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Doing Scary Things

I am, in some matters — mostly the ones that involve heights, speed, agility, risk of falling, large animals, stuff like that; physical dangers — a fearless idiot.

In other matters, however — basically, in matter that involve interacting with humans in new ways — I am a giant chicken.

That’s actually kind of insulting to chickens, which can be pretty brave when they need to.

About a week ago, I approached some friends of mine who are members of an online bike-geek community that now spans the globe and asked if they wanted to get involved in a fund-raising thing I was thinking about doing for another friend of ours.

That was surprisingly scary. I thought everyone would say, “What? That’s a terrible idea! Why don’t we just do something through one of the existing fundraising organizations out there?”

Instead, my ideas were met with enthusiasm, and then with more ideas, and from the resulting seven-way brainstorm, Cabal Aid was born.

That was scary, too: taking this idea, and building something around it, and then setting the thing that we’d made together loose in the world in hopes that people would receive it in the spirit of good-hearted meddling that we intented. Heck, just showing the rest of the team my contribution — the WP-based website and Google forms I’d cobbled together in a rather unprecedented storm of productivity — was pretty scary.

We just went live a little while ago, so it’s still scary. I’m afraid nobody else will join our roster of riders; afraid that if people do, they’ll have trouble finding sponsors; afraid that some Great Authority in the Sky is going to come down and tell us to cease and desist.

For what it’s worth, I was even kind of afraid to talk specifically about that project, here. It was one thing to mention it in passing as a theoretical thing; another thing entirely to put up a link that people can visit and, like, judge and stuff (BTW, the purpose of the link isn’t to try to drum up still more support, though if you want to take part, that’s cool, too).

It’s scary and challenging to take a piece of your heart and put it out there for the world to see.

Oddly enough, though, that’s what we all do just about every day in our blogs here.

In a sense, that’s what every adult amateur ballet student does every time he or she sets foot in the studio; what every hopeful grad student does when she or he applies to a much-desired program. The world is full of scary opportunities; perilous places where we pin our hearts to our sleeves and take gigantic leaps of faith.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to observe that bravery isn’t fearlessness — it’s being afraid and doing stuff anyway. Sometimes it starts with having faith that you actually have wings; sometimes it starts with being fed up and feeling like you have to do something, even if it turns out to be wrong.

In the end, we overcome fear by doing scary things.

We start with Small Scary Things, and we work our way up to Bigger Scary Things, and then one day we do something that would once have seemed like a Huge Scary Thing, only it turns out that we’ve grown stronger by doing all those Small Scary Things and Bigger Scary Things and living through them.

The hardest part, it turns out, is finding the first Small Scary Thing that you can do.

For me, the Huge Scary Thing here was actually approaching Scott, who’s going to be the recipient of this month’s fundraising efforts. I really kind of thought he might be offended or something (you never know!). Fortunately, he was cool with our meddling. Because that was a Huge Scary Thing, and because we had a contingency plan in case Scott said no, I left that for last. Well, that and announcing the creation of our new do-gooding wing to the broader membership of the Bike Commuter Cabal.

The Small Scary Things?

I’m not even sure what they were. I can tell you that there were a lot of them, because I had to practice a lot before I was ready to start doing Big Scary Things.

There are more Huge Scary Things on my horizon. Figuring out how to use the next year and a half in a way that creates growth — Huge Scary Thing. Applying to grad school — another Huge Scary Thing. Starting to forge my path forward, now that I kind of want to know where I want to go. Huge. Scary.

I guess as long as we live, we’re going to face Huge Scary Things. Sometimes it will take us a while to be ready to meet them, and that’s okay. Sometimes, we’ll have to practice on a lot of Small Scary Things and Big Scary Things first.

Over time, Scary Things that were once Huge diminish into the distance. By the ends of our lives, if we work hard, we’ll have grown enough to step over mountains.

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