When did you stop being fearless? Can you remember?
I remember. I can pin it down to the exact moment.
I was eleven. I was on the Pirate Ship at Alton Towers, something which I’d loved being on since I was tall enough to be allowed on it. I’d go as far as to say it was my favourite of all the rides. (Unfortunately for my Dad, who was consequently subjected to a string of back-to-back trips on it…)
And then, out of nowhere, I hated it.
Everything was normal until the third swing, and then I started crying hotly. I thought I would be sick.
My Dad, sat next to me as usual, was oblivious to my abject terror. He just thought I was enjoying myself. Not that he could have done anything to stop my terror had he been aware of it…another frightening thing I learned that day.
My stomach swung up and down with the movement of the ship. I used to love that.
I gripped on the measly railing, miles away from my actual body, which I scrunched up like a contortionist, one knee up by my chin in an attempt to contain the lurching sensation inside me. No use.
I remember thinking I was going to fly right out of the seat, that colossal and hostile ship taking over what little control I had of my small body.
And the worse thing was it seemed to last forever. Well, at least MUCH longer than it had ever lasted before. Like the ship’s operator was in on it.
I haven’t been on a ride since.
Image courtesy of adventureland.us
It’s when we start thinking about stuff, isn’t it? That’s when the fear sets in. Too much thinking.
I went out on a boat, a real one, recently. It was a little boat, the kind where you are close to the water. The conditions were mildly choppy. I was totally fine as we lurched about a bit, enjoying it even – whooping and whee-ing with the toddlers, actually (I have no shame). But then the Pirate Ship popped into my head, as things do when you don’t want them to, and I instantly started to feel sick. A ghostly nausea.
When I think about it, and I do a lot, I’m scared on a regular basis.
Pretty much every day. An irrational fear, mostly, about things that aren’t even a reality. Just potential realities, looming darkly on the horizon.
And whilst I don’t think this fear ultimately stops me doing things, making decisions, progressing in life, it does make for a great deal of unnecessary stress. Stress I recognise I impress on to those around me, involuntarily.
But I just can’t help it. Fear is almost a reflex for me now. An element of my personality.
Never mind fairground rides. Its terrifying just being alive.
Wine helps. *She says, as she types this blog article, wine glass in hand after a hard day at work… But this obviously isn’t a wise life choice.
I can’t imagine what life must be like for those who are unfortunate enough to not possess as many of the coping skills as others do – as I seem to, despite it all. Daily life must be a genuine struggle.
There’s still hope though.
One of the reasons today was such a challenge at work was because we welcomed students, returning and new, for another academic year. Whoopee!
But it strikes me in this job, too regularly, just how damn resilient kids are. I know, you hear it said all time.
But really – kids, especially the older teens, are absolute fighters. After nearly ten years in this job I am increasingly aware that some (an alarmingly high number, it always seems) of our young people have to cope with horrors much more vast, complicated and intimate than a slightly nauseous experience at an amusement park could compare to. It sounds like a tired cliché, but I doubt most of the young people I’m thinking about have even been to a bloody theme park.
And long may they steer clear! Maybe then there’s hope, hope that they’ll hang on to the last shreds of bravery they have. Perhaps they will go on to be even stronger in their adult lives, leading the way for others. A good deal braver than I am.