I’ll admit it. I’m not exactly the fearless type. I’m afraid of heights, rollercoasters scare the living daylights out of me, and I’m not too keen on boats. Boats scare me because I can’t swim, but I live in Seattle. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of natural beauty that is set on the water, so when I moved here I decided I needed to conquer that fear.
I started with the ferry. The first time I rode one I sat next to the life jackets and panicked when I heard a car alarm going off. It sounded like that blaring noise they make in the movies that indicates the boat is sinking. I laughed when I realized what it was. Now I take the ferry as often as I can, admiring the harbor seals and seeing the occasional sea lion frolicking in the waves.
On Friday, I did something much more intense. I went in my first rowboat. A friend and I took the boat out on Union Bay by the university to go see wildlife, and of course I wore a lifejacket. As usual with this sort of challenge, I didn’t realize exactly how scared I would be until it was time to get into the boat, and once we rowed away from the shore, I felt pretty panicky for a while. I was very careful not to shift my weight at all, because I was really nervous about tipping the boat over.
Once we got across the main lane of traffic and headed towards some of the shoreline, it was really amazing. We saw bufflehead ducks, and a bald eagle. A mother duck and her ducklings were all taking a bath together on the shore. A pair of grebes was guarding a floating nest, and we were able to see that there were three eggs in it. We also saw lots of turtles—sunning themselves on the logs, standing and staring at us with crooked necks—I had no idea how the shore would look from a rowboat and no clue that so many turtles lived among us.
Having read of so many journeys by boat, I also gained perspective on what it was really like. We went under a number of bridges, ducking our heads as we sailed beneath. I can only panic continuously for so long, so I started to relax a little. The rowboat was so much smaller than the water taxi I’ve been nervous to take, but now I think I’ll be able to do that more easily. There are so many rewards to facing one’s fears. I feel a little bit more confident about boats now, and I’d dare the waters again for another day of wildlife. Who knows what challenge I’ll confront next–I can’t wait to find out.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
239. What are you afraid of? Is there some small thing you can do to confront your fear? What rewards do you anticipate for challenging yourself?