights. And to do the flying trapeze, you have to climb up to a platform (without a harness) that is the equivalent height of a third floor fire escape. Then you get harnessed up, lean into open space, and grab the bar. And then you have to jump off.

Mostly what I can tell you about is my overwhelming terror. About the difficulty of climbing a teeny tiny ladder with no harness when your legs are shaking. About chalking my hands and my feet because I was sweating all over, and I didn’t want to slip. About the instructor telling me to lean out over the warehouse of cavernous space and grab the bar of the trapeze with both hands. About saying, “I can’t,” and her really calmly replying, “You’re going to,” and me saying, “Ok.” About how I just pushed through all the fear and jumped off the platform into mid-air.

I’d like to tell you that I found it to be shockingly free, swinging from that trapeze, but I found it to be abjectly terrifying. And then I had to let go and fall into the net. And then I had to flip from the net onto the floor. And then I felt like throwing up, but I didn’t. And Kate told me, well you did that, you don’t have to do it again. And I shook my head grimly, chalked up, climbed the ladder again, and jumped. Over, and over, and over.

The instructor asked me if I was starting to have fun, and I told her no, I was just trying to get over my abject terror. And I did. By the end of the night I had ramped down to just garden variety terror. After my last trip to the net, I announced, “That wasn’t the most terrible thing I’ve ever done.” And everyone cheered.

And yet, I want to go back. Because unlike Kate, above, who isn’t mortally scared of heights, I didn’t swing upside down. And I didn’t do a catch. And I’d like to.

But mostly, I feel like I need to go back to master the fear, to finish accomplishing something I really want to do. Because the truth is, I’ve always been afraid of things. A short list of things I used to be mortally terrified of as a child, that I’m now reasonably accomplished at, include:

  • Being in the same room with a kitty-cat
  • Sleeping with the light off
  • Jumping off the diving board
  • Being underwater
  • Rollerskating
  • Riding a bike without training wheels
  • Being admonished in Ballet class

Because when you’re a kid, you have to get over your fears. People make you. And as an adult it’s easy to stay complacent. To stay where we know we are safe. But the only reason I was able to jump off that platform is that years ago I did a high ropes course. I was a counselor at an arts camp, and I was required to do it. I hated it. I refused to participate at first. And when I finally got up on the ropes, and pushed through the fear, it was amazing. I didn’t want to get down. I realized that the doing of the thing isn’t the hard part; it’s the pushing through the fear that is the hardest.

So when the instructor calmly told me that I had to lean out over the cavernous space and grab the bar, I knew she was right. I had to do it, to push past the roaring in my head and the shaking in my legs. I had to grab the bar, and I had to jump. Because that’s what being alive is.

So go do something brave. Jump. The best I can tell you is that swinging in space is less terrifying than standing on the platform waiting.

(All pictures taken at Trapeze Arts in Oakland, which I can’t recommend enough. They don’t let you wallow in fear there. Also? This would be the best bachelorette party of all time. Maybe even better than mine. You’re welcome.)

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  • Jess K

    Well done, Meg! You’ve inspired me.

  • FDR said it better than I ever could: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
    Well done for facing your fears!

    • Raqs


  • Meg, I’m sure I’ve said this before, but APW convinced me to stop being afraid of doing what I wanted to do in the context of my wedding… and a couple of months after we got married, it extended to the rest of my life. In December, I quit my long term full-time job with benefits, with nothing lined up. I started volunteering (crazy things! I work with monkeys now!) and somewhere along the line discovered that I’m a really good coach (one of my fears used to be kids… now I teach them every day!). I applied for school and have been running my own business, which – this month! – is making me as much money as I used to make at my full time job (that I hated). Thanks for the push so many months ago to follow what I wanted, despite the fear. I love where I have ended up, and where I am going.

    • Woohoo for you! This post and all the responses are going to make me sooooo happy today.

    • Are you serious?!

      This was so inspiring to read. You just have no idea.

    • Amazing – good for you! Congratulations! I think Meg’s job description includes “inspiring people to do what they really want in life – not just weddings” or it should. Yay, you!

    • Lor

      So proud and happy for you!

    • Oh Bird I am overjoyed for you! You are rocking at life.

    • I put my two weeks’ notice in at a job I hate and we are packing up right now to move to Austin from Virginia. We don’t have a place to live, and the husband technically doesn’t have his transfer. I don’t have a job yet either. We have savings and hope and excitement. I call it our Pioneer Days because that’s how we feel, like we’re headed into the unknown (although we have visited the city) in search of a better life. It gives me such a sense of exhilaration to toss my fortunes to the wind like this. I’m just hoping my husband can stop worrying about his job and see the change like you have!

  • Does it sound condescending if I say “I’m proud of you?” I’m sorry if it does. But I am :)

  • Lor

    once again, exactly what I needed this morning…

  • Woah, Meg, I love it! And I like your inspiration too — I have also cut out and carried an article to remind me to explore and adventure (mine was about a biologist who worked on tidepools, which is something I love).

    I’m a ropes course instructor, and I am also afraid of heights. I’m not going to lie — it is a little scary. Okay, a lot scary sometimes. I don’t have to go up on the platforms much, but I do sometimes. I can finally be on the zip platform and not freak out at all. There are still elements we do on our course that I am incapable of doing. For example, we have a power pole: you climb up a 35 foot pole, stand on the top, which is the size of the phone book, and jump out into open space to try and grab a bar. I can climb the pole now, but I still can’t stand up on the top piece. I am working up to it, slowly. I admire you for facing down your fears and getting back up there again and again.

    Thanks for the morning reminder to be bold.


    At 25 I’m finally learning to drive and it scares the shit out of me! I’m unsure why since everyone else seems to have got it. Lesson 4 tomorrow. I’ll be channelling this post. Maybe next I’ll try trapeze :)

    • Amy

      Ha, so its not just me who’s scared of driving? I’m 28, have my license, but I still really dislike driving. I’m forcing myself to do it more and more, but I still come home, announce “I drove for x amount of time” and expect my husband to cheer for me. I need the positive reinforcement ;)

      • Noemi

        I totally ditto the whole driving fear. I know I can do it, I have driven long distances before, but if there is the option of someone else doing it? I am so for it! I just freak out about it beforehand, but the actual driving part isn’t bad at all. I am also working on getting my confidence back– I was never scared of driving in high school.

        • Bornonawednesday

          Same with me, about not being afraid of driving when I was younger. I used to drive to out-of-state vacation destinations! I was usually the one with a car, so I had to do the driving. But, now I’m at a point where I don’t even have a car and haven’t driven in almost 3 years (I take public transportation). I’ve been reading more and more lately about others having a similar dislike of driving, which makes me feel a little less like a freak — when I first started telling friends that I had an issue with driving, I did get some weird looks.

          • Class of 1980

            I drive and I have driven halfway across the country alone. BUT, ever since I moved to a very small town, I can’t seem to drive over 60 MPH without freaking out. And city driving makes me lose my mind.

            Hard to believe I moved here from a city.

            To be fair, one of the closest cities is Atlanta, GA and in rush hour, people drive 75 MPH there BUMPER-TO-BUMPER. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

            One time, I had to pull off the freeway (a neat trick) just to calm down.

            You feel like you’re qualifying for the Indy 500 in Atlanta. Dallas was a lot easier.

        • ES.TR

          Well that’s exactly the point, right? What other things do you do in your life we’re you could so easily kill someone through neglect? I don’t have many as a graphic designer, that’s for sure. I think when you’re younger that sort of stuff doesn’t factor into the learning process in the same way. Then add in all those other people who you have no control over..!! It’s literally an accident waiting to happen.

      • ES.TR

        Haha! That’s exactly what I’m like, except my partner never does because he’s jaded after driving me around for 6 years. He’s got one of those stories that involves food poisoning at a Vegas buffet and needing to drive us both 6 hours to Salt Lake City interspersed with various bodily fluids to catch a plane which always ends with… “And that’s why you need to be able to drive.” I concede, he may have a point ;)

      • Jennifer Lyn

        Huzzah! Okay. Don’t feel bad. It took me until I was 23 to get my license and another three years of therapy to get to the point where being behind the wheel of a car didn’t cause me to shake uncontrollably. Nope, I wasn’t in an accident, or anything awful like that. Just weird. Still would rather not drive though.

    • I didn’t get my license til 22! I used to be so nervous driving. In 2 years it’s gotten better, but I still don’t love it. By now I’ve gotten comfortable in my skill; it’s the other people I don’t trust. I see so many people doing stupid and illegal things…

      • Hah. My wife didn’t learn how to drive until she was 22, either– it was right after we met (I was 19, eep, a baby!) and -I- taught her how to drive. It was fun and REALLY TERRIFYING.

  • This post reminds me of an Erica Jong quote that stuck with me like glue: “Always do the things you fear the most. Courage is an acquired taste, like caviar.” Just as applicable in 2011 as it was in 1977. Well done, trapeze lady!

    • I like this quotation! So writing it down and putting it somewhere visible.

    • “Courage is an acquired taste…” Could not be more true. I love the snowball effect, too. One courageous moment elides into the next, and soon you’re being courageous all the time. And getting somewhere faster.

    • ka

      <3 Erica Jong.

  • Caroline

    One of the (very few) great things about living in a place where you don’t really have friends (in person friends at least) is that you are forced to do this constantly. Although mostly it is little stuff, like taking new classes or going to things on your own. Not just movies and stuff, things that I once found inconceivable, like going to a concert on your own. (yes, I was that girl dancing by herself to M Ward in Manchester thankyouverymuch).

    but this is a great reminder to do the “i’m going to pee my pants” scary stuff too. Pushing yourself out there is one of the easiest ways to feel perfectly, wholly alive on just an average day – which is pretty great.

    Note to self, tick skydiving off next year (pretty sure the bump would not appreciate it this year).

    • “One of the (very few) great things about living in a place where you don’t really have friends (in person friends at least) is that you are forced to do this constantly.”

      I’m with you on this. I’ve actually made several friends since I moved to a new city with my husband in November but I keep trying new things and making myself talk to new people and it’s a little scary every time. I’m very introverted so I do actually have to make myself seek out friends because otherwise I’d be perfectly happy being alone or with my lovely husband. Congrats on facing the uncomfortable, Caroline and all others who are being brave. :)

  • This is great! I think you make a really important point, Meg, when you say that as adults we tend to not go out of our comfort zones. As kids, we’re always pushed to do new things…that’s growing up. As stupid as it sounds, I have a phobia of going to the doctor…and guess what I did this week! I went! I walked right in and was honest and told the doctor I was afraid and she was totally cool with it. I was so proud of myself…and it inspired my doctor-fearing-husband (and I thought in marrying him that HE would be the strong one when it comes to doctors! I was wrong!) to make an appointment sometime in this century. Now, that’s an accomplishment.

    I had a lot of fears as a child, and I have a lot now…the difference is that I’m learning that only I can control my life, and only I can decide that if something I’m choosing to do is “scary,” I can always stop, if I need to.

    Conquering fears really IS an important aspect of reclaiming wife, because it keeps us growing, learning, discovering who we are as women, people, learners, and thinkers.

  • Brilliantly timed post. My doctor gave me advice that I need to change my life if I want to keep living (she was not quite as blunt as that but that is the crux of it) and I have dilly dallied as I am scared it will mean I lose what I have. I’m scared it will have an impact on my relationship. I’m scared I will enjoy it. I’m scared I might become something else.

    But I just keep doing small bits (like holding the rail) and hope that each step takes me closer to crossing the fear threshold and into the life I need to have to keep me with the people I love.

    Thank you for this post. I will book mark it and come back to it whenever I get scared of something like this.

    • “I’m scared I will enjoy it.”

      This is a super common fear. But isn’t it a funny fear?

    • God. I need to carry this comment around with me every day.

      I’m scared I will enjoy it.

      This is the anchor dragging me down. This fear makes no sense to anyone in my life, and it’s such a present, PALPABLE fear of mine. It is astonishing to see someone else give voice to that same fear. Thank you.

      You make me want to do it anyway.

  • I needed to hear this today, well every day really. Thanks for posting, Meg. Perhaps I’ll begin by conquering my fear of balloons popping (yes, it’s silly but true)

  • Katrina

    I’m literally about to walk into my bosses’ office and put in my two-weeks notice. Even though I’ve got a new job lined up, I’m still terrified of the unknown.. Will my new coworkers like me? Will I like this new job as much as the one I have now? I’ll be keeping this post in the back of my mind all day. :)

    • Congratulations!!! New jobs are always so scary & riveting & awesome. I long for the day I can put in my two weeks…

      Courage, woman! Courage :)

    • I did mine too (without another “job”, though a side business) and it is terrifying. Don’t worry if a few hours later you feel woozy. Because in the next couple of days you are going to feel awesome and excited. Congrats to you.

    • Clover

      Congratulations! It’s scary, but it’s still really great to move on with your life. I am anxiously awaiting a phone call that is supposed to be coming “this week” about whether I will be receiving a job offer of my own at a new company. Even though I still haven’t heard anything, I am still having anxious dreams about showing up at my new job, meeting everyone and then subsequently disappointing them all. In real life, I am generally much more confident than these dreams would suggest, so these dreams have been weirding me out. So, I guess what I’m saying is, good luck and I know how you feel!

    • Congratulations! We’re all cheering you on. (I’m terrified of quitting. Can you report back how it goes?)

      • Katrina

        It went surprisingly well! Both bosses were supportive, and glad to see that I’m moving forward with my career.. whew! Now I just need to wrap up all the loose ends and say my goodbyes to everyone, that will be the hardest part!

        (That, and figuring out how to use public transportation to get to my new job.. I’m terrified of missing my bus! ha!)

      • When I quit another job I disliked to be an adjunct I felt like I could fly for hours. It was a high that was palpable. Don’t be afraid! It’s like a band-aid. It is scary for a second and then it is all over.

        Note, I’m not advocating quitting, just that if you *need* to quit don’t be afraid. Life is too short to not do something just because you’re afraid.

  • maura

    only two months into a new job, in a new city, and oh yeah, i’m a manager now.
    i’d love to share this with my team- seems like the perfect pep talk.

    and my fear- learning to ride a bike with clip ins. i’m terrified of falling off my bike. again. 20 years later. but it’s happening.

    • Jennifer Lyn

      not to worry you but I am a triathlete, I ride a road bike and because of horrible balance I have to fall way more than I would like. It isn’t as bad as the fear of falling is.

  • Amandover

    I love this whole post (having once wept my way up a ropes course…).
    But my favorite bit, the part that hit me in the gut was

    “You’re going to.”

    Not “you should,” or “you have to,” or even “yes, you can.” But a quiet confidence that simply wipes everything away except belief that you will.

    That’s good mentoring. Thanks again for posting.

  • Thank you for sharing this. You couldn’t have written this on a more appropriate day for me to read. So, thank you thank you.

    I’m currently at a place in my life where my career has become the platform, and, God am I afraid of heights. I don’t remember how I got to be so trapped, but here I am. Can’t grab the trapeze bars, can’t climb down the latter, won’t jump off the platform, either. I’m just really happy that my spot coach is my incredibly practical husband, and that he’s not some form of gravitational pull towards failure and/or complacency, OR a proverbial ball-and-chain, or some such poetic thing like that.

    • Husbands as spot coaches. I love that image. That’s really what mine is. When I’m freaking out he calmly asks “what’s the worst that can happen?” And then I go off about how we’ll have to sell body parts and children to finish paying for my degree and he helps me see how that is irrational and then I am able to do what I need to do.

      • Cause it makes sense in your head to sell your kidney, right? RIGHT!?

        Haha, amen, friend. Amen.

  • Oh wow. This is amazing. One thing I really admire about you is that you continually face your fears and take giant leaps into the unknown. Your courage is very inspiring.

  • How exciting!

    So much of this post resonated with me – because you are absolutely correct. We do get complacent once we lose the security net of our parents and have to toe the water on our own. As kids, who cares if there are sharks? We lack complete knowledge and understanding something awful could happen; an adult will fix any problem that comes up – if any at all. But when adulthood’s responsibility slams you in the face? That body of water is infinitely more daunting. Who would rescue us? We know now parents and adults aren’t as fearless as our adolescent brain convinced.

    I think this is why I love these posts and the follow-ups to you going into self-employment. Such a huge leap of faith was required – metaphorically & (today) literally. To see someone do it who isn’t a multimillionaire protected by daddy’s money? Who isn’t totally out of touch with the “every day” man & woman?

    Superbly awesome.

    • Amy

      One of the awesome (and super scary things) about becoming a parent is realizing you’re going to have to face your fears for your child’s sake.
      I grew up in a city and never really learned to swim or bike ride. Both of those things make me uncomfortable to greater or lesser degrees. But I’ll be damned if I let that hold me back from strapping on a helmet and showing my kid how to ride a bike. Or getting in the ocean with them.

      • It feels different for me as opposed to for my child. My daughter will be 4 in less than a month ( :( :( :( ) and I have no problem getting out there for her. It’s for me that becomes the problem – and I think that’s true for a lot of people. We don’t want to change things that we know are currently working and supporting our family because the way things are work – we aren’t struggling to pay the bills, we can put food on the table, go out if we like, etc. If I were to say – leave this job and pursue what I really want to do, I’m looking at a pay cut, where things would be infinitely more difficult. My commute might change, impacting the amount of time my daughter stays at daycare. There is a myriad of things that hinder me from diving out on my own.

        I think a lot of parents struggle with this especially. We don’t want to do something that would jeopardize our children’s quality of life, etc, and end up refraining.

        I’d really love to learn how to break this cycle, little by little.

  • This is resonating with me so much today as I’m turning in my resume to apply for a new job. I realize what’s taken me so long is inertia and the fear of leaving the job I’ve been in for over six years (a job I really cannot stand most of the time). Thanks for the encouragement.

  • A trapeze workshop? That’s cool! And you’re so right Meg. Doing things that scare us is one of the most exhilarating things in life – it lets us experience the sublime (Edmund Burke wrote fascinating things about that feeling of utter ‘aliveness’, if you’re interested).

    My life as it is has plenty of discomfort-zone activities in it. Sold my house so I could move in with my fiance, knowing I wouldn’t be able to buy another one. Getting married somewhat soon and moving half way across the world a while later, which means abandoning my career and finding a new one (as a freelancer?)… And those are only the big things. They don’t include things like teaching myself computer programming, starting an exercise regime and a whole host of other outside-of-my-comfort zone activities.

    Feels good!

  • I did Trapeze lessons too – though wasn’t as brave as I wanted to be and didn’t make the catch (but I did hang upside down by my knees!) It was on my life list, and since my husband happens to know a lot of trapeze artists, I was able to find the perfect coach. For those of you in PA or NY, I can’t recommend Mary Kelly at
    highly enough.

    She is my friend, true, but is an awesome teacher and accomplished aerialist. She is no longer on a Ringling Bros. show and has her own trapeze rig – super fun!

    Cheers to doing things that scare you!

  • Thank you for the inspiring post. It brought me back to Costa Rica. I went there for a college class for my spring break(yes best class ever!) while there I went on zip lines which were nerve wracking at first and I even jumped off the cliff of a small waterfall. I’m petried of heights to the point I hate the Ferris Wheel. I need to get that tattoo idea done that costa rica inspired so i have a constant reminder to live my life more like i did during that trip.


  • Ashley

    Awesome! I’ve always wanted to do a trapeze class too… I’m going to have to look into that!

    Good thoughts to live by though… as adults we really don’t have to face our fears, and we do 100% get out of the habit of doing it. What’s that qoute, something like, “You should do one thing every day that scares you.” We should start that too…

  • That’s pretty much exactly the same way I feel about rock climbing. I really wanted to try it, though, so even though I’m terrified of heights, we went to an interior climbing facility for my birthday last year. It DID scare the shit out of me. At one point, I stopped about five feet from the top of the 100-foot climbing wall and begged and begged to be let down. I was clinging to the wall, terrified and shaking, and didn’t feel like I could move. They wouldn’t let me until I got to the top, and that turned out to be a good thing. Similarly to you, by the end of the day I was still afraid of it, but I was determined to do it. Over and over. And I did.

    Thank you for this post. :)

  • Elizabeth

    Cool, Meg! Am I the only one who thought instantly of that Sex and the City episode where Carrie tries out the trapeze? Feeling sheepish about that one.

    Also, thank you for sharing that Erica Jong quote! LOVE IT. I am going camping this weekend and I am terrified. Not the same thing I know, but it’s something I’ve never in a million years thought I’d ever agree to do. Yikes! Thanks for this.

    • You are not the only one. And don’t be sheepish about it either. :-)

  • Dude! This post comes at the perfect time for me! James and I just went to Noah’s Ark (*ahem* the world’s largest water park, in WI) on Monday and he somehow tricked me into going on a ride that I didn’t realize was scary. (I don’t like roller coasters, and also don’t like scary water slides.) Well, I was clueless going into it, because you couldn’t really see what the slide did, and it had a random/trippy name… Time Warp. (Oooo…)

    The longer we waited in line for the ride, the more I started to realize this ride might be big and scary. (Because people don’t wait in lines like that for lame rides.) Then I started to see all the warning signs, “You MUST sit upright with legs straight at all times. Do not lean forward or backward. Do not bend your legs.” … and on… and on… And I started realizing they were warning us for a reason. This must be a BIG SCARY ride. Oh. No.

    We’d already been in line forever so I couldn’t turn back. Then we finally got to top and were paired with two young boys (it’s a round, 4-person tube, and the boys didn’t weight enough to go by themselves… they were probably 10 years old, tops – so I figured, if they got this – I GOT THIS).

    And off we went. The boys screamed like little girls. I screamed like a little girl. And I was scared sh*tless. I just kept thinking… “Don’t lean forward. Don’t lean back. Keep legs straight… or you will die!!!”

    We made it to the end and I was shaking like a leaf … and laughing my head off! I did it! James squeezed my hand and laughed with me. He was so proud of me for going on a big ride. haha. After that, I was brave a few more times that day and went on rides I knew were scary from the start. And I screamed again, and again. And it felt good. :)

    • JEM

      Ha! I have a similar experience with Noah’s Arc with a water slide called The Dragon Tail, which is realllllllly high and has realllllllly low sides that you could SO EASILY flop over and it goes reallllllllly fast. I almost had a heart attack, but I did it. Never again, but I did it.

      • Exactly! I said to J after that one…. I did it! But I’m not doing that one again! Haha

    • ka


      I HATE roller coasters and most other things that are high, fast, and/or dangerous, but I had a group of friends in high school who all but cured my fear simply by getting me to do crazy shit—like roller coasters, bungee balling, go karting, snorkeling—over and over). And it was SOO worth it. I still hate roller coasters, but I know I can do it, I know I can push through the fear.

      Translating this to other, less black and white, areas of my life is still a different story…

      • I used to hate roller coasters too. I thought, I’m so little and it’s so big.

        But my friends pushed me repeatedly to go on roller coasters. I mean, who wants to be the kill joy who sits out every ride? Not me, so I went again and again. And now I’m the kind of person who will wait for the front seat on a ride.

  • Kathryn in VT

    This post (and some of the lovely responses) are JUST what I needed to read today. A year ago I made the terrifying decision to go to grad school on the other side of the country from my then-boyfriend. Yesterday, after three days of driving alone across country, I returned for my final semester away — leaving behind my now-husband at home for the next four months. I was terrified to the point of making myself sick to my stomach this time last year. The terror is gone now, for the most part, but there’s still the fear and uncertainty (and exhilaration) of trying something new, of striking out on my own while still maintaining a strong marriage, of being alone for a little while.

    A lot of my fear, leading up to the decision to return to school, had to do with my concern about making the wrong choice. A mistake! Heaven forbid! In actuality, my graduate program wasn’t the best fit for me, and it’s taught me more about what I don’t want to do in life than what I do. But I’m so grateful I made the leap to quit my job and give this a try. I’ve grown so much, individually and as part of a couple, over the last year. My advice now? Do what scares you. And if it doesn’t pan out, or turns out to be the wrong choice, chances are you’ll still come away better for it.

  • Jess

    This article perfectly articulates why I moved 5 hours away from the love of my life to attend grad school. He was SO CLOSE to proposing, but when I made that decision, I knew I was putting off engagement/wedding things for at least two years, if not longer.

    I’ve barely been here two weeks, and the roaring in my head has not stopped. The guilt has not stopped. But I know I need to chalk the hell outta my hands, “sack up” as my friends say, and just go do it. This will (hopefully) help me provide for my baby family when the time comes, but OOOO CHILD. This ain’t easy. But if it was easy, everybody would have graduate degrees.

    I keep a picture in my head of me, my love, and our future children in front of our tiny, ramshackle house in some quiet college town. I’m a nerdy professor, he’s a nerdy computer guy, we have little nerdlings running around, but they have what they need, and so do I. That’s what I’m pushing for, despite the fear, because I can’t ever let my kids know that giving in to fear is the right thing to do. That’s also why I’m forcing myself to get over my paranoia of bicycles – – – gotta get to campus, and Mama don’t have no money for a car!

    Here’s to being Brave as Shit. :)

    • carrie

      You rock! I always come back to: if the hard stuff was easy, everyone would do it.

    • Crysta

      I’ve been lurking on this site for a while, but your comment enticed me to reply. Its terrifying as hell going long distance. I did it with my first ever boyfriend, after a year and a half together. Got told by everyone (including my parents) that the chances were we weren’t going to make it. I cried until I fell asleep on the plane. I woke up and cried until I got off the plane. I cried for the first week believing it was all going to fall apart within a few months. We were only in the same country for 1 month out of 18. For the rest of it we were 6,000-12,000 miles apart, with horrible time differences. But we made it. We’re still together. We’re stronger for it. Plus, I got bit on the backside by a tiger cub in South Africa (awesome experience, no injuries or anything) and he had the time of his life in Australia.

      What I’m saying is, its incredibly difficult to do what you’re doing. Its terrifying and very brave of you. But it will be worth it. Keep that picture in your head, count down the days until you see him again, and enjoy your time at school!

      • Raqui

        Isn’t “taming the tiger” a metaphor often used about facing your fears? I love that you got bit in the ass by a tiger cub and it was an awesome experience – you didn’t even need to tame it!

        • Crysta

          I’ve never heard that one before, but I’m quite liking it! I just found the experience awesome because, well, it was more of a warning bite than anything. I was wearing thick jeans, which helped. I know there was a risk of something worse from the handler’s reaction, but internally I was just thinking of how cool a story it was going to be!

    • Kathryn in VT

      YAY for you. Going long distance is hard, but don’t let anyone tell you you’re not making the right choice. I moved 2,000 away from my now-husband this time last year. I thought I was exactly in your shoes: I felt that I was putting on hold a lot of imminent plans in our life (engagement, marriage) and I was so worried I was going to wreck it all. Mileage may vary, but for us it just clarified so much: Sometimes distance brings everything into focus. Moving away let me know what (and who) I really wanted with a level of certainty I never thought I’d have. (I get anxious trying to order off a dinner menu — too many choices!)

      Around the time I was debating whether or not to go back to grad school, a wise friend gave me some incredible advice. She told me that I should think about this decision to go as laying the foundation for the kind of relationship I wanted. Leaving to focus on me and my dreams was a way of proving to myself that both my husband I could have independent, fulfilling dreams later in life — that our relationship could be stronger because we knew how to be independent as well as how to be a couple. So when you’re a nerdy professor, and maybe want to take some two-month sabbatical on the other side of the world for your research? You’ll know you can do it.

      Good luck. It’ll be hard, but you’re going to come out feeling so strong on the other side.

    • FawMo


  • jo

    I love this! I’ve been pushing us lately to get out and do things not in our rut, and this post hit the nail on the head as to why I’ve been doing it. It’s because I want us to widen our comfort zone. I want to face my fears (most of which are social).

    That’s something that I love about a partner and friends: they often DO make me go out of my comfort zone as an adult.

    • ka

      “That’s something that I love about a partner and friends: they often DO make me go out of my comfort zone as an adult.”

      This is awesome, and something I sometimes fear about my partner and friends. No comfort zone pushing whatsoever. But I’m trying to take my awareness of that to do the pushing myself—expanding my circle of friends (like to include you lovely ladies), and encouraging the boy to get out of his comfort zone. Still, sometimes I feel totally surrounded by complacency (friends), and/or talk with no action (partner), and it’s a bit frustrating/exhausting.

      • Jo

        For me, part of the push in regards to friends is actually MAKING friends I wouldn’t normally make. Or encouraging Carson to be friendly with more than his core group.

        So you’re on it already. :)

  • Meg, did you know that in another tiny, tiny corner of the universe, I had already mashed you and trapeezeing together? You two were destined for each other. So go make that catch. Cause now I can do 18 push-ups, and as you can see, you were a little bit of inspiration.

    Keep on climbing up that rickety ladder, girlfriend!

  • This. I needed this. I have been waffling between looking for a new job and staying at my current one, even though my current job is dead end. I keep thinking, what if something goes wrong? What if I can’t make it? But I will never know until I try!!!

    Congrats on the trapeze! It looks awesome!

  • Hillori

    Great post! Reminds me of my favorite quotation ever:

    A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.

  • “…as adults, we have the ability to stay in our comfort zone. We don’t even have to push ourselves to do little brave things, like going dancing. We can easily surrender to inertia, not leave the house, not leave the couch, not leave our job, not change our lives. We’re not forced to try new things, and when we stop being brave, we forget how to do it. When we stop being brave we forget that the fear of trying something new is almost always worse than actually doing something new. When we stop practicing pushing through the fear, we forget that the fear is a lie, not the truth.”

    Thank you, Meg and Becca, for your wise thoughts. I know I will continue to be inspired by this post in the coming days, weeks, and months as I continue trying to build a life and community here in the city where I now live with my husband. I feel like I have set up camp up on the platform for a long time now, thinking about chalking up, while waiting on other necessary stuff to fall into place (like immigration). But now, there is nothing standing between me and mid-air except myself, so I guess it is time to chalk up, jump, and see what happens.

  • Raqui

    Fantastic! Ladies, this is wonderful. Meg I love how you describe the trapeze experience. How you can still have the shakes and the sweaty palms in the midst of it but it does get easier with much repetition.

    I have just given notice to my office job with nothing lined up. My guts were a wreck that day. This isn’t the first time I’ve done such a thing and it’s still scary as hell. I am mentally worrying less however and just being with the raw fear. In September I’m traveling with my future husband to Western Mongolia to trek around and stay with nomads and visit people who live with golden eagles. Then we’re getting married and moving to the Bay Area from Brooklyn. I hope to see you, Meg, at Trapeze Arts in Oakland then!

    Thanks for the sisterhood everyone!

  • I want to leave my soul-crushing job but my almost-husband is a marginally employed grad student. I’m not afraid to do scary things (sign up for a half marathon not yet able to run a full mile, travel to foreign countries without a plan or map, etc.) but I suddenly feel like I’m being selfish because it’s the two of us now.

    • Crysta

      Maybe you could look for another job while you stay where you are? That way you give yourself the opportunity of leaving the job you’re in. Its not selfish to leave a job that makes you unhappy. In fact, you’ll probably become happier in all areas of life it. Which will only benefit your relationship!

  • Katie

    Ahhhhh… I’m crying at work. I love this I love this I love this. Thank you

  • Annie Hall

    I was talking to an old friend recently and reflecting on how I feel like I’ve lost my sense of fearlessness. Doing thngs alone never used to terrify me. I used to love to talk to strangers, offer my thoughts without tamping down content that could ruffle feathers, wear things that could others to raise their eyebrows. I used to apply for new jobs and go on interviews simply because I liked to engage in the exercise of considering new possibilities. Yet, slowly along
    the way, I’ve begun to pull back becoming meek in situations where once would have been bold, plagued by the fear that anything different is going too scary to face. It is as though my bravery musle, atrophied from lack of use has forgotten how to push away the fear. As Meg said, it is as though I’ve forgotten that the fear is a lie, not the truth.

    • Maggie

      “It is as though my bravery musle, atrophied”

      I was just saying this to someone! My motto used to be “Do one thing every day that scares you” (Eleanor Roosevelt). I went skydiving, spoke in front of huge groups of people, did contact improv dance, etc. And now… I’m not sure why… but my motto seems to be “don’t rock the boat!” I don’t know if it’s age or what (I did have a misguided-but-empowering sense of invulnerability in my late teens/early twenties ;)), but I’d like to get some of that bravery back.

    • Annie Hall

      Sorry for the typo in muscle. I know those are annoying.

      • Maggie

        I thought I messed up the copy&paste, but caught it too late. Knew what you meant, though. :)

  • The support of APW sponsors, my sister and this community got me to leave my full time to pursue officiating- I am terrified and excited. But, as my wonderful man pointed out, the way I get when I start thinking about/.talking about officiating is all the proof I need that I’m doing the right thing.

    I’ve really felt that comfort zone rut recently- but last night I decided I wanted to relearn Algebra and Calc and went and bought myself a book. I’m learning to sail- I love it! And even a terribly mean instructor reminded me of what I can do– fight for myself, advocate for ME. I also lifted weights for the first time ever last week, and turns out..I love it and am really..sort of awesome at it. (“You’re so much stronger than I thought! I’m so impressed”-thanks manfriend!) And I just bought running shoes because this girl is going to start running.

    I drive but not on highways yet- I am insisting on learning this soon. I have my license, I want to drive all place.

    I am pushing myself because I don’t want to live in fear. I am capable of many, many things- I do not want to be limited by my fears/anxieties!

    • meg

      I love calculous. that is all.

  • kyley

    This post made me tear up. I would like to print it out and carry it around in my back pocket for ever. Maybe I should just tattoo the whole thing on my forearm!

    I have lots of scary emotional baggage around going to the gym, and I recently joined a really beautiful women’s-only gym (with a spa whilrpool in the locker rooms!) and I’m really trying to make the gym a happy place. Thanks for the reminder that facing my fears is always worth it!

    Seriously, thanks for sharing this experience with us, Meg.

  • I’m glad you went through with it, shaking legs and all.
    I ran away with the circus (for awhile) and it was the scariest thing I have ever done, moreso than moving across an ocean. I didn’t do anything as dramatic as the flying trapeze, but I did train a bit on another aerial act (the web) and something my friends/coaches told me seems to resonate with this post.
    I was (and still am) terrified of heights and the aerial training I undertook was done without a safety harness. While physical strength is a must, mental strength was the hard part for me. It took me over a month of working everyday just to get myself a few feet off the ground. I was sure that I would fall and kill myself so I wouldn’t climb any higher. I blamed physical weakness. This is what they said, ‘You won’t fall. Your body won’t let you fall. You can’t fall.’ This from a woman who broke her back falling from a trapeze. And while this may not be true in reality, it seemed to make a difference and within a few days, I was almost to the top of the tent.
    If we trust ourselves and leap, we have to trust that we won’t let ourselves fall. At the risk of sounding like an Oprah special or self-help book, we have the ability to be our own safety harness.

    • Meredith

      As crazy as that lady was saying “your body won’t let you fall” it’s too true. I’m a gymnast and when other women (yes, women, GO adult gymnastics) are scared of their hands completely missing the beam (a semi-valid fear I suppose) I always say “you’re body won’t let you do that. you’re gymnastics intuition will take over and you’ll be fine.”

      Not that this is really related to the topic, but that lady, she’s totally right.

      • KEA1

        I dunno, I actually think it’s completely spot-on the topic. I think a lot of things that scare us, even valid fears, really are that way–whether it’s in the literal sense or the figurative one, our bodies won’t let us fall. Good stuff to remember. And adult gymnastics? WIN!

  • Thanks for reminding me to get back to that list I’ve been ignoring! And it’s true, I really do feel most alive after learning something new, unexpected, and absolutely terrifying. Plus, getting to check something off my life list is the most satisfying feeling of accomplishment that I have found thus far in my adult life. (I miss those trophies we used to get every time we did something good as children….)

    Also, I totally did the trapeze on the Santa Monica pier last summer, and even though I felt like I was going to pass out the first few passes, I did the catch at the end, and it was really amazing!!! I never thought I would be able to do something like that, and I think I smiled for two weeks afterward. You should definitely go back for it!

  • For me, this was parasailing. As I got older, the fear crept in more and more – of completely random things, like swimming in the ocean (which I had done forever). My boyfriend at the time called me out on it (because I was trying to convince him not to go windsurfing because I was convinced he would DIE) and I decided to go parasailing just to, you know, show him he was wrong.

    I got out on the boat and the terror set in. I was supposed to be the first up and totally passed, told them I wouldn’t do it at all. And then this tiny little girl, probably 12, happily got in the harness and was hauled out into that huge blue sky, swinging her legs and laughing with her dad (who was with her). And I was like, damn it, I won’t be shown up by a 12-year-old and promptly said I was up next. My heart was in my throat but it was awesome and beautiful.

    And I love that quote Erin posted above – that courage is an acquired taste. Because it is. Since the parasailing, I’ve sort of implemented a system where if I feel squeemish about something – I’m just going to do it, by god. And it turns out I love sky diving and scuba diving and road biking and a ton of other stuff I never would have tried otherwise.

    Although not trapeze – that just hurt my hands. ;-)

  • “Swinging in space is less terrifying than standing on the platform waiting.”


    I regularly (yearly) set goals for myself. If I didn’t do that then I wouldn’t have tried out for community theater (the goal was to audition, not get cast, I just managed to get cast several times), learned to belly dance (and you wouldn’t believe how often that skill comes in handy), or applied for and finished one graduate degree and now working on a second.

    It’s good to always be asking yourself what you want to do next, where you want to go, what do you want to learn. I’d really like to learn hip hop, mainly because the image of a mid-30s white woman doing hip hop cracks me up.

  • ka

    This might just be the article I cut (err, print) out and carry around with me forever.


  • Lynn

    I needed to hear this today. I have the opportunity to completely change my life right now, and I’m not sure exactly what to do. It should be freeing but right now it is terrifying.


    I used to take trapeze lessons for a few years in junior high. It’s such a rush! Glad to hear that you gave it a try! I think it’s someone everyone should try at least once. I even got my 60-year-old dad to give it a shot! I could use a nice swing over the net right now to get my mind off of wedding planning! :)

  • Stephanie

    Congrats Meg!!

    I actually did have an aerial arts class in lieu of a more traditional bachelorette party! It was so much fun and such a perfect way to spend time with my female friends and family, celebrate our relationships, and say goodbye to single life. In addition to not facing our fears, I think that we as adults do not allow ourselves enough time to simply PLAY.

    I have been reading this site for nearly two years without commenting, but wanted to finally take the time to thank you for your wonderful work, Meg. Your site was so inspiring and supportive when I was engaged and wanting to create a wedding that really felt true to my (now) husband and me. I continue to read it, especially the reclaiming wife and working for yourself posts as I can relate to both!

    Thanks for doing what you do.

  • Jenny

    My palms were sweating the entire time you were describing your experience. I have also become a victim of my own fears. I once jumped out of an airplane! Now, I was 18 at the time and I don’t know if I could do it again (10 years later). But the same thing as you, leaning out of that airplane was the worse part. Once your out and falling, its quite exhilerating and I had a total blast. Kudos to you for pushing past your fear!

  • LanyTaz

    I totally sent this post to the hubs-to-be (in 3 weeks, 2 days… not that I’m counting!) — We decided that on our mini-break after the wedding, we’re going to sit down together, and try to create some ideas for our hopes/dreams/thoughts/ideas once the wedding is over, and see if we can implement some of this feeling in to our lives… which are a bit consumed by the final wedding planning stage right now.

    I think we’ve both been feeling “antsy” due to general malaise with life/jobs/etc (stress created by planning, perhaps?), so this was a great reminder.

    Thanks so much Meg!

  • there is a trapeze school that comes to DC every year, and every year I say “someday I want to do that!!” someday I will. maybe next time it comes around..!

    thanks for always reminding us to push ourselves, and that the scariest things are usually the most worthwhile. you are doing so much GOOD here.

    • Emily

      DDay, there is a trapeze school that lives in DC every day of the year. It’s called TSNY, and it’s down in Navy Yards, a couple blocks from Nats Stadium. And it’s awesome, and in addition to flying trapeze, you can take classes in silks, static trapeze, lyra and trampoline….

      • why did I think it was a temporary thing?? wasn’t there something that used to set up in the old convention center lot? or did I make that up. well thanks! you’ve just taken away all my excuses..!

        • Emily

          DC’s TSNY (they also have schools in NY, Boston, LA and Chicago) was originally based in Baltimore. When the moved down to DC a couple years ago, they were in a temporary location in the old convention center lot. But they were able to procure a more permanent location in SE. They’ve built a (heated and air-conditioned) tent that offers classes all year, and in the warmer months they also offer classes at an outdoor rig.

          And no problem! If it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, I say take the (literal) leap. The staff is amazing and supportive… I promise I don’t work there and no one pays me to say these nice things! I just think it’s a great organization.

  • bec

    Reading this with tears in my eyes. I could feel your fear as I read through it, my hands were shaking too. Awesome Meg, very empowering!!

  • Ah. Love this.

  • Lynsie

    I’m terrified of drowning, and I absolutely hate swimming with my head underwater because I hate holding my breath. So, in college, I forced myself to take Scuba. It was horrifying! We had to swim a certain distance without taking a breath (took me the longest to master of anyone in the class), we had to stay under for a certain amount of time while sharing a tank with someone (I had to try so hard not to bogart the thing and kill my partner!). Slowly, I got more comfortable. BUT, when it was time to leave the college pool and go into a lake to do the real thing, the first time I went under, WAY under, and looked up at how much water was crushing down on me, I immediately hyperventilated. I couldn’t keep breath, and I pointed up over and over trying to get the instructor to let me go. And you know what he did? He handed me a pretty moss covered rock. Then pointed at a fish. And I forgot all about being scared and went “Ooooo….pretty!” So yes, push through, it will be worth it, even if you stay terrified, just to know that yes, you did that. You were brave even though you were scared.

  • Cheers to you!!!

    I, too, suffer from a silly-ridiculous fear of heights. And one thing I do that terrifies the sh*t out of me is get on a chairlift every winter just so I can satisfy my need to snowboard. It’s not the rush I get from tearing through powder (though that’s pretty freaking rad) it’s being dangled above hundred-foot shear cliffs that terrifies and yet empowers me. And I have to force myself to reach those new heights (literally) because I do have the option of just doing gondola laps all day, but the view isn’t the same, the pitch isn’t the same and the terror isn’t the same.

    • We are the same person.

      Do you know how many times I’ve been knocked in the head by a chair lift because I was too terrified to let go at the top and apparently it doesn’t slow down just because you have a death grip on the seat?

      True story.

      • Elizabeth

        Maddie, this made me laugh out loud! So sweet. And no worries, I sometimes contemplate just riding around again :)

  • Mollie

    Perfect timing- check out this article in the NYTimes about women doing very similar things:

  • Emily

    Aw, I can’t let a post on one of my all-time favorite things go up and not chime in.

    Trapeze is amazing. In my first few classes, I learned a really profound lesson about listening. I was listening to my coach, but I was also trying to control the situation, which is basically impossible — you’re hanging 30 feet in the air, there’s a person controlling you via the lines attached to your belt, and you have no idea what the f*ck you’re doing. When I tried to think it through on my own, I failed.

    But then I figured out that if I just really listened to my coach, and trusted him, it would happen. And it did! Instead of fighting gravity I was using it to help me through. My coach knew all these things about flying I didn’t know, about timing and gravity and the physics of the swing, and by really listening to him, I learned them to. When he said “Hep” I jumped off the board, when he said “Legs up” I tucked my legs, etc. And that was the beginning of me learning how to fly. But the very first step was learning to listen.

    Listening is more than just not talking, or hearing the words coming out of someone’s mouth. Listening, really really listening, requires you to let go a bit. The only way to learn from anyone is to accept that they might know something you don’t, which means you have to stop thinking your old thoughts for a minute and let their words in. If those words have merit, and you’re lucky, they will take root and you’ll be wiser than you were before. THAT’s listening.

    I’ve been flying for three years, and I’m still trying to master both listening and flying. But I’m better at them than I used to be!

    • is this the same Emily who told me about the DC trapeze school on the previous page? (and the same Emily I met at the very first bookclub meetup..? by chance?) this is a really excellent comment. “And that was the beginning of me learning how to fly.” ..I must put myself in the position to be able to say this, some day soon. I will look into this DC place!

      • Emily

        Same Emily who replied to your comment on the previous page, but different from the book club meetup Emily… going to an APW book club is, for me, one of those scary things I want to do but haven’t worked up the courage for. Yet. But if you can get past your trapeze excuses, surely I can overcome my “but I don’t know anyone!” book club excuses.

        • meg

          DUDE. How is an APW book club more scary than flying trapeze??? I rest my case.

          • Emily

            Hahahahaha! Leaning over the cavernous space is so much scarier when the space is METAPHORICAL, Meg. Duh. ;)

          • Kaitlyn142

            I have jumped through walls (drywall, but still) and thrown myself all over the place 8 feet off the ground *testing* rigging for a movie set. Those were nothing compared to even picking out an outfit for an APW meetup.

        • awww please come sometime! you could come to the party this Sunday and bring your partner or a friend or something! we can just talk about the trapeze school the whole time.

      • Paranoid Libra

        Ummm can we get an APW learning to fly in DC day? I will haul my ass down there from PA for a day for that.

        • that. is a great idea. for next year though. I am too broke for the rest of this year.

  • Ashley B

    Thanks for the inspiration! Every time I start to get nervous about the choices I’m making (hopefully starting grad school next fall) or start to listen to my fears, I love that I can come here and get inspired by smart women going through something similar. Thanks APW for the inspiration and aspiration!

  • Sara

    I did this for my bachelorette party this past spring in DC. It was absolutely awesome. It was so wonderful to bring all of my ladies together and have everyone face a little fear together. There was something very symbolic about stepping off that platform and just having to trust: trust in the bar, trust in the ropes, trust in the net, and trust in yourself. It was fantastic and outrageous and sooooo much better than the strip-club-bachelor-party that the menfolk were attending.

  • This post comes with such great timing. I’m currently 18 days away from moving to Hawaii (from Texas) and I’m terrified! I’ve never been there and there’s so much to do still and it’s such a huge, risky, scary thing. It’s going to put us in a somewhat precarious financial position and separate me from my husband and dogs for two months. I used to be scared of everything when I was younger, and then in college I did a 180 and turned into a total thrill seeker. I’ve calmed down (in my ripe old age of 24 :-P) lately, but still have little problem facing fear of heights/roller coasters/etc because I KNOW it will be ok, even if I don’t feel it. Moving to a totally new place and leaving people I know and love behind, while scary, still feels doable to me. I did it when I moved to Texas from Georgia two years ago. Even joining the army when I was 19 was scary, but not on this level.

    The thing that has always paralyzed me is financial risk. I worry about going completely broke and screwing up my family’s finances for the foreseeable future. I worry about getting into debt. I worry about not being able to work from home when I have kids one day, like I’ve always wanted to do. I worry about not being able to live the life I want to live because I’m too busy working lame jobs to get by. But in reality, that’s sort of what I’m doing right now, only with a safe number in the bank account. Deciding to move to Hawaii was the scariest decision I’ve ever made and I think it was for my husband too. But we’re doing it! And now I’m just holding on for the ride and trying to remember to keep breathing. Thank you for reminding me that plenty of other people do scary things and it turns out just fine!

    • I can imagine how terrifying that must be… but that’s awesome. Good for you. :)

      • Thank you! It’s so great to have a community of fantastic women who don’t even know each other in real life be so supportive of each other!

    • “I worry about not being able to live the life I want to live…”

      Yes, I find this scary. Largely because I am not sure exactly how to make the life I want to live a reality. And because my dreams have changed a little over the last years (which I think is a good thing.) But I guess one step at a time is an okay approach…?

  • Rachel T.

    I am a walking ball of anxiety – have been for most of my life. The worst part about it is I put on a really brave face for the rest of the world, so one of the things people constantly say about me is that I’m so strong and so sure of myself. Mostly, it leaves me feeling like very few people in the world really know me. That’s my own doing, but it certainly comes from a place of fear. It also comes from my mother. I love her dearly, obviously, but she makes me sad. My mother is married and has nothing outside of her marriage. She has a spent a lifetime not making friends, not meeting new people or following up on requests to hang out. She is always waiting around for someone to call her or schedule time with her. She has ZERO confidence in herself and doing things outside of sitting at home with my father. He has friends, he has hobbies. When he’s out, she just sits around waiting for him, complaining that he would rather spend time doing “x” than with her. I spent a long childhood trying to parent her, and now that I’m grown and trying to end that, I still think of how sad it is for her to not have any friends. She loves to knit, does it all the time, which mostly too comes from a place of anxiety, but it’s become a good hobby for her. But it is still a solitary one. She is AFRAID, and it has paralyzed her. One of the reasons I put myself in therapy my freshman year of college (still in it now almost 10 years later) was because I didn’t want to end up like that… it always hurts to say (or write) that. It sounds cruel. But I want a life outside of my marriage, outside of my eventual children, and outside of my job. I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear, and I have PLENTY of fears. My fiancé thinks its adorable, but I’m moving to a place where I’m done being “cute” and instead of want to be strong and unafraid. So here’s my list of fears:
    – spiders (there was one in my classroom today and not only did I not scream but I also didn’t kill it. He’s still there)
    – being alone (this is a HUGE barricade for me that I’m working over)
    – not being good enough (also insert smart, nice, pretty, thin in for good)
    – being disliked or having someone angry at me
    – clowns (I can now see one on TV without screeching, but I still do not like circus music and cannot see them in person)

    So here’s to working on strength, confidence, life outside of whatever, and above all, squashing our fears.

    • meg

      If it makes you feel better, I have an anxiety condition. Sometimes I just think it makes you braver, because you have to face fears every single day.

    • KEA1

      So many things that you’ve said resonate so much with me; THANK YOU for putting all of that into words. And I raise my metaphorical glass to all of what you’ve proposed. %) Lots of good wishes for letting go of being your mom’s parent.

  • Class of 1980


    Meg, you lost me at … “you have to climb up to a platform (without a harness) that is the equivalent height of a third floor fire escape.”

    I used to think it would be fun until you said that. :(

    The “shaking legs” was the final nail in the coffin. ;)

  • april

    BRILLIANT. Awesome. As someone who herself has an IMMENSELY HUGE fear of heights, I applaud you! And I’m in awe of what you did. Because truthfully, I got nauseated and clammy just looking at the photos *knowing* you were WAAAAAAAY up in the sky. BTW: you have great form flyin’ through the air with the greatest of ease. ;-)

    This is a great post and it couldn’t come at a better time. One of my dear friends who is a college professor and psychologist just asked me to come speak at her cultural diversity class about my experience growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, living now with zero contact from my family as an ex-JW, and how that experience has shaped my life and decisions.

    I’ve been nauseated and clammy ever since reading her e-mail. I want to say no. I can’t tell a room full of complete and total strangers (30 – 40 strangers, but who’s counting), that a religion and faith that professes to save lives nearly claimed my own. No f*cking way.

    And then I read your post, Meg. Looked at your pictures… Realized that lots of people have their fears, too and yet – are courageous enough to face them anyway. So, I’m now feeling like I *COULD* tell that room full of strangers what I went through. Even though it will probably make me feel vomitous… it could also make me stronger. Which is a lot better than sitting here, feeling mad at myself, wrestling with my fear when I have the chance to stand up and say in my own voice: I MADE it. I’m here. And I’m better than all the crap I went through.

    Thank you, Meg. Truly. XO

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  • Janna

    Meg, I loved this post. I just finished my first week of law school, which is so fraught with fear. I could hardly breathe before I started. My naturopath told me to take deep breaths, because when we hold our breaths, we can’t move, and then we can’t be open to the world around us. He was more eloquent than that. :) I took lots of deep breaths and plunged in- met new people, spoke up in class, and managed to stop shaking uncontrollably. I’ve been married for two years, and I understand that comfort thing- staying at home, curling up with my partner, enjoying the routine and rhythm that comes from being married. I have to intentionally counter that with self-introduced challenges- whether it’s law school or trapeze class! Way to challenge comfort with LIFE!

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  • Ah, Meg, I love this. You are awesome.

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  • Sarah

    I realize I’m a bit late on commenting on this post, but I had this exact experience this summer, and just wanted to share. Well, when I say I had this exact experience, I don’t mean I went trapezing. But I did find my self in a very scary situation of my own doing, and had to come to terms with my adult fear.
    I spend my summers leading wilderness canoe trips in Canada, and every summer there is at least one cliff to jump from, where I send myself flying through the air, splashing down into the water below. It’s always fun and I’ve always taken a bit of pride in my 27-year old ‘bravery.’ But this summer it was different. Late in the summer, I took myself to the edge of a 25-foot cliff and was very surprised to find myself paralyzed with fear. To the point of tears. In my head I was chastising myself for being so afraid because this is something the younger me would have done without a second thought! The longer I stood at the edge, the more complex my thoughts became. I began thinking about my life and all of the ways I overcome my fears everyday, big and small. I knew I could do this. And after 20-minutes, I did. I jumped. It wasn’t even really that fun, but I was glad to have done it.
    I have spent a lot of time thinking about my experience of being afraid, and I realize that I wasn’t afraid of jumping off of the cliff. I was afraid of the fear of jumping. For me, this was a powerful realization. I now have the confidence to push myself to do things I’m afraid of because I have an understanding of what I am looking to overcome: the fear of fear.
    I loved reading this post, Meg, and all of the comments! Thank you all for your strength and inspiration!

  • “Because when you’re a kid, you have to get over your fears. People make you. And as an adult it’s easy to stay complacent. To stay where we know we are safe.” i LOVE this. and try to carry this thought with me every day.

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