It’s an Autumn afternoon. The air is crisp, settled with a glowing warmth. The sun is high up, piercing through the treetops that stand collectively tall. I am dazzled by all of the greens, blues and browns that surround me in the bush land I am in.
I have climbed many meters high onto a platform that sits upon a tree. The climb started confidently but soon my legs began to tremble and my toes virtually clung to the rigs of the wooden ladder nailed against the trunk. My determination gently persuades me to persevere. I am kneeling on the platform as my hands that are clutching the small, wooden platform tremble. For the briefest moment my eyes see past the wooden platform. The view is spectacular. The treetops are closer now yet the bright blue sky is unmistakable. It provides a completely different perspective than the view I had from the ground level.
My abilities are now obstructed by fear – it was a blinding fear that paralyzed me.
This was me. I was approximately 12 years old. The setting was a ropes course in rural Victoria on a school excursion. The tree climb was called the Leap of Faith. It is a moment in time that over the years I have replayed in my head. It was the first time I had ever experienced a physical fear. In my mind, my being had crossed an invisible boundary between child and adult. In my child mind, I had associated adults with the behaviours of being responsible and ‘safe’. Adults were fearless when they came to adult things but had no place on a playground. In my child mind, adults were afraid of things that might have been considered silly – like the monkey bars or riding down a half pipe with your bike. That day changed everything.
I was unable to stand upon the platform. I couldn’t move out of fear. Since that day, I have skydived, aero shoot – parachuted, paraglided, rode a bike through farm land in Bali, attempted to learn how to surf and anything else that could get my adrenaline pumping hard. I have challenged those feelings of fear I had that day when the Leap of Faith defeated me. I made a choice not to let fear defeat me again. But in the adult world could that ever be entirely true?
Fear is a very powerful emotion that can translate into the feelings of being paralyzed or alternatively and more productively empowered. Fear is ultimately a state of mind. As we get older, the shield of invincibility fades and in creeps doubt. We no longer walk with the bravado we had as children. As children we rode our bikes off curbs and ‘popped monos’, we jumped off swings mid flight, we hung upside down on monkey bars and jumped around on play equipment. We did all these things smiling and laughing; we did all of this without any thought of danger or fear and we loved every minute of it. We didn’t think about the possible negative consequences because at that very moment life was simple – we wanted to do it; we thought it would be fun to do it; it was part of our ‘living’ and we did it! Sure there may have been some scratches, bruises and sometimes broken limbs along the way but we wear those scars as battle wounds representing the braver version of ourselves.
We no longer leap in life without a guaranteed safety net. We are afraid to hurt. We are afraid to fall or even stumble. We are afraid to look silly or even to fail. As we wake each and every morning, how many decisions do we make within a day that are dictated by fear? What would our world look like if we chose to strap on our fearless pants and jump into life with both feet?