“…the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I dread, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything, because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears … the fears.” Rainer Maria Rilke
On my last day in Hawaii, I decided to get on a standup paddleboard for the first time and paddle out into the lagoon. I’ve always loved watching people glide along the water standing up on a paddle board. They look serene and regal like they’ve figured out one of the deep mysteries of life. I wanted to be one of those people.
However, I was scared. This explains why I waited until literally the last day to do it. I was terrified of falling off and then flailing about and looking like a fool. In case you’re wondering, I did all of those things, and I’ve never been more exhilarated in my life.
The instructor told me to start off by kneeling on the board to get the hang of it, and then when I was ready, I could stand up. Oh, and don’t go too far out into the lagoon because of the rocks and, oh yes, you’ll be in the open ocean.
I knelt on the board and began paddling out. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought, as I looked down into the water, focusing on evenly using the oar to propel me further out. “I wonder how deep it is here…? Oh well, I can swim. Oh look, someone standing up on their board, smiling and nodding at me.” I smiled, nodding back.
I kept looking at the oar in my hands, and the water below, thinking, “Maybe I should try standing up now…” It was at that moment I looked straight in front of me and realized I was almost to the opening that led out to the Pacific Ocean. “Maybe standing up now isn’t the best idea,” I realized, slightly panicked, as I hastily started back paddling, awkwardly getting myself turned back towards shore.
My heart was racing, but all was fine, I wasn’t about to be lost at sea without even having had breakfast. As I got closer to the shore, I could see Kenny motioning for me to stand up. A little girl and her mother had joined the watch party, and they were also encouraging me to stand up.
The time had come.
Unfortunately, my legs had gone entirely asleep from having knelt so long on that board.
“Oh well, I’m sure it will be fine,” I thought, as I started to put one foot down on the board, then the other. In what felt like an eternity, pins and needles firing from my thighs to my toes, I stood up.
For a moment, I was elated and relieved, and then my legs started shaking and knocking together so fast, I’m pretty sure it looked like I was attempting to do the Charleston. Then I plunked into the water, with an unceremonious splash–all two feet of it.
Like Icarus, I had flown too close to the sun, my wings had melted, and here I was flailing in the sea.
I laughed so hard, and I’m even laughing now as I write this down for potentially all the world to see if they stumble upon my blog.
So why would perfectionistic me who never wants to look like I don’t know what I’m doing even share this unglamorous, graceless moment in my life? Because it was also one of the best moments in my life. A moment I might never have even had if I had let my fears hold me back.
I’ve been toiling away at this blog for quite some time now. I built it myself, failing so many times along the way, making mistakes and crashing the site, starting over again and again. I’ve been afraid. Afraid of giving up being an English professor and pursuing something new that might not even ever amount to anything. Afraid of sharing the blog with anyone until it was “perfect” (which it will never be). The fears…the fears…
But, I’ve decided to embrace the fears. Fear is where opportunity presents itself, where change happens, and where we learn and grow. I’m still afraid of failure, of looking like a fool; I shake with anxiety sometimes worried about not achieving all I want out of life before my time is done. I’ve been afraid to share this blog, even with my friends. But, no more.
I embrace it all, every experience–the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.
Thank you for joining and supporting me on The Road Taken To…wherever I’m not afraid to go.