To be completely honest, I have accumulated a lot of fears over the years. I'm not sure how or why, maybe I got my fear of flying from the mind-and-heart-numbing events of 9/11. And maybe fears about car crashes came from my own experiences, having been in a few myself. Either way, it's a slippery slope, and it's easy for those fearful thoughts to really take over.
In a rare moment of clarity one day, I saw that this road isn't headed anywhere good. To be fearful is to be afraid of life. Life is full of taking chances, and perceived risks are often less risky that real risks anyway. Flying, for example, has less risk than many other things, but we don't think about the other things we do like crossing a busy intersection, or other mundane daily activities like that.
A few years ago, back in 2007, I had been so paralyzed by my fear of flying that I hadn't flown in 3 or 4 years. Then I had an opportunity to go to Cuba with my friend Karissa to visit our other friend Brea, who was in med school there at the time. Brea had emailed me and said, "Are you coming to Cuba? Time is running out. It's now or never." I called Karissa in a panic, telling her the news. I'd been looking forward to Cuba, but putting off scheduling a trip due to my fear of flying. Karissa, an intrepid traveler who's traveled all over the place, was like, "Well, you heard what she said. It's now or never, what do you think?" So despite being terrified of getting on another plane, we booked the tickets and took the trip. It took a lot of courage, but now I am completely overwhelmed at the the thought of what I would have missed, had I not taken that trip. However, I wouldn't have known what I was missing. This is another huge point to consider. If you don't go, you don't see just how amazing the experience waiting for you just might be. You will never know what you missed out on, but that doesn't mean that you didn't miss out on something amazing, wonderful and life-changing. Someone once said, "Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage." This couldn't be more true. I knew that if I skipped that trip to Cuba, I'd always regret it. It wasn't easy getting there and back (8 flights round trip,) but the memories I have of that trip are some of the closest to my heart. Some of the most wondrous and joyful moments of my entire life happened on that trip: seeing the Caribbean Sea for the first time, drinking coconut juice straight from a coconut on the beach, staying up all night laughing our heads off with our new Italian friends, meeting Yariem and getting to have dinner with two precious little old Cuban ladies who told us their life stories, swimming in the warm ocean waves, and being serenaded at breakfast (at breakfast!) by Cuban musicians playing the most beautiful music I've ever heard.
These are the things I would have missed if I'd missed out on the trip to Cuba due to fear of flying. Not worrying or being fearful is so much easier said than done, but in the end nobody knows how long they've got anyway, so we should really all just enjoy the time we have, and embrace the wonders life has to offer. Being too afraid to take chances and participate is like letting life pass you by. And a life not fully lived is the worst fate of all.
We are so lucky to be here, walking the Earth. Let us be grateful, and seize the moment.
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