I grew up with a fair amount of fear. But over time as I grew, it got worse for some things: heights, deep water, speaking in front of crowds. Of course, I have had therapists explain that fear is just a manifestation of things that could happen, but probably won't. I get it. But I'm still afraid. I discovered a couple of fears while they were currently happening. In high school I had to give a presentation to my senior English class. The moment my feet hit the front of the classroom, I could feel the fear welling up and it was a new sensation so I didn't realize what was happening until my palms began to sweat. As it became clearer to me that my time to speak was coming up my fear deepened. I spoke in front of the class and made it through but I am sure afterwards I ran straight to the bathroom and wept until the fear passed. About 10 years ago, I came to visit my family from New York and we went to the lake on a borrowed boat. We all had to go to the bathroom so we all jumped off the boat to take a pee. I realized when I was mid-air that I was afraid of the water and turned around to grab hold of the boat and scraped up my entire front side trying to hang on. I was so paralyzed with fear, I couldn't even do my business. I had to get back on the boat and wait for shore. The heights thing I just always knew, there wasn't anything specific that did it.
Eight years ago I was commissioned to photograph Method Man in NYC. I went to Slim Shady's record label and sat for the entire day waiting for him to arrive, I drank about seven Red Bulls before I realized what was going in. When it was clear he was not going to meet us there we all shifted gears and went to the studio to meet him. While we were waiting in the studio, a member and producer from the Wu Tang Clan came out to find any ladies who would be willing to lay down a track for them. I was among just three ladies there and I wasn't up to anything until Method Man was ready. But I couldn't do it. I was so terrified - of everything - that I just said no and I swear there is not a year that goes by that I don't think, "dammit, if only I had done that, what a fun experience that could have been and proof I was even there".
I didn't have any interesting revelations then. I was still a kid and not really thinking about missing out, I thought I was taking it all in.
My husband's family has made a tradition of the "Christmas Eve Program." Each member of the family takes a turn and speaks on video camera about what they have done for the year; it's an amazing time capsule. I remember like it was yesterday how deeply terrified I was when Steve told me about it. I panicked about it more than I panicked about our impending plane flight (and I panicked about that a lot). But I went through with it and I am so glad I did. My experience starts when I first starting dating my husband and we are now 11 years in.
Two years ago, I was faced with another chance. I was shooting a project for Door Number 3, an Austin Ad agency. On the last day of shooting we were supposed to go to a zip lining tour. There was a platform in the middle of the run that I could use stairs to get to so I didn't have to zip. My art director and my entire crew was suiting up and I couldn't, just couldn't be the odd man out. I was so nervous but the moment I stepped off that platform, I knew: I can do anything. I've been three times since. It was such an awesome experience, I am almost ready for Amazing Race ;)
Last summer my family rented a boat and we went out to Granbury Lake (is that a real place? that's at least near where we were.) You know about my water thing. I knew the plan was to go to the middle of the lake and bob in the water (with our life preservers.) I psyched myself up and was able to inch my way in and bob freely in the water and to prove my fear was gone. I did a full-on Kawabunga into the water. I lived to speak about it. So it went well. It was awesome, I was still a little skeeved about what kind of wildlife might be down there (in fact just the thought of it now makes my legs go to jelly), but I did it once, so I can do it again!
About a month ago, I met a DJ at a wedding I was photographing, DJ RJ Johnson/ Music 4 Life Media. I sent him a disk of images from the event. He called to thank me for my effort and asked me to sit for an interview. I LOVE it, so smart. It's like me making a portrait of someone I've met. I agreed and then put it on my calendar. I went through my calendar about 20 times since I wrote it down and each time I saw it I thought, "Oh, I'll just cancel." But I didn't let myself cancel. I wanted to see where this could take me. I was scared to death, but I went and did the interview of about 20-30 minutes. It was perfectly fine, I didn't sound silly or embarrassing, I didn't vomit or cry, I did just fine. And now I have this new experience to draw from and I couldn't be happier.
I guess the moral of the story is be fearful, because it will keep you safe and alive. But don't let it stop you!
Now go get em'