Shortly before the holidays, I entered a fat bike race (and yes, this will circle back to writing). Have you seen those bikes? They have, as their name would indicate, really fat tires--three or four inches thick--and they're soft and squishy so they "float" on top of snow.
I did the race for a story about winter biking, and I knew from my research that the best conditions for fat biking included a bluebird sunny day and a hard-packed trail. Naturally, race day dawned to snow and lots of it. By race time, six inches of powder lined the track and it was still falling. I was terrified. I'd be in a small back of experienced and strong riders. What if I fell? A lot? And then fell way behind? What if I finished last?
"I don't have any business going out in these conditions," I told my boyfriend. I hoped he'd agree with me, but instead he drove me to the race. I had just enough time to test out the bike.
Within minutes, everything I'd been afraid of happened.
My first attempt at going down hill, I spun out and tipped over. My tires punched through the snow instead of floating on top of it. I had to get help in order to get my tires to the appropriate pressure. I was the only one wearing mukluks (I'd brought bike shoes but opted for warm feet). I could have panicked or dropped out, but...
A funny thing happens after things fall apart--you get on with it.
When the race started, I just rode. I stayed upright (though periodically walked through the really snowy patches). I learned that riding toward the back has its advantages--everyone ahead of me created a really nice track. I even passed a couple of people, and for two hours, I just kept going until I finished.
I did finish last, but only by five minutes, and three people behind me stopped half way through the race. I immediately got that racer's high, feeling giddy and unstoppable because I'd done something hard and finished it.
And here are the things I remembered:
- Mustering up courage and bravery doesn't feel courageous or brave. Mostly, it feels scary.
- On the other side of fear, and on the other side of risk, some pretty cool things await.
I needed that reminder, in my writing and in my life, and so that's my intention for 2015. To remember that sometimes I just need to say yes, even when I'm scared. And to continue to surround myself with the people that will help me say yes when I'm not up to the task on my own. Because that single act--saying yes-will help me do more meaningful things than setting goals or resolutions.
If you find yourself facing a similar type of fear, I find it helpful to remember that there are different kinds of fear. There's the kind of fear when you know, hands down, you don't want to do something. And then there's another kind of fear that masks a willingness and even the excitement to do something.
I felt that in the bike race, for sure... a strong desire to do it even though I wasn't sure I could. If you're hesitating to try something, see if you can tune into the deeper layers of your fear and uncover the other feelings it masks. Your true answer probably lies there.