I have a fear of flying.
If you know a little about what I spend my time doing these days you’d quickly realize that this is an anxiety I deal with on a weekly basis. It’s an irrational fear. And it gets in the way of me taking advantage of long blocks of uninterrupted time, sleeping a bit more or simply sitting in silence (something I’m trying to do more of).
I’ve read the statistics. I’ve googled all my questions. I’ve even spoken with commercial pilots to get first hand accounts of their points of view. I’m a rational person but this is an irrational fear.
Here’s the funny part though: I love traveling and exploring. I love meeting new people, learning about different cultures, fumbling my way through strange languages and eating food I’ve never seen before. I love getting lost on the medieval streets of Europe and picking through a flea market in Hong Kong. I love understanding the cultural constraints of different people and I really love making them laugh.
And yet, each trip, each itinerary brings with it that underlying dread. I worry about the mechanics of the plane and the competence of the pilots and the weather and terrorists and deep vein thrombosis. I worry I’ll never see my wife or my daughters again.
And still, I go.
I go because I love what I do. I go because being a global citizen makes me a better person. I go because I want to teach my daughters that nothing is out of their reach no matter how far away it is.
This is the only way I’ve learned to deal with this anxiety. To quote that ubiquitous ad campaign, “Just do it.” I could stop traveling tomorrow if I wanted to but I don’t. So each trip, each week makes the fear routine. It makes things easier, more familiar. It makes my time in the air better and, occasionally, more productive. In fact, I’m writing this confession in seat 9A on United 75, somewhere between Reykjavik and Newfoundland on my way home from my first visit to Hamburg.
I think there are two lessons here: if there’s something you love to do, you have to push yourself to do it. Stem the excuses and take steps in that direction. The fears, doubts and anxieties will push you to avoid them. Resist those urges. The second is that regularly doing something that makes you anxious diminishes those fears over time. They won’t entirely go away but familiarity breeds comfort.