A few weeks ago, I went on an extreme adventure trip with my friends. I’m not an adventurous person and I can say that I am someone who thrives and prefers to stay where it is comfortable and familiar. I like being safe, staying with people, places and things that I am used and doing stuff that are not quite challenging. My idea of a vacation is just doing nothing, reading books and watching movies……very exciting right?! Had it not been because of my friends, I wouldn’t have gone on this trip. It wasn’t like something that I will organize and invite people to go to but I went along because I knew I was in good company.
We were scheduled to do the longest zip line in Asia and go white water rafting. On the first day, we started with the zip line. It was a rather long trip on bumpy roads after an hour and a half of air travel. I knew that I was afraid of heights but it didn’t really bother me, at least initially, that we were doing the zip line. As we approached the park, my heart started pounding slowly though it still didn’t bother me that much. When we reached the park, I noticed that I could already feel my heart beating stronger and I was already starting to feel queasy. I wanted to tell my friends to go ahead but at the back of my mind, I knew that it was something that I had to do. My palpitations got stronger and stronger as we approached the platform where the zip line starts. My friends were cracking jokes as we were travelling towards the platform but I could only half-heartedly laugh at them as my mind was so consumed with all my fearful thoughts.
The initial ritual was the strapping of the vest and a short climb towards the platform. When I stepped on the platform, my heart started pounding madly and I really felt so scared that I wanted to cry. I was standing in a place where just one step forward is victory and one step backward is sheer cowardice. I wanted to beg off and go back but I knew in my mind that I will never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t do it. Not doing it was something that will bother me forever. I knew that I will nag myself of the fact that I was already there after the long journey then I chickened out. When my friend invited me to back out, I was quite ready to oblige. I was so torn…..then came our turn! My palpitations grew stronger and I could feel the gush of blood in my face as they were already strapping me to the line. It was a moment of intense fear ravaging through my entire being. It was a kind of fear that I have never experienced ever in my whole life. It paled in comparison to all the interviews and conferences in my entire medical life.
The initial moment of release from the platform was extremely terrifying. It was literally venturing into the unknown. I had no idea what will happen……all I knew was that I am very afraid, tense, anxious, palpitating, almost going insane. But after a few moments in mid air, the feeling started to shift to one of enjoyment, fun and rapture. At the end of the line, I felt so exhilarated with a sense of accomplishment. I did it!!! I did it!!!….and I never thought that it would be so much fun!!!! I wanted to do it again! Well done woohoo!!!
The following day, we went white water rafting. Again, I felt nervous and scared. They told us that our raft could capsize and we can all get thrown into the rushing waters. I knew how to swim but I’ve heard scary stories that made me more nervous. Despite my fears, I went ahead but I remember that the anticipation was almost unbearable. My mind was screaming…..”LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH!!!” But just like the day before with the zip line, it was so much fun that I’d do it over and over.
That vacation was not only fun but quite life-changing for me. The thoughts, fears, emotions and reactions I experienced prior to actually doing the tasks were a microcosm of what happens in our lives. We gravitate towards what is comfortable most of the time, fearing the unknown, staying where it is familiar, cooking up rationalizations of why we can’t or shouldn’t, making up all sorts of excuses. What I realized with that experience was that the FEAR was actually worse than the thing itself….that the battleground is not in reality but it is in the realm of our minds. Staying comfortable as what we always do can rob us of being fully alive. It depletes the soul of life, of passion, of joy, of exhilaration…..But venturing into the unknown, making the leap and taking the risk are what keep us fully alive and present in our lives. These are the things that give meaning to our lives but sadly, most of us linger on where it is safe until life gives us a jolt. Hopefully, the jolt is not too late that we can no longer make up for what has been lost.
By staying safe and comfortable, we lose the opportunity of finding out what could BE. By staying safe and comfortable, we get an absolute no for an answer to the questions in our lives. By staying safe, we miss out on the possibility of joy, happiness, a sense of accomplishment and experiencing what could be in our lives. And the sad part is that, for most of us, we quit without even having tried. But taking the risks can produce magic in our lives and open up possibilities that we never though could happen.
Whatever the thing is that we are putting off, by staying safe, we miss out on who and what we could be…..and most of all, we miss out on life.