Take risks, overcome fears

Once upon a time, you couldn’t talk me out of climbing to the tops of trees, playground equipment or the like. Being off the ground wasn’t an issue for me. I harbored no fear.

But one day I climbed a tree and looked down at the ground. I almost passed out, thus laying the foundation for my intense fear of heights.

I’ve lived with this fear for years now. I’ve tried on more than one occasion to face it head on but to no avail.

Recently, though, I found myself faced with the chance to walk across a bridge suspended pretty high up in the air. I chickened out the first time my friends and I visited, but 24 hours later I found myself in the air, walking across this catwalk of a bridge, clutching someone’s hand and praying I wouldn’t fall.

And even though I had a moment of extreme, almost paralyzing, fear, I made it across and back to the ground. Once there, I could only feel exhilaration, adrenaline and pure elation.

The best way to overcome a fear is to face it. Am I going to be climbing up water towers or walking across catwalk bridges every chance I get? Probably not. But the first step is always the hardest, no matter what you’re facing, and now it can only get easier.

On Jan. 1, I posted a quote on my Facebook page that reads, “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful. And don’t forget to make some art—write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

I did a lot of that, but I mostly just surprised myself in many ways. I decided to stop playing games and be real with people in my life, despite my fear of being myself, which has improved the quality of my relationships. I’ve learned the value of being honest in all you do or say, because there’s no value to be found in lying —even if telling the truth is scary.

Life, I’ve come to find out, is so much more interesting and worth living when you don’t live in fear.

Being fearless is easier said than done, of course, but it’s possible. Do it on your own terms. 2012 has been nothing but me working on being fearless, and it’s still an ongoing process.

Take risks, whether they are big or small. Ride the rollercoaster. Put your feelings on the line with someone and be honest about how you feel. Say no. Say yes. Get in your car and pick a place on the map. Pick “dare” for once during truth or dare (or pick “truth” if you find yourself afraid of telling it).

Be fearless but not reckless. Live your life without regrets, and, like I’ve done, I hope you end up surprising yourself.