Almost a year ago I quit my editor’s job to go freelancing. That was a big decision; it was tough. But equally it was liberating. And now I can’t imagine having to step foot in an office everyday, let alone share a commuter train twice a day with stressed-out lemmings.
But this almost-year of freelancing has been interesting and more difficult than I expected it would be. If I thought quitting my job was hard, that has been nothing in comparison with grappling with the fear and self-doubt of venturing out on the hare-brained idea to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40. The woeful tally so far being a big fat one! (I sit here writing this with the self-pity coming off me in waves).
The fact is, in the past 10 months I’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotions – from the jubilation of employment freedom to the finger-biting worry of where the next pay cheque will come from, and a whole mish-mash in between.
But it has been fear that has been the greatest plague. It’s been all consuming and paralysing; this little voice nattering away in my head telling me I’m not good enough, that I don’t have the skills, the experience, the kit, the money or the aptitude to climb 40 volcanoes – or, indeed, to do anything remotely exciting or adventurous.
I look at all the awesome explorers and adventurers out there – they’ve been climbing mountains since they were knee-high to a grasshopper, they are strong and brave and courageous, putting tents up blind folded with one hand tied behind their back, drinking the juice from elephant dung, and sleeping in the middle of nowhere with just the stars for company.
Then I look at myself – a failed girl guide and control freak, with an irrational phobia of getting sick and a susceptibility to the cold. I’ve never wild camped, the thought of going number twos in the bush is anathema to me, and I freaked out climbing Mt Snowdon (which actually anyone could climb). I have grandiose dreams of skipping up volcanoes but my cardiovascular fitness means I’m out of breathe by the time I reach the top of escalators in tube stations, while my upper body strength is confined by my “superhuman” ability to do no more than 10 push ups on my toes (and that’s on a good day). I mean, I don’t even know how to put crampons on boots! Lordy, I don’t even own crampons!
So, where do I get off thinking I can be some Lara Croft wannabe, volcano-climbing supremo? I’m just an ordinary girl (ok, almost middle-aged woman), living an ordinary life with extraordinary dreams.
But there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of people who probably feel the same. People with dreams, who watch television programmes entranced by their on-screen heroes, feeling guilty that they even entertained the idea of venturing forth and conquering. They read the books, cover to cover, spellbound by the images jumping from the pages, feeling that niggle of pain in their chest and wishing away the argumentative voices in their head. They are the ones who daydream but don’t know where to start; the ones with families and responsibilities who will always come up with an excuse.
I feel your fear. I am that person.
To all those people, you are not alone.
“Fear can be good when you're walking past an alley at night or when you need to check the locks on your doors before you go to bed, but it's not good when you have a goal and you're fearful of obstacles. We often get trapped by our fears, but anyone who has had success has failed before.” - Queen Latifah
What are you scared of?