Tuesday, May 10, 2016

To Soa Ocean Trench

We went swimming on Monday.  Ordinarily, that would not be a particularly impressive statement.  However, in this case, the PLACE where we went swimming was a very big deal, to me.   My husband and I joined some local Samoan friends to visit To Soa sea trench.   To get to the place where we would be swimming, we first navigated some very steep stairs, followed by a climb down a long wooden ladder approximately sixty feet (a bit over 18 meters) into the sea.

For most of my life I have been deathly afraid of heights.  Being anywhere near even a medium level precipice would fill me with dread as all my senses went wobbly and my mind went swimming with vertigo.    I have avoided all sorts of activities in the past ranging from hiking mountain trails to sitting in balconies in order to keep myself feeling safe.
Recently, however, I’ve been examining the various ways I’ve allowed irrational fear to limit me.  I’ve begun to make mindful choices to take sensible risks, even when – or in some cases PARTICULARLY when – those risks trigger my old familiar fear responses.   I’m choosing to retrain my brain in how I define what is sensible and what I need to avoid to stay safe.
Initially this deliberate remapping of my comfort zones only applied to my personal life.   Soon enough, I will put the same pattern to work in my professional endeavors.

In six months time we will be returning to the USA after a nearly two year hiatus traveling the South Pacific.  When I go back, I will need to find a job.   As I have considered what sort of opportunities might be the best fit for me, I’ve had to confront a certain level of uneasiness and fear.   I’ve wrestled with doubts about my own marketability after such a long gap in my work history.  I’ve worried about how I will adapt to being back in the milieu of American social customs after such a delicious season of embracing Polynesian cultures.   I’ve wondered how I will deal with the inevitable rejections that come in any professional job search.   In planning my approach for when I get home, I’ve considered “playing it safe” by applying primarily for less challenging jobs that are an easy bet that I would be selected for.  
Then I climbed that ladder with my friends.   I confronted a big, scary situation and was rewarded by an amazing experience.   The intense beauty and sense of accomplishment I felt as I swam in that crystal blue water is something I hope I will never forget.  Without taking a risk, I would have missed that.
The key thing that made it possible for me to overcome my fear of heights to climb that very long ladder down was the power of encouragement.  With each step I took, I had people below gently cheering me on, guiding me where to place my feet, telling me they knew I could do it.   That made all the difference.

Because of this experience, I now know I can do big things, even things that may initially feel very scary.  I am also now more committed to being mindful about the ways I encourage the people in my life, both at home and in the workplace.   I will seek out mentors and friends who I can count on to encourage me as I take on new challenges, whatever they may be.  

Encouragement has tremendous power. 

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