Anxieties come in all forms. I hate to fly. I refused to fly any more. I’m uncomfortable in large group settings and hate frivolous small talk, so I avoided both scenarios. When my black lab, my constant companion, passed away, I swore I’d never have another dog to save myself from the pain.
Evaluating my life and goals, I saw how each time I created a ‘rule’ designed to protect myself, I was instead creating a smaller and smaller circle to live in. I have a bucket list. The rules I created for myself began to choke my goals.
I decided to face each one of my fears head on. It started with a helicopter ride. In my way of thinking, flying left me out of control. I would have to trust someone else with my life. So what could be worse than flying in a helicopter? I’d have no control, I could not purchase an aisle seat, and there wasn’t a movie to distract me away from my fears. While on the Big Island of Hawaii, I faced down my fear and took an island tour in a helicopter. To my surprise, my fears subsided two minutes into the flight.
The beauty of the sites mesmerized me and I completely forgot to be afraid. The views of the ocean, waterfalls and heart of the volcano were well worth the risk of dying in a plane crash. Once on the ground, I realized I might have missed this opportunity if I had chosen to stay within my fear-induced boundaries. It changed me.
I was hooked. I adopted a rescue dog. A black lab that I was told failed hunting school and hated water. She was afraid of everything. To help her fears, we began our twice daily walks to desensitize her to traffic sounds, unfamiliar people, and eventually she trusted me enough to swim together in the creek that borders our property. While she was learning to adjust, I realized I enjoyed making small talk telling her story. I enrolled her and I in a therapy dog program. She actually excels at working with people in wheelchairs and autistic children. And I realized that while I was saving her, she was saving me.
Today, my business thrives on equipping others. Through my own fears, I’ve learned to see the real person rather than the protective masks we all wear. Particularly I thrive on working with troubled teens and their parents. This year I stepped out on a ledge, quit my secure income job, and am learning to fly on my own. The thrill I am blessed with to watch a parent or teen succeed far outweighs my fears of getting it right. And I’ve learned to see fear as an opportunity to stare it down and learn something new.
Pamala J Vincent is a freelance author, speaker, and lab lover. You can find her at www.pamalajvincent.com and on Facebook.