When I think about what has keeps me from really pursuing what I want—whether it be a job or a writing gig or a romance or whatever—it nearly always come down to one of two things: fear and inertia. Since I’ve been home from Argentina and settling back into my normal routine, the high of the travel adventure wearing off, I’ve found myself confronting these two old enemies again. Being a writer involves pushing your way through a lot of rejection and dead ends: I know by now that this is my lot but I struggle with fighting the feeling of ‘what am I doing this for?’ when sitting down at my laptop. Some days the fear that I’ll never make it feels stronger than the desire to push through it.
Inertia and fear work that way, compounding and feeding off each other until you realize you have stewed and worried away your day, your week, your life; and nothing has come of it. Being scared can make you stuck, and being stuck is scary so it’s a vicious cycle.
So how do you break it? Simple: jump off a bridge.
Some moments in life serve as perfect metaphors. Being a writer I’m perhaps more attuned to this than others but I think we all have moments where something just seems symbolic on a cinematic level. I had a big one of these the first time I went bungee jumping.
I’m not really so into extreme sports but I when I was living in Canada the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, one of my friends suggested that a big group of us go bungee jumping with the new company that was starting up (that’s right friends, we were the test group for a new bungee company). I wanted to go but I was terrified. I could barely sleep the night before the trip. The only thing that scared me more than the idea of jumping off of a bridge into a ravine with a giant rubber band attached to my ankles was the idea of not doing it and then regretting it when I had to listen to my friends go on about how awesome it was the next day.
I woke up terrified the morning of. I was terrified on the car ride up. I was terrified walking across the bridge to the jumping off point. None of this fear was abetted by the ‘it’s not our fault if you are killed or maimed’ release we had to sign or the fact that when I asked the guy who was running the show (a bungee veteran of thirty years) to give me a pep talk about how no one ever dies doing this he said ‘well, we do everything we can to ensure your safety but people do die’. Thanks bungee guy!
But once I was on the bridge, strapped into the harness and looking down into a rushing river some eighteen stories below I felt moment of not calm exactly, but clarity; I was going to this, there was no turning back. Thinking about doing it turned out to be way scarier than actually doing it. I knew that hesitating would only make me more afraid, so I just jumped. It was so much fun I went back and did it again the next day.
Most of the time what we’re afraid is not actually you know, death as it was in this situation but well, what exactly? Failure? Humiliation? Rejection? Psssh. Weak sauce. These things aren’t even deserving of fear when you look at it.
But of course amorphous fears can be paralyzing; they can outright own you if you stand still for too long. So don’t. Do something, anything.