Dear World,

I feel like I’ve spent my entire life being afraid.


I had a very difficult childhood and was raised by a single mom who did her best. There were times I would come home from school and she wasn’t there. Everything became scary because nothing was certain. Subsequently, I developed a lot of fear.

“When I lay down tonight I won’t wake up,” was what I thought every night before I slept, and simple tasks like navigating the subway were difficult for me. By the time I was an adult, I had become very familiar with fear--a friend to it. I knew it would come with me everywhere, from job interviews to dates. I would be panicked, convinced the worst possible scenario would come to pass. What I also observed is that I would still do whatever was before me. And so fear became my friend.

In 2016, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. After being diagnosed with serious health conditions, I decided to have gastric-sleeve surgery. I lost 120 pounds and was suddenly physically capable of doing all kinds of things that I could never have imagined doing before. I decided to compete in a triathlon, but not the regular kind: this one started out at sea, on a boat, and then you had to swim back to shore. I signed up, and the moment I came to contemplate the start of that race, I felt a familiar sensation rise up within me–fear was with me once again.

A lot of things in life can be terrifying, right? Like, did you ever get to this moment where you have to decide, am I actually gonna do this or not? It was the same way with the surgery. I literally went to the hospital on the morning of my surgery and was like, “I can bail out on this. I can bail out on this.” They're wheeling me down the hallway to the surgery room and I'm going “I can still stop this right now.” But you get to that pivotal moment where you're just falling. You're done. The decision is made.

That’s how it was the moment I stood on the boat. The race was starting, and my friend fear was whispering the same mantras: “you can turn around you know?” None one cares if you back-out.” There was a sports psychologist on the ship with us, because of the amount of people who become so overcome with terror they can't get off the boat. He told me where to go. He said, “You’re going to walk on to the left side of the boat. Don't worry, just walk. When you get there, here's what I want you to do: just start walking. Don't stop.”

And then I jumped, and fear came with me. And I was fine. I swam faster than I had during practice. I got out. Completed the bike and running segments. And I was fine. And fear was with me, every step of the way.


Start walking, don’t stop. 


It’s really hard to share this story, because I don’t want my mother to ever feel like she wasn’t there for me. She was, and I know how hard it was for her. Looking back, I realize there must have been many times she felt terrified herself. But all this fear (hers, mine) - it wasn't without benefits. I know now that the story of my fear is also the story of my strength. Courage isn't the lack of fear; it's action in spite of fear. Fear is the gift that enabled me to find my strength so I could just keep walking....and never stop.


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