I’ve never flown.
I’m 21 years old and I’ve never been on a plane.
Which is funny to me because I’ve run a 5k on a freaking runway. I’ve gone to the airport specifically to eat dinner and watch planes take off and land, and I’ve sat underneath the planes as they’re landing to take photos of them.
Have never been.
On a plane.
I low-key always felt like a hypocrite singing Lorde’s “Tennis Court” because when I’d get to the line “Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane…” I knew that was a straight-up lie. I wasn’t gonna be getting on a plane any time soon. The time never seemed right and things never seemed to line up.
And then last week I woke up to a text from a childhood best friend inviting me to Indianapolis to stay with her for a few days. We would hang out in Indy and take a day trip to Chicago. I sat on the offer for almost a week, stumped on two things — the first, it wasn’t New York. For those of you who’ve been keeping up with me since mid-March, I’ve had my heart set on flying to New York a few months after my 21st birthday.
And don’t get me wrong, I still want to go. Bad. If you’re around me long enough, I’ll bring it up at some point. (And be warned if you’ve ever been to New York or have lived there, because I’m gonna ask you a million and one questions about it.)
The second was a very different hurdle. If I went, I’d have to fly by myself.
Which to a lot of people isn’t a deal. But for someone who’s never even set foot through security, I felt stuck on not wanting to experience it alone. I wasn’t really daunted by going through security or taking off and landing as much as I was by the very idea of doing it alone. I’d have no safety net to fall back on.
. . .
Why do I say this?
Because I’m well aware how much fear keeps me from doing things. Fear of missing out, fear of disappointing people, fear of rejection, fear of someone misunderstanding, fear of abandonment. And I know I’m not alone. I know we prefer the easy “been there done that bought the t-shirt” route over the “I’ve never done this before and it’s freaking me out but I don’t want to admit that” one. Those paths are comfortable. You don’t have to blaze new trails through uncharted forest — you’ve got ruts to follow.
But I realized I can’t really say I’m a brave person when I don’t constantly practice embodying the very definition of the word.
> Brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain.
> Lionhearted: brave and determined; exceptionally courageous.
> Courageous: not deterred by danger or pain.
Being afraid and doing it anyway.
Showing up anyway.
Speaking out anyway.
Over and over and over.
I think the unique thing about this word is it doesn’t eradicate fear; it doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid. It just means you’ve looked fear in the face and said, “I see you, and I know I’m shaking, but I’m doing this anyway.”
That’s when fear loses its power.
. . .
I went rock climbing a few weeks ago, and I didn’t know I had the capacity for a fear of heights until I was 30+ feet in the air without a harness, gripping on to these sad definitions of “rocks” (they were barely rocks, guys) for my life. I’ve sat on the edges of buildings and parking decks dangling my feet, I’ve hiked mountains and stood on the edges, and I’ve never been afraid. But rock climbing? An entirely different beast.
Because in that moment, you’re relying solely on two things: your physical strength to hold up your body (and your hands to grip onto the rocks), and your mental strength telling you whether or not you can make it to the top.
Dangling 30+ feet in the air, my entire body trembling and my breath rapid and panicked, I kept thinking about The Dark Knight Rises, the scene where Bruce Wayne was thrown into a pit by Bane and tries two different times to escape, both with a rope. I’ve inserted an excerpt from a blog I read on the topic below (and just fyi this goes beyond me nerding out about Batman, there’s a lot more symbology than you’d think, so trust me, it’s worth the read):
This is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire trilogy because it perfectly sums up the source of Batman’s power. Batman is a character controlled by his fear. He is not confined by his fear, but rather defined it. Everything he does is motivated by his fears and that’s where his power comes from.
The Bruce Wayne we see in The Dark Knight Rises is a shell of the man he used to be. He has lost his purpose, lost the woman he loved and is more than a little suicidal. He wants to become Batman again, not so that he can help people, not to save his city but rather so that he can go out in a blaze of glory. He wants to die but not at his own hand. He’s lost his fear (of death). He rushes into a battle with Bane that he’s ill-prepared for and even asks Bane after losing why he didn’t just kill him?
Throughout his imprisonment, the blind prisoner has been trying to explain to Bruce that the climb to freedom isn’t about physical strength but rather the strength of the spirit. Bruce continuously dismisses this, believing that if a child could make this climb, then there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to. On his third attempt, Bruce listens to the blind prisoner and changes his strategy. Prior to this – as all the prisoners before him had done – Bruce had attempted the leap to freedom with a safety rope to keep him from falling to his death in case he fails to successfully make the leap.
This time he decides to go without the rope, thus leaving him no option but to succeed.
Until we’re brave enough to face our fear without a safety net, we will never fully embody everything we’re capable of becoming. Until we have no other option but to face something, no matter the outcome, we’ll continue to give fear power over us.
. . .
I don’t think fear ever really goes away. It’ll always be there, and you’ll have to face it again. We’ll have to climb out of pits and take leaps of faith from one ledge to another, again and again and again, and we just have to be brave enough to climb without a safety rope around our waists, however that may look.
Fear will find you there but it doesn’t have to get the last word.
And a word of hope, I do think it gets easier. I think the more we exercise those fear-facing muscles, like exercising your muscles on a rock climbing wall, you’ll trust your strength and your spirit to make it to the top.
So make the climb. Without the rope.
And if you were wondering, yes, pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane.