I avoid danger. The rush of adrenaline that spurs on race car drivers, test pilots and emergency room nurses leaves me wanting to lay down until the shaking stops. You will not find me parachuting out of a plane or driving at excessive speed unless it is literally a matter of life or death.
Yet I have learned to value risk. We all have fears that should be faced. Not because facing a fear eliminates it. I’ve dealt with bugs, tornadoes, high places, and public criticism more than once in my life, and they still make me flinch. But I have learned that my fears of those things should not rule my life. Phobias owe nothing to reason, but we can still control our reactions to them. Facing a fear teaches us that in nearly every case, we can manage it. The key is to recognize the fear, acknowledge it, and prepare for it as best you can. Once I realized this, I found it possible to handle more situations that intimidated me.
I actually took pleasure in the prospect of a challenge. My skin got thicker. Believe me, stress is still a huge part of my life. But like fear, it is manageable. This weekend, for example, the Nebraska Writers Guild has invited me to conduct a short workshop. This is totally new territory, and it makes me want to breathe into a paper bag at moments. What if I make a fool of myself? What if I can’t answer all the questions? What if everybody there is smarter than me?
Still, it’s a chance to grow my speaking skills. I could learn something about writing. I could meet some really cool people. It’s worth the risk.