I remember lining up in a field before boarding the bus that would take me to the aircraft that would take me across an ocean and set me down on foreign soil before my first deployment. While I was afraid, it wasn’t the only emotion I felt. I also felt adrenaline, excitement, anticipation, and eagerness. I was a newly minted combat medic and the greatest adventure I could imagine at that point in my life was about to begin.
Fear is always a part of our lives. Fear keeps us from actualizing our full potential, but there’s more to it than that. You have to understand your fear. Fear lets us know that we are alive, that we are still here, and that we care. Without pain, how can we understand pleasure? That same principle applies to fear. Without overcoming the fear of something new, we wouldn’t appreciate the achievement. There’s even a saying about it, “The best things in life don’t come easy.”
Over the years I’ve learned that particular saying is one of the most accurate colloquialisms. From that moment on the bus there have been many others like it, where fear has stood between me and what I wanted:
- Getting out of the Army and moving to a new place in the world to start college.
- When I asked a pretty girl to dance, and later when I asked that same pretty girl to marry me.
- When we had to put our dog down because he had cancer and was living in pain.
- When I decided to diversify careers after law school and give writing a shot.
- Every time I woke up in cold sweats remembering my time overseas.
- When my friend told me he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease of the kidneys.
- When I decided to give that same friend my kidney.
- And even now, as I write these words, wondering what people will think of them.
Happiness is an elusive state of being, and it isn’t easily obtainable. We can never know in advance which of our decisions will lead to happiness, but I know one thing for certain, if you don’t take a chance, if you let fear win, things will never change, they’ll never get better. So, embrace your fear. It’s a good thing. Facing your fear is even better. Who knows, maybe later today I’ll even go out and touch a spider.
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