I sometimes forget that not everyone gets the chance to experience the things that I am fortunate enough to experience. I keep telling myself (and anyone who asks) that everything I do, everyone else can do to. And while that is true in theory, I know that in practice that this is not true. So, this is my effort to bring my experiences a bit closer to you, so you’ll see that what I put on instagram is really just that: a snapshot of what actually transpired and far from a whole picture.
I am not brave, despite A insisting that I am the bravest person he knows. I just don’t have any fears, because I don’t think of my own mortality, that’s not to say that I am complacent or a risk-taker, I am really not. If I look at a situation and it looks like it may possibly cause injuries or result in death, I have no desire doing it, but I always approach it with the idea that there have been hundreds and thousands and in some cases millions of people that have done xyz before me, so why would xyz result in an injury for me? And in life, you have to try everything (within reason!), so you can be sure that you like or dislike it. For instance, I’ve hiked mountains, I did some skiing, and I did some skydiving – all things that I have done, things I (mentally) barely survived and have no desire to do again, unless… and there is always an unless, but I did it, I know what that feels like, I can move on without feeling like I missed out on something.
Don’t be fooled though. Throughout physically demanding and exhausting experiences my knees get weak, my hands start sweating, and I feel my body trembling, all I want to do is be in a save spot away from the commotion, with a blanket over my head Netflix-ing and pretending the world doesn’t exist. Just this summer I went on a sailing trip around the Irish coast and the sea was very unkind, it was raining, and visibility was bad, the boat shook violently from left to right and the entire crew felt unwell, but I was the one who needed to lay down and who was about to call it quits. I was a nano-second away from going onshore and getting the first bus back home, but I stuck it out (because the next port was forever and a half away) and now I am better for it – i.e. I will be offshore on a bigger boat in a few weeks and the sea will definitely be rocky, so at least I have the skills (and anti-seasickness pills) to cope.
In an average week, you could be sure that there are at least two situations where I put myself willingly in potentially dangerous and a 100% uncomfortable situations, where my stomach is in my chest, and I am a second away from fainting. I CHOOSE to do that not because I am brave, but because I have no fear UNTIL fear rushes into my body, incapacitating my every move, my eyes pop out of my sockets, and the only thing I can think is “get me out of here”. My life never plays in front of my eyes, I never think of regrets, I never think to myself “this is it, I know I will die”, it’s always the “I need to get myself to a safe space”. Thankfully, I am never by myself when it comes to these situations, I always have someone (experienced) with me, who will take one look at me and tell me that everything’s okay, that I am fine, and that this is not my end. So, in reality, if it weren’t for these experienced individuals, I wouldn’t be here anymore, but also I would never be in these situations in the first place, so there’s a catch 22.
The thing is though that for things where existential fear really strikes me, there is no expert, no one holding my hand, no one telling me I will be okay, it’s just me sitting with fear on top of my chest, while it slowly deflates the air out of my lungs, reaching my finger tips and a feeling of defeat rushing over me.
Yesterday, I did some sea survival training (in a safe environment), I was already exhausted by the thought of it and was not disappointed. By the end of it all, I was mentally and physically at my wits’ end. And then there was this last (voluntary) bit where you jump in the wave-pool with your life-vest on (waves hitting you left and right, wind howling, torrential rain hitting you in the face, thunder and lightning blasting – it’s not your average backyard kiddie-pool) and you’re supposed to get to a life-raft safely. All the confidence I had built during the day – which wasn’t much to begin with – was immediately gone and I thought to myself, if I ever was to abandon a ship in an emergency situation, I may never see the light of day again (but I guess we all think that?). After having swallowed half of the pool (and all the special effects subdued), I crawled out of the pool and thankfully passed the training (which long-story short: qualified me for doing some work on a boat offshore, which again I do voluntarily).
It didn’t hit me until I was laying in bed later that night, how ridiculous this experience was. I imagined myself in a situation where a ship would be sinking and I would have to abandon everything and get into the life-raft or into the water and somehow get to safety. As I was closing my eyes replaying the day’s events over and over again, I felt very small and very scared and very very lonely. I feared for all the people I love in my life, all the things I yet want to experience, all the places I yet want to see, and a life not fully lived. And as is my coping mechanism, I turned on some music, and disallowed myself to go to the very dark and frightening place in my head. A place that knows no light, no rationale, no reasoning, just fear. Thankfully, I know how to not go there and I slowly drifted off to my safe-space: on a boat on a calm day with lots of whales playing alongside the boat, enjoying the sun, spotting all kinds of wild-life.
That’s the thing about fear, there is always two sides to it. While drowning in the ocean would be my least favorite way to go, and fills me with more fear than anything else has ever done in my life, being on a boat sailing into the deep blue is also my most favorite thing in the world. My (long-winded) point is that we never know when fear will get to us, but the reality is, it always will, it comes when you least expect it and it will be a nightmare to deal with. But if you have fear, it also means that you have love and respect, because you’re realistically looking at your own demise, and you’re aware that there is things in your life that are worth living for. I have no tips on how to deal with fear (other than getting help, never putting yourself in an unsafe situation, and always make sure you have someone you trust with you), but I can tell you this: Life is an adventure, it’s unpredictable, it’s exhausting, it’s exhilarating, it’s difficult. Find your passion, find your love, find things you want to dedicate your life to and fear (while never far) will be but only a small part of it all and you will cope, you will survive, you will soar.