This I Believe

Mamie - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on August 19, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: courage, fear

I believe in being afraid of not taking risks

Most mothers shriek and holler for their children to come down off the roof but mine held the ladder steady as she encouraged me to go up on top of our house. As a young girl I was terrified of heights (and frankly, everything else as well) which might have been brushed off as a personality trait by others but my mother saw my fear as debilitating to my life. She was not comforted by the fact that I was afraid of water, climbing trees, riding horses, and anything that could injure me in the slightest way. She set about pushing me out of my comfort zone. When I was scared of playing the violin in front of people she marched my music stand down to the end of the driveway where I would practice scales for the cars zooming past. When I was afraid of conversations with strangers she would have me talk to two adults after church and report back as to the color of their eyes (to ensure I’d completed the assignment). The fear that I was naturally prone to melted away as I grew older and I began to push myself.

Just before graduating from an all girls boarding high school, I decided to defer my college acceptances to spend a year as an au pair in Paris. The headmaster, college guidance counselor, and several teachers called a meeting to inform me that I was ruining my future and selling myself into slavery. As it turned out, my year in Paris taught me many lessons that only enhanced my college years. There are the wrong risks like driving without your seatbelt or smoking but then there are the rights risks like traveling to Egypt to understand a new culture or learning how to use stilts. I believe in these risks and I am only afraid in not taking them.

Unfortunately we live in a society that is fear-driven and by being fearful we feel safer. We send each other Forwards about diseases on our doorknobs and we tell stories about how being kind to strangers led to brutal murders. We lock ourselves away from the dangers of life but in so doing, we also lock ourselves away from life itself. I believe that taking the right risks can only enhance and improve our lives and make us better people.

What scares me more than having my legs bitten off by a shark or having my wallet stolen on a minibus in Tunisia is that I wouldn’t do something out of fear. So I’m going to swim in the middle of the ocean, travel to “dangerous” places, and walk across any roof that is asking for it because I know it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.