Several years ago, when I was a Navy sailor, I failed the test required to graduate from boot camp because I refused to jump off the diving board into the massive pool below. I was not a swimmer, and nothing scared me more than drowning.
And that's all I saw as I stood several feet high on that diving board, listening to my commanding officer and teammates urging me to jump. Eventually, the examiner got tired of coercing me and so he pushed me. I landed in the water screaming and flailing my arms, gulping and spitting out water, sure that I was drowning. I didn't drown (because there are professional swimmers in the pool looking out for people like me), but I also didn't pass the test although I went further than the pool. By the time we got to the running round, I had already given up. Needless to say, I did not graduate with my shipmates. I had to wait for the next graduating class to take the test again.
This time, as I stood on that diving board, eyes focused on the American flag on the wall on the opposite end of the Olympic sized pool, I had talked myself into jumping no matter what. You see, the mind is a powerful device. If the tape playing in your head is leading you astray (to failure), you need to take that tape out and play another one. So that's what I did. This time when I walked up to the edge of the diving board and trained my eyes to look ahead, although I hesitated, I eventually allowed myself to free fall into the pool of water below. There was very little panic compared to the previous test and I made it to the makeshift rescue boat and on to the running round. And this time, because I was not feeling defeated, I completed that round and went on to finish and pass the rest of the obstacles. I graduated and met up with my original shipmates in Pensacola, Florida where we lived it up in specialty training school until it was time for us to be assigned to our first stations.
This morning, as I overcame yet another fear, I was reminded of my time in Navy Bootcamp. I’m writing parts of this as I walk through my neighborhood at six o’clock in the morning. It is still dark outside, cars are slowly pulling out of driveways and side streets, a school bus just rode by, and every fiber of my being is trying to take my mind off of all the things that could happen to a woman out at night just minding her business and trying to stay fit. We live in a safe sub-division made up of a cluster of houses in a circle less than a mile long. I can walk the entire neighborhood (if I add the off-side streets) in less than 2 miles. But knowing this hasn’t kept me from knowing that it’s dark outside and evil hides in the shadows at night.
I almost didn’t come out, but I asked my husband, last night, to make sure that I do this, rain or shine, fear or not. I need to claim back my power of focus and not allow the outside world to determine what I should be afraid of. I have no problem walking during the day, but during this time of year, the only time I can do this (take care of myself) also happens to be times when it’s still dark outside, or on weekends. So, I have no other choice than to do it now. So, I did! And I’m glad I did because I learned that I have nothing to fear. Other neighbors were out too, walking dogs, walking to their cars, or getting in an early morning run before beginning their day.
How many times have we allowed fear to stop us from doing the things we really want to do? Allowed those voices inside our heads telling us that something bad is going to happen to us if we allow ourselves to fall into the water or step outside of our homes? Many of us allow that fear to hold us back from jumping, from letting go. Yet, the brave ones who mock and defeat fear keep reminding us that fear is just a loud bully who backs away the moment you show a little bit of strength. Let their stories guide you! Listen to the ones who have looked fear in the face, laughed, and lived to tell of fear’s cowardice. He is just a loud, false, threatening presence lurking in the alley and blocking you from reaching your destination, who shrinks in the presence of the strong.