When Was the Last Time You Scared Yourself?

My son leaves tomorrow for a semester of study in England. He’s quite nervous and hopefully a little excited, just as I was when I embarked on my studies abroad experience at the age of 19. I confess that I was more than a bit terrified as I boarded that plane, but it wound up being the best thing I ever did. It took me away from my safe, familiar life in Idaho and showed me that I was capable of more than I ever imagined.

On my second or third night in London, I was walking home alone from the Tube station in a heavy fog when I heard footsteps approaching.  I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing, until a shape emerged from the mist . . . a bobby (an English policeman) with truncheon in hand. He tipped his hat to me.  I kid you not. It was a scene straight out of a Sherlock Holmes’ story.  One of those impossible-to-believe moments when life imitates fiction. For a budding writer, it was magic.

There were many more moments like that in the five months I spent exploring Europe on a less-than-shoestring budget. Moments when life and art overlapped. And many of the most poignant and memorable instances came when I was feeling lonely or lost or vulnerable.

Several years ago, I set a New Year’s resolution to “write three things that scare me.”  I wasn’t referring to ghost stories, I was talking about essays on topics so personal, I wasn’t sure I dared write them.  By this point, I’d written several books and become a solid writer, but I knew that in order to stretch, I’d have to get out of my comfort zone again. I’d have to scare myself a little.

When was the last time a project frightened you?  When was the last time you weren’t sure you could pull something off? Have you gotten too comfortable, too complacent, too tired?  If so, maybe it’s time to take a risk. Maybe it’s time for a little adventure.