There are moments in course of our lives that feel like standing on the edge of a diving board. While the obvious is true, that the only real course of action is to move forward, fear, self loathing, and doubt can stick us in place. I see this in dancers, especially very young children, that have figured out the world’s expectation of correctness and fear failing to the point of becoming unable to move. They stand, motionless, rooted to the round beneath them, unable or willing to speak or interact in any way. Adults, they quit. They stop trying, they skip an activity, or they leave the class never to return. From both groups I receive a lot of this plaintive cry, “This is hard for me.” I used to think that this was all about work ethic, that having to try, repeatedly, and the energy and commitment that required was deterrent enough. Now I believe that is has more to do with fear than anything else. Fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of judgment, fear of not rising to the level of our own expectations or hopes, whatever the specific fear, the impacts on success can be devastating.
These days, I find myself at the edge of the diving board, toes curled over, looking into the water not even sure what it is exactly that I am afraid of, but peering into the water with apprehension. I wish for the adult in me to tell the small child that everything will be okay. I wish for the rational part of my brain to win the argument in a landslide. I stay at the edge of the board. And then this, a single line of text from my mother:
“Wherever you have dreamed of going I have camped there and left wood for you.”
And I jump.