Thursday, 12 April 2012

Floods-of-Tears Thresholds and the Power of Ignoring Your Fear

Image thanks to Cari Ann

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love."  
Washington Irving

Many of you will know how scared I admitted to being in the lead up to my adventure across the Atlantic. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve felt that fear. They have tended to mark thresholds of great change and adventure, and they have been united by one defining feature: deep, core-shaking, floods of tears.

I felt that fear when I passed through security at Gatwick airport; aged eighteen and bound for Australia completely solo. I was only taking carry-on luggage and had foolishly forgotten the souvenir penknife I’d packed inside which my parents had bought me as a going away gift. The guard rifled through my backpack to retrieve it. 

You want to go back and check this in?

There wasn’t enough time. I watched as he threw my familial parting-gift into the trash. My face flushed as I walked away, and my lizard brain took the opportunity to pipe up. How could you do something so stupid? And right at the offset? How the heck are you going to survive on the other side of the world if you can’t even manage to pack right? What an idiot. 

I made my way quietly to the toilets, locked myself in a cubicle, and cried.


I felt that same fear when I decided to go and spend a year studying in Spain. Once again: an airport. Once again: floods of tears. I turned to my boyfriend as he stood with me in the check-in queue. He’d left his van in the 10-minute parking zone.

Will you come with me?” I stammered.
Afraid not” he laughed.

The tears came faster as I watched him walk away.


I felt that same fear when a new emotional journey began. When, a few months into my Spanish adventure, the same boy told me we needed to talk.

Don’t you love me anymore?” I was able to choke.

Floods of tears. Resolution.

But, in all these scenarios, there was one more thing that was always the same: my commitment to ignoring my fear. My ability to take a deep breath, wipe my eyes and face forward.

And then something interesting happened. Three weeks ago I found myself in another airport. Alone again. Bound for a journey I’d been fearing every minute of the entire preceding week. But instead of floods of tears, I found an immense sense of calm and ease. I chatted freely on the phone to my best friend in the departure lounge, laughing at how, almost, ridiculous it was that I wasn’t nervous about flying half way across the world. I boarded the plane. Flew for seven hours. Found myself in a sticky-hot New York City. Hopped on a bus and watched the sky line glimmer into view beyond the hot freeway. I kept waiting for the fear to kick in; kept waiting for the tears. Nothing.

How did I interpret this? I chose to fit it to the motif of this year for me: a personal evolution. I’ve got into the habit of ignoring my fear, and I’ve evolved to meet these thresholds with trust, and joy, and excitement. I’ve learnt that my fear doesn’t make me any less able to meet these challenges, and that any nerves I feel aren’t communicating my inability, they’re simply asking “are you really ready for this?

How do I think you should interpret this? I want you to realise that fear is not a reason not to do something. That bravery is a practice and not necessarily a natural ability. I want you to know that there is power in ignoring your fear; that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. And tears or no tears, the thresholds are waiting for you to cross them.


Mandy said...

I'm about to have some pretty big shake-ups in my life, and to say I'm scared is an understatement. Sometimes I feel like I'm being silly about it, but your post really helped me to put it in perspective. Thanks for that! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

karasyn said...

Your blog is amazing. It is so inspiring, and beautiful, and it makes me want to jump on a plane and start a big adventure.
Thank you so much for writing this post, I really needed to read these words! :)


Eternal*Voyageur said...

Kudos for being afraid and doing it anyway! You're an inspiration!

boilingwok said...

I love this. Life does begin at the end of your comfort zone!

Daniela said...

As someone who also frequently bursts into tears in airports, I totally get you & I love this story. I, too, recently went on a (short) trip and experienced *not* being nervous for the first time in a while and was super proud of myself... as I'm going to Europe for 5 weeks this summer (with my friend! as a high school grad trip!), I'm curious to see what kind of reaction I'll have then. :P

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