What are you afraid of? There’s got to be something. For some people it’s public speaking. Isn’t there a statistic out there that states the only thing people fear more than death is public speaking? I will admit getting up and talking in front of people can be a little bit scary at first. As a dance teacher, I would always have butterflies in my stomach before going out to teach a big group class. Eventually I would relax once I got my rhythm. I like speaking in front of people when I know what I’m talking about! It makes it a lot easier.
Here was one of my fears that I realized the other day that I have mostly conquered: driving in Chicago.
I sent a friend a text message the other day wishing her a happy birthday. This friend isn’t one I see very often but we were friends in high school and kept in touch through college and now into our adult years. Before she got married last year, she and I would meet up if she was in Indiana or I would take the train into Chicago to meet her.
Taking the train into Chicago was the only way I could get downtown for a long time—like since childhood. I learned this behavior from my mother. My mother never drove us into Chicago when I was younger. We always took the train downtown to see the sites: musicals, ballets, art museum visits, the opera, the symphony, etc. It didn’t matter what time of year it was: we always took the train.
I didn’t realize until adulthood that my mother was scared to drive into Chicago. It was a big fear of hers and therefore a big fear of mine. She limited us to activities that were within walking distance of the train station or a short cab ride away. I didn’t realize until I wished my friend, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago, a happy birthday how limited I was and how my mother’s fear transferred to me as a learned behavior. My mother was scared and, since I’d clung to her side for so long as a child and teenager and even as an adult, how I had let her fears become my fears. It was fear by association.
When my friend and I would meet up, she would have to walk to the intersection of Randolph and Michigan Avenue in Chicago since that’s where the train dropped me off. From there my friend would take me to places of the city that I’d never seen before, all on foot. I love Chicago and was grateful, in a way, to not have my mother there so that I could explore other parts of it besides Michigan Avenue and State Street. But there was still more of Chicago that I wanted to see and I knew that I had to get myself there if I wanted to see these sites.
So what helped me conquer my fear? A Magellan Roadmate definitely helped and also my running buddy. Last year, I ran two races in Chicago with my running buddy: Chicago Marathon and Hot Chocolate 15K. We also both raised money for charities which had functions in Chicago. I told my running buddy about my fear of driving in Chicago. So, after I got my new Corolla last year, my running buddy would say “you drive and I’ll help you navigate.” What really happened was I drove, her Magellan navigated, and she kept me calm. I soon realized that without her Magellan, my running buddy was just as lost as I was! That’s why it took us an hour to get out of Indiana one time—and that was, sadly, with the Magellan. Not our finest moment, I’ll admit. But my running buddy was great at keeping me calm especially when it came to facing my fear of fast-moving traffic on expressways I didn’t know. She’d just tell me everything was going to be okay and if we got turned around it was no big deal.
For Christmas, Pete got me my own Magellan. Now I could go places in Chicago and not need to have my running buddy with me. Right after I got my Magellan, I decided I wanted to go to Whole Foods. So in January 2012, I took my new Magellan and my shopping list and took my first trip to Whole Foods, all by myself. I didn’t have Pete or my running buddy. And my mom would freak if she knew I was driving in Chicago by myself, so thankfully, she doesn’t even know! I was nervous at first, but I kept going up to Whole Foods week after week after week. It’s where I do all my grocery shopping at now. Pete was with me last week when we went to Whole Foods together and he said to me, “Wow you’re so much calmer driving than you used to be. Look at you! You look like you do this every day.” Pete was right. I was one calm, cool, organic cucumber from Whole Foods!
Facing my fear of driving to Chicago head on was the way to go for me. I did it slowly and with the help of friends. And letting go of my mother’s fear helped me let go of my fear. Sometimes relationships that are close-knit can be damaging if you take on one another’s fears. Eventually I realized how much I was missing by assuming my mother’s fear was my fear. I was wrong. My mother’s fear has always been just that—my mother’s fear. I’m not scared to drive into Chicago anymore. I do still need my Magellan for directions on how to get places I’ve never been in Chicago, but I’m not scared to go there alone anymore.
Pick one thing you’re afraid of, slowly introduce yourself to it with the help of friends and family and anything else you feel you need to make you more comfortable. Face your fear head on a little bit at a time, in small doses. Eventually, you’ll become less fearful and more comfortable and you’ll realize how limited you were by the thing you feared the most!