Faced with Fear, What Do You Do?

Fear can be a very stabilizing emotion. When afraid, most will go to great lengths to avoid their fear.What about if the fear is of the unknown? Let’s say you have a dream to become a business owner, but you are afraid of the what-ifs - “What if I don’t know what I am doing?”, “What if I suck?” or “What if I fail?” All valid fears, but are they valid enough to keep you stabilized? Should they stop you from trying? I have a story to share with you about fear.

One recent afternoon I was exploring my area for photography sites; driving along back roads full of farms, horses and mountains. It was a very peaceful drive. Looking for a place to stop, I stumbled upon an old mill. This mill was built back in 1826. It was an amazing spot for photos!

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After snapping a few shots of the mill itself, I noticed a tunnel. It was adjacent to the mill and was a long, dark and very scary looking tunnel. The sign next to it stated it led to a trail.

Let me tell you this, I have an irrational fear of dark tunnels. I close my eyes on any and all haunted house rides, even the very cheesy ones at carnivals. I hate the Holland and Lincoln Tunnel. I even close my eyes when going through tunnels on train rides at amusement parks.  I am one big baby when it comes to tunnels.

I stood about 400 ft away from the entrance of the tunnel and took several pictures. After all, I am a photographer and the tunnel could potentially make an interesting shot. As I was finishing up a man and his son came out of the tunnel. Dad had a fishing rod in one hand and the hand of his son in the other. It was a very sweet moment to witness.

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It made me question my rationale. Do I dare venture into the long, dark tunnel to see what is on the other side? I thought. I looked behind me and then in front of me, towards the tunnel.

Nope.

I decided it was not worth the risk. What the risk was, I really don’t know. Instead I ventured to a spot nearby and took several wonderful photos of a roaring rapid river bed.

After spending about 30 minutes along the riverside, I decided it was time to head home. As I was leaving, I passed the tunnel again. A man in a wheelchair had just come out of it; from the other side, from the unknown. Do I dare? I looked towards the other side….all I could see was a very old stone wall. Was it worth it? The photographer instinct and my curious nature started to lure me forward. Am I really going to do this? I thought.

I looked around and then in front of me again… what am I afraid of exactly? I thought. What could possibly be on the other side that was so terrible? I realized in that moment, it wasn't the other side that was scaring me. It was the tunnel itself. It was the steps leading to the other side.

The infamous tunnel.

One step, that is all it takes, right?

I took that step. Then one step turned into two steps and then I was running! Like Forest Gump, I ran!  I was in the tunnel. The sound of my feet hitting the wooden boards echoed around me. I was almost to the end now; the brick wall was still all I could see. As I reached the other side and came out of the tunnel, the sun greeted me with warmth. But, that was not all that greeted me.

Before me was the most amazing sight of the day, a waterfall. My breath caught. I realized had I let my fear get the best of me, I would have never – in a million years – known what beauty lay on the other side. Because I faced my fear – the fear of the tunnel – I reaped a glorious reward. Nature, in all its glory stood before me.

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So I ask you, what is holding you back? If it’s the fear of the unknown, how will you know what will truly be if you don’t take the first step. Your glorious reward could be waiting.

Let’s play devil's advocate for a moment.. because fear is a crazy thing. Let say I had gotten through the tunnel and it was just a swamp on the other side. An icky, mucky and smelly swamp. Who cares? So what if the view sucks when you reach the other side… you faced your fear. You got to the other side.

You did it.

That’s what counts.

When you are old and gray, sharing stories about your journey with friends and family, will you be the one telling a story about the time you faced a fear and succeeded (or failed) or about the time you ate a tuna fish sandwich at your cubicle and then went home?  Which one sounds more appealing to you? I know which one I would choose.

Life is all about growth, pushing limits and living.  One step is all it takes.