The first time I let fear stop me from an epic adventure I was in the first grade.
You’re probably thinking, How epic could it have been at that age? But that experience, to this day, is one of my biggest regrets.
Fortunately, I was able to soften its sting by using the lesson to fuel my drive and determination to make a high school dream come true… I refused to live with another regret, even though I was terrified and thought for sure I was going to throw up on the gymnasium floor. 🙈
I grew up on a farm in rural southern Ohio. My family owned 1200 acres, so I was surrounded by a lot of trees, fields, and ponds… but very few houses, and even fewer kids for me to play with.
Most of the time I was either with adult family members or hanging out by myself… so I was incredibly shy and had very little experience interacting with “big kids” … meaning anyone over twelve.
My school was grades 1-8, the high school was 9-12. But because it was so rural and the buses had to cover such a large area, all the kids rode the same bus.
My mom worked in the high school office, and occasionally we would go to the basketball games on Saturday night.
I loved, loved, loved going to those games!
I loved the excitement of being in the crowd… remember, I was a farm girl who spent most of my time alone!
I loved the squeak of the players’ shoes on the floor… the trill of the referees’ whistle cutting through the cheers… and I was mesmerized by the cheerleaders doing what I considered to be tricks, as they flipped end over end and waved their sparkly pom-poms around.
I always cheered along with them from my spot on the bleachers. But one Saturday night, I did such a good job, I caught their attention. On the bus the following Monday, two of the cheerleaders came back and sat in the seat in front of me and said, “Hey, you were at the game on Saturday night, weren’t you?”
Wide-eyed and in awe that these beautiful “big kids” were talking to me, I nodded yes, but said nothing.
“We were wondering if you’d want to be our mascot.”
Mascot… I sat there with my heart pounding, eyes growing even wider, because they were asking me if I wanted to do something with them… but I had no idea what a mascot was or what, exactly, they wanted me to do.
My shy (also known as “backward”) self was confused… more than a little overwhelmed, and definitely out of my element… so I shook my head no, dropped my eyes to the floor, and shrunk down in my seat, trying to hide… because even though I didn’t understand what they were asking me…
I sensed I’d made a big mistake by saying no.
As soon as I got off the bus, I ran up the hill to our trailer, into the house, and told Mom what the “big girls” had asked me.
When Mom explained what a mascot was, she confirmed what I’d already sensed, and I started to cry.
She said, “I’m sure you can talk to them tomorrow, explain that you didn’t understand what they were asking, and tell them you’d very much like to be their mascot.”
But I was afraid… I was afraid to approach them… I was afraid they’d tell me no, since that’s what I’d said the day before.
And as silly as it is, I still wish I’d found the nerve to talk to them, because I know being the high school mascot would’ve been an epic experience.
So when I was a sophomore in high school and decided I wanted to try out for the majorette squad, I used that experience to fuel my determination and my drive… I constantly reminded myself I’d missed out on one “chance of a lifetime”… and I wasn’t going to miss a second.
Winter in southern Ohio isn’t exactly conducive for outside activities… at least not ones that require your fingers to work really well without wearing gloves. I lived in a trailer that was 12’ wide with 8’ ceilings, so the space available for learning to twirl a baton was limited.
The only room that was remotely big enough to practice in was the living room, which had a couch on one side and an upright piano with ivory keys on the other.
But I refused to make (or accept) any excuses… even when Mom yelled about the broken piano keys and the black streaks on the ceiling from my baton swiping across it… I refused to be deterred.
I was determined to teach myself everything I thought I needed to know for tryouts. I had no idea what I was doing… I just kept practicing, figuring out how to twirl between my fingers, and teaching myself other cool stuff I remembered seeing the majorettes do the year before.
When the spring rolled around, we had a week of group practice where someone taught us the routines, and then we tried out. On the first day of practice, standing in front of the school, one of the juniors, who was a friend of mine, whispered my name to get my attention.
When I looked over at her, she nodded to her hand so I could see the right way to hold the baton… I had my palm wrapped around it like a baseball bat… and she was showing me the right way, which was to cradle it between my thumb and forefinger.
I’m sure everyone thought my chances of making the squad were slim… okay, let’s be honest… everyone probably thought I had zero chance.
Surprisingly, I’d done a pretty good job of teaching myself what I needed to know, and I learned the routines without any problems. On the day of tryouts, I was a mess. I was so terrified I had to fight to keep from throwing up the entire day, and when it came time to actually walk into the gymnasium, stand in front of the judges, and do the routines… I was almost paralyzed.
I was so scared I could barely move, and it took everything in me to force my wobbly legs into the gym and stand there showing a modicum of confidence.
But once the music started, muscle memory took over and I went through the routines without any hesitation…
To this day, because I had to work so hard at it and refused to accept any excuses or limitations, I still feel that being a majorette was one of my biggest accomplishments.
I’m so thankful I used my previous “failure to face my fear” as the fuel to drive me to go for that dream… and I’m really grateful it all worked out so well, so I could have that as a life-long reminder to go for my dreams. 😄
But here’s the thing… even though I had that victory in high school, I’ve still let fear stop me from doing hundreds of things I’ve really wanted to do since then.
The week before my dad passed away, he was talking to my brother and his young son. Dad said to my nephew, “Be like your dad.”
The comment caught my brother off guard because, like all of us, he’s made some mistakes that he regrets and beats himself up for.
Dad went on to say, “I’ve always admired your dad because he’s not afraid to go after something he wants. He has an idea, and he goes for it. He doesn’t let fear stop him.”
As my brother stood outside, fighting back tears and sharing that story with me, I recognized that, through my brother, Dad was also sharing an important piece of wisdom with me.
I wasn’t in the room with them, and this was toward the end of Dad’s life, so I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with him more about it. But I can only assume from his words that he had regrets… there were things he wished he’d done but didn’t, because he let fear stop him.
If there’s something I really want to do – or feel like I’m supposed to do – I’m going to remember the feeling of being terrified as I walked into that gymnasium when I was fifteen… and then I’m going to remind myself of how amazingly well that worked out.
I’m going to think of my dad on his deathbed, telling my nephew not to be afraid of going after something he wants.
And I hope you’ll do the same. If there’s something you’ve really wanted to do but have been letting fear hold you back, commit right now to doing it!
And please share with me, either in the comments or through a direct message, what it is you want to do… What are you afraid of? How have you been letting fear hold you back… and commit to a date to do it, or at least develop a plan for getting it done.
If you need help breaking through that fear, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know how I can help you get started toward achieving your goal.
Wishing you much peace and love,