When I was seven years old and on a trip to visit my mom’s family back East, my dad took me to one of those rinky-dink pop-up carnivals. You know the type. They show up in public parks and church parking lots seemingly overnight and generally consist of a few shady sideshow games and a few shadier rides.
At this carnival, my dad took me on a roller coaster — my first, actually. As a roller coaster, it wasn’t much to speak of. It was a single loop that covered the area of maybe two semi-flatbed trailers, and a single circuit couldn’t have lasted a minute, if that — probably more like thirty seconds. The tallest point on it was maybe ten feet.
We strap in and the operator starts the ride. We get to the first insignificant drop, and my seven-year-old mind freaks out. I do not like this at all — the sensation of falling, and of being out of control.
We pull back into the station and I’m all ready to get off when the operator gives a look and a nod.
That wasn’t the only lap.
As I try to protest, we take off and run the course again. This time, it’s scarier, because I know what’s coming. To add insult to injury, pardon the cliché, the operator sends us on one more circuit before… freedom!
From that day forward, I knew that I hated roller coasters and avoided them. It wasn’t until I was an adult and some friends basically shamed me into getting onto Space Mountain that I discovered something I never would have otherwise.
I love roller coasters!
Space Mountain had me hooked, and from then on I’ve looked forward to riding. The only exceptions are rides with steep drops. I do not like those, but at least I figured that one out through the clear eyes of adult experience, and gave it a couple of tries before I decided that I just don’t like that physical feeling.
But that decision came after some actual testing, instead of as a seven-year-old’s panic that turned into a pseudo-phobia that lasted over a decade.
I kind of had the same issue with doctors once upon a time, and that fear and reluctance nearly killed me. The biggest surprise? Once I put myself in their hands, I realized, “I’ve been afraid of nothing all along.”
That is the state that too many of us live in: Afraid of nothing all along. So my challenge to you is this: Figure out your thing that you’re very reluctant to do. It doesn’t necessarily have to be because of fear. You can call it disgust, or nervousness, or any negative emotion, really. Next, figure out where that reluctance came from. Is it something that happened in your childhood? Is it for some reason you can’t even remember? Is it because of one bad experience as an adult?
Whatever the cause, here’s my challenge: Go do that thing. You only have to do it one time, but the important part of the exercise is confronting your reluctance and finding out whether it’s real or imagined.
The worst thing that can happen is that you confirm you’ve been right all these years, but at least then you get to be justified in your dislike of something. But I’m willing to bet that most of those fears and distastes are imagined, and you might even discover a new thing that you really, really like.
Like I did, with roller coasters. But I never would have found that out without taking one more ride.