After about 25 years of solid practice, I had really mastered being afraid. I didn’t have to try at all. It came as naturally as breathing. Trying to practice being brave is still much more challenging, but the rewards are boundless.
A few weeks ago I found out that my lovely 15-year-old niece — who I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know very well because I’ve always struggled so much to form bonds with anyone — shares some of my interests. And since then I’ve been trying very hard to find opportunities for her to explore the things she’s passionate about now while she’s still shaping her beliefs about what’s possible for her life and what she’s capable of.
With that in mind last weekend I took her to a trapeze class. Although I have a terrible fear of heights, I had decided that I should be a good example and lead the way for her. And while I didn’t “fly through the air with the greatest of ease,” I did go through with it. At the time I worried that my hesitation to jump or let go at times was just the sort of behavior I was trying not to show her, but afterward I started to think there might have been more value in seeing that I was indeed terrified but kept going.
She had a few moments of hesitation too and at one point she wasn’t sure she wanted to attempt a catch at all. I could see that she was feeling discouraged, something I know all about, so I told her it didn’t matter whether she did it or not but that I didn’t want her to leave and wish she had tried.
I don’t know whether what I or any of the employees at Trapeze High said impacted her decision, but she climbed up the ladder intending to try the knee hang, which she’d had a little difficulty with up until that point, and instead nailed the knee hang and then did the catch on her first try. I was already up the ladder awaiting my next terrifying swing when she did it, and by the time I got down she was back up there ready to do the catch for the second time.
Every time I confront another fear I feel like it alters the way I think about myself just a little bit. And as joyous as that’s been for me over the past several months, it was even more gratifying seeing someone else do the same.
And for your viewing pleasure:
My first terrified swing;
Notice the failed attempt to even jump off at first.
My first knee hang;
And, lastly, my first catch.
I think it’s safe to say from this point forward new moves on the pole will be a little less scary.