This weekend I did something scary, and I am really glad I did it. I flew out to Santa Barbara, California by myself to present a paper at a philosophy conference at UC Santa Barbara.
Now, I have presented at philosophy conferences before. I have also flown by myself in the past. However, in the past when I have flown by myself, I have flown to the house of friends or family members, and they were always there at the airport to pick me up.
This time, I not only flew by myself, I also flew to a completely new place to which I had never been and arranged for transportation to my motel and to UC Santa Barbara.
I was excited. I was also really, really scared.
I love to present papers at philosophy conferences. I get to hang out with friends and colleagues and discuss cool ideas. I always learn a lot. I feel pretty confident about doing these things.
What I don’t feel as confident about is navigating transportation, motels, and travel details by myself. In fact details like this really make me nervous. They certainly made me nervous on this trip.
The whole week before I went, I got increasingly anxious. I was trying to finish my paper; wrap up my classes at the college where I teach; pack; and confirm last minute details.
I felt overwhelmed and was worried I would forget something important. I was afraid I would get to Santa Barbara and somehow get stranded.
I got so anxious that I started dreading the trip. I was still dreading it even when I got to the airport.
This story does have a happy ending.
I got to Santa Barbara safely.
I figured out how to get to my hotel room and conference. I ran into a colleague and friend, and we were travel buddies. That helped a lot.
I fell in love both with Santa Barbara and with the the college campus.
I got to walk on the beach.
I hung out with palm trees at my motel.
I really enjoyed the conference. I had a great time presenting my paper.
I got back home safely.
One of the coolest things about this weekend is that I feel more confident about my ability to navigate new situations, to solve problems, and to take care of myself.
I definitely had to work through some anxiety and lack of confidence to get there, but it was worth it.
This weekend reminded me of something I learned a while ago: There are moments in our life when we have the opportunity to become a larger version of ourselves by going on new adventures or learning new skills.
Quite frequently in these moments, we feel afraid and lack confidence. Sometimes in these situations, our lack of confidence and our fear makes us feel bad. Perhaps we feel that if we were stronger or wiser or better in some way, we wouldn’t feel fear in these situations.
Becoming a new and more powerful version of ourselves requires a certain amount of stepping off a cliff and trusting that there is going to be a bigger and better version of ourselves there to catch us.
That’s always scary. It’s also worth it.
I write this for anyone who is about to do something new and challenging–especially if you feel afraid. A bigger and better version of you is waiting. It’s okay that you feel afraid. You can do it.
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