Cummings: Don’t let fears restrict experiences

Kelsey Cummings

Ever since I was young, I’ve had a fear of flying. Perhaps it’s irrational, but the idea of getting into a roughly 255,000 pound hunk of metal and plastic and trusting it to stay in the air has just never appealed to me.

But this borderline phobia has held me back from seeing much of the world. Because of my fear, my family often chose to vacation close to home in the Midwest. I’ve never been to Disney World and never really ventured much farther than Tennessee. Naturally, I wanted to just drive everywhere, but day-long car trips didn’t do well in the eyes of my less scared family members.

So unfortunately, I’ve never really traveled much. I’ve never been out of the country or anywhere outside of my comfort zone. And as someone who hopes to become a professional writer one day, I may have scared myself out of a lot of experiences which could have contributed nicely to my ability to create a descriptive setting or a realistic depiction of any person outside my hometown.

But what’s more is that I’ve cheated myself out of time. I’ve been on this earth for 20 years now, and a good number of those years could have been spent experiencing much more of the planet than my limited driving time would allow. Instead, I contented myself with the surrounding area.

But now my mind, in its prime time of life, yearns for a bit more adventure. And if I want to travel and experience the world without much to tie me down, now is the time to do it; and yet that fear was preventing me from it. But facing your fears is all about finding the right motivation for doing so. My motivation took the form of a dream publishing internship in New York.

Because this internship would require me to fly all the way to New York City by myself in an airplane this summer, I had little time to prepare. In order to feel safe enough to fly alone, I needed to first try to fly alongside someone else. Luckily enough, a couple members of my family were planning a trip to Arizona over Christmas. My chance had arrived.

After putting off buying a ticket for awhile — I was still too afraid to come to terms with my going — I finally arrived at the airport. I fumbled my way through security and attempted several long breathing exercises before making my way onto the plane itself. Up to that point, I was relatively calm. I joked about my built-up anxiety and made light of my fear that the pilots hadn’t gotten enough sleep or hadn’t properly checked the plane for ice.

But it wasn’t until the plane started taxiing that I truly realized how terrified of flying I was. My poor family member, whose arm I probably just about broke off, attempted to soothe me while I panicked. And as the lights turned off and we began our speedy ascent into the air, I shut my eyes and tried to imagine I was anywhere but off the ground.

Though some embarrassing tears were shed, once the plane steadied in the air I felt OK. There was little turbulence and I was able to focus on my music enough to calm down. Landing was even better; the closer we came to the ground, the safer I felt.

Then I was done. The flight was over. I was back on the ground. I hadn’t plummeted to my death. After the much easier — though more turbulent — flight back home, I began to think how silly I had been for being so afraid. I had let my fear of the unknown get to me, and now that I’ve crossed that hurdle, I can confidently say that I’ll be just fine flying to New York alone.

I’ve opened my life up to so many more opportunities simply by getting over my fear and stepping onto a plane. And if I hadn’t, who’s to say if I’d ever experience life outside of the Midwest. Flying wasn’t horrible at all because, like facing my fear, the initial takeoff was the worst part.