While in my adolescence in the 1980’s – when there were no smartphones, Internet or WiFi – playing truth or dare was probably one of the first ways in which I was introduced to the thrill of being scared. Painfully shy, I dreaded the dare almost as much as the truth since it almost always involved having to kiss someone I had a crush on (or worse, admitting I liked them!)
It can be exhilarating to be scared – when it’s the right kind of fright.
Roller coasters, scary movies, bungee jumping – we all have something that stands our nerves on end, and although in that moment our hearts are in our throats, we love the adrenaline rush that comes later. With Halloween approaching, being scared is on my mind, but I’m not talking about ghosts, werewolves or other frightful creatures that lurk about in the night. I’m talking about trying new things that we’re usually too scared to act on that can advance us as people, professionals and artists.
This is a natural follow-up to me inviting you to get lost in my last newsletter. I’m asking you to do something that scares you and see if you don’t surprise yourself, and I don’t mean reading the Amityville Horror or watching the Exorcist, two things I did in my youth that still frighten me to this day.
Have you ever wanted to learn another language but were worried you would sound funny or be bad at it? Maybe you’d like to learn how to cook or improve your skills in the kitchen, but you’re afraid you’ll embarrass yourself. Have you walked by a piano or an acoustic guitar displayed in a store window and quickly said to yourself that you’re tone deaf and wouldn’t be able to play?
The list of things we tell ourselves we’re no good at and therefore shouldn’t even start is endless, but now is the time to choose one and take the leap. I don’t mean literally if skydiving isn’t your thing, but I’m encouraging you to sift through your bucket list and choose one activity that you’ve always been interested in or wanted to do and give it a try.
This is a theme the female characters in my novels grapple with repeatedly. Olivia in the Dark Horse Trilogy books, and River in 48 STATES are both forced to conquer their fears. Olivia is worried she can never take the place of her father as head of The Council, but eventually she learns to be a leader on her own terms. River has only known bad luck for so long she is afraid to be happy and allow herself to be loved. Both women are forced to do things they’ve avoided to get what they want. It might be fiction, but there is a grain of truth to what they must do to live their best lives.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that life is short. We hope to have years on this planet, but sadly we know that is not always the case. So don’t wait to do something you’ve had your heart set on because of fear of failure or a fear of the unknown. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you can make a souffle or play “Stairway to Heaven”, complete a century on your bike or even finish a novel. What matters is that you tried… yes, maybe with your pulse racing, certainly with your ambition and curiosity on display for everyone to see. In that moment when you cross over from imagining something to doing it, you will feel the thrill of conquering your fear, an experience vastly better than any bucket full of Halloween candy.