Fear was something instilled in me as a child. The ‘what ifs’ of nearly every activity was discussed until I gave up on even trying. What if I talked to that person? They will probably make fun of you and hate you. Then it must be so. What if I played this sport? I wouldn’t be any good. Everyone was better at everything. What if I traveled? What if I…
As an adult, twenty-five years removed from my childhood home, I still fight these ‘what ifs’ every time I try something new. And for many of those years, I watched life pass me by, scared to try anything. Then I saw it, the fear that gripped me in the ‘what ifs’ was not reality. I began talking to people and realized they didn’t hate me. I tried yoga and love it. I can get in shape while encouraging and being encouraged. I started traveling. My first major trip was 2 weeks in the New England area with my husband, which gave me the courage to spend a weekend in Chicago with my 16 year old the following year. These moments were life changing. Just because I thought about the ‘what ifs’ didn’t make them absolutes.
In the last couple weeks, my now 18 year old (well, almost) and high school graduate has been given the opportunity to help plan our big family vacation. This is his graduation gift from us. We began narrowing down the choices and landed on an active vacation that includes white water rafting, off-roading, hiking, camping, and exploring the beauty of the desert and mountains.
As we planned, I got so excited. I remembered a couple camping trips with my dad when I was young. We went with a church group to Enchanted Rock. I was absolutely enchanted. I loved being there. I loved hiking through the rocks and caves and watching my dad lead the pack into places that I was scared to explore. Then I realized my dad wouldn’t be on this trip. I was now the adult, along with my husband, taking care of three boys and I was the one making it all happen. If we fail, it would be on me. And fear of the ‘what ifs’ came flooding back.
Then, as if guided by something more powerful, a friend, an experienced camper and mom, invited me to go on a weekend camp out, just us and a few of our kids. I was excited and nervous and already expecting to fail. It was going to be cold. 36 degrees over night in a tent. But I put on my brave face and went. I relied pretty heavily on my friend for plans and food, but I was prepared to watch and learn as much as I could. 2 days later, we emerged from the state park victorious. I had camped, hiked, cooked, cleaned, slept, and taken care of one of my kids all weekend without any ‘what ifs’ happening. I even peed behind a tree!
My ‘what ifs’ may one day happen. They aren’t all so far-fetched. I know from experience that the things we fear can become reality. But to refuse to live or even try because of a ‘what if’ is not really living.
I am again excited about our big trip. I am learning to live a life I always wondered about but never had the courage to try. So, have courage in the ‘what if’ moments. Step out and try. Even if the ‘what ifs’ become absolutes, at least you know and can get past the wonder.
Now I am working to change my mindset from the ‘what if’ to the ‘what next’!