Now I didn’t love this show because of my affinity for scary movies. I actually don’t like scary movies at all. I am not a fan of my heart rate spiking in the blink of an eye. Having my fight or flight mechanism kick in is not my kind of entertainment. There were too many nights as a kid that I created an impenetrable fortress with my blankets hoping the bogeyman wouldn’t find me. The creators of horror flicks play off our childhood fear of the dark to create their twisted tales. Unfortunately, the relation between scary movies and the dark is something that I have carried with me into my adulthood. Here’s the thing, I have been in plenty of situations where I have been in the dark. Whether it was during my time in the military or as a home owner and had to run outside to take the garbage out at night. There is still something about the dark that I am not 100 percent comfortable with. Seriously. But as silly as that might sound there are a lot of people that I know that do not like to be in the dark. There is something about not being able to see what’s around you that is a little unsettling. Sounds are different at night too. It could be that our sense of hearing is heightened due to our inability to see as well as we do during the day. This makes every little noise that much louder. Plus there is a whole other world that comes alive when the sun goes down. One that is terrifying and ruthless. Okay, I am exaggerating….. a little.
Backpacking consists of strapping all of your basic needs to your back and heading into the woods for a day or more. Eventually the sun will go down and the darkness will take its place. Having a campfire with your hiking buddy distracts you from what is lurking in the shadows. But what if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Do you hold it in fear that if you leave the protection of your thin nylon shelter you will be gobbled up? What if your buddies want to do a night hike? Being in the dark while in the outdoors is inevitable. A lot of people don’t camp or backpack for this reason. But as a survivor of being in the dark I can confidently tell you that the more you do it the less scary it becomes. It really all boils down to a lack of familiarity. The more you do something the more familiar it becomes and the more proficient YOU become. My first time doing a solo hiking trip was a display in thinking about how many ways I can be attacked by squirrels, zombies, or an alien abduction. All of these are super rational, I know. But every night I was outside facing my fears the more I realized that I was not in an episode of The Walking Dead. There is something liberating about going to sleep under the stars and waking up the next morning having had the best sleep of your life. Overcoming a fear gives a new sense of strength and ability to take on the next hard thing.
As I mentioned, there are a lot of people that won’t go into the woods for an overnight by themselves, let alone with a group of people. I think there is a missed opportunity to experience a breakthrough moment that can carry over to other areas of our lives. What are some things that scare you and prevent you from even trying or doing something? Failure? Looking foolish? Disappointment? Mental, emotional, or physical harm? I am not saying to be irrational, but rather I am asking whether your fears are rational or even logical? Think about when you were a kid at recess and your friends were jumping off the swings. The cheers they would receive were motivation enough for you to do it. As you pumped your feet back and forth to get more height there was that feeling in the pit of your stomach as you approached the apex of the forward swing. It was almost paralyzing. Every scenario you could come up with raced through your mind. Broken ankles, skinned knees, flattened face, ripped jeans, embarrassing landing. All legitimate reasons to avoid such a harrowing stunt. Then for no reason at all your butt decided to leave the swing seat, and for a moment you felt like a superhero soaring through the air. You landed either perfectly or did a barrel roll to which was met with cheers and praise. You did it! You overcame your fear and did it. Eventually you pushed the limits and were doing backflips and front somersaults. No? Just me?
The point is that once you do it, it becomes a little less scary every time after that. Notice that I said “little less scary”. There is still a presence of second guessing and self preservation. That’s our mind and body’s way of trying to protect us. That is a good thing, but facing our fears is something that should be done everyday. The more that we can do it the more empowered we become. Whether its replying to that email or text you’ve been avoiding because you don’t like conflict; finally creating a budget because you want to control your money rather than have it control you; pursue a new career even if the current job pays benefits despite you feeling stuck; or planning your first solo backpacking trip even though being outside by yourself freaks you out. Being uncomfortable or a little scared is okay. Living into that discomfort or fear is not.
It’s okay to be afraid of the dark. It’s even better to embrace the dark while howling at the moon overcoming the thing preventing you from experiencing life to the fullest.
In the comments below, share one thing that you fear that you are ready to overcome to take that leap “off of the swing”.
Hope From the Trail
Hope From the Trail features original content related to the healthy pursuit of self, others, and nature. Be sure to stay connected for all things outdoors.