Fear of the unknown

Trial and error

Morgan Robertson mug

I remember a time when mistakes were quickly fixed with paper towels, a Band-Aid and a kiss from mom, or maybe ice cream, a trip to the doctor and a hug from dad.

We can’t turn back the hands of time to childhood. Still, I can go back in my memory to when I tried to play hide-and-seek on the floor of a golf shop with my sister and ended up with a big scar on my left knee. Every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of the moment I tripped (or maybe I was showing off) on an airplane and split open my forehead. I still remember the day I went dirtbiking in the desert with my grandparents and went flying when I didn’t hit the brakes.

All those memories may seem like mistakes, but they were moments that needed to happen to show me who I could be.

In this stage in our lives, decisions can be daunting. The young adult who has left home is in a brave new world, and she has to conquer it on her own. I don’t like making decisions. Even the smallest decisions can cause me a great deal of stress.

This last year has been incredibly rough, with only a few good memories peppered in here and there. Sometimes a call to my mom, sometimes an entry in my journal, sometimes a few tears and a push-through attitude were what it took to gain a new perspective and make me feel better. Nevertheless, if I could avoid decisions altogether I would.

Over the years, I have learned that growing up means making mistakes, decisions and learning how to take care of yourself. Learning to take care of yourself in this new environment can be hard. As much as I want to be, I am not perfect. Perfection is unattainable. Every breakup leaves a scar. Bad graves leave bruises. Disappointments can leave bumps.

These injuries don’t go away, but don’t be ashamed of your scratches, because they become a part of you. Scars and bruises come along with childhood. The lessons we learn then never leave us.

I remember when I was about seven years old. In that stage in my life, I was a timid adventurer, a little princess, a mermaid. I was a good swimmer, playing pretend in the pool, creating my own kingdom and saving small creatures. However, as any timid adventurer mermaid princess would, naturally, I desired more.

I wanted to learn how to dive, how to be graceful and fearless in the water. My parents tried to teach me, and so did my swim teacher. They kept showing me the technique, the footing, the spring and the power. But I couldn’t do it. I was terrified as I stood on the edge of the pool looking down in the water, past my reflection and into the depths of the pool.

Fear of the unknown: to stay on the surface or go deeper. I still feel that in every decision I make now. Some may be ready to cannonball right in. But decision-making is a challenge for me. I wanted to learn, but I didn’t want to plunge head first into the water. I knew I would be safe, but in my head I kept telling myself that that wasn’t true, that there are so many things to be worried about.

At the pool all those years ago, I felt like I was falling apart on the inside. On the outside, I had to keep it together.

But standing on the edge of the pool looking at my scared reflection was making me mad. I gathered up my courage, and I kept trying. I took a deep breath, put my hands above my head, pushed myself off the edge and dove into the pool. And once I did it, I didn’t believe myself. I didn’t realize how easy it was to slice through the water like a blade, throwing all my fears and worries away. I even wanted to do it again.

Sometimes it is better to just take a leap of faith. Maybe that is how decisions are supposed to be made. I am learning to do that now: to go for it even when you are afraid, to be brave.

I have to push aside the negative thoughts and images and keep making more decisions, which means making more mistakes. Right now, it is hard. But in the end, it will be easy, maybe refreshing even, to submerge myself in the water and let the failures float to the surface.

Morgan writes the Wednesday column on risk-taking. Contact her at [email protected].