69: Captain Courageous

69: Captain Courageous

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Captain Courageous

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.

~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

“My treat. Would you like to go with us to Maui?” It was a question along the lines of “Would you like a million dollars?” and, from George Clooney, “Would you marry me?” The answer, of course, should have been an immediate yes. Of course I would go to Hawaii with my mother and stepfather.

But . . . my mom wasn’t proposing we take a ship from California to Hawaii. And the only other way to get there was by airplane, or as I’d taken to calling it, “The Agent of Death.” I’d been afraid of flying for the past twenty-five years, ever since I’d had a particularly turbulent flight on the way to London. After that, I’d watched the news of plane crashes with horror. I’d listened, alarmed, to my brother’s story of how his plane plummeted thousands of feet. I’d made my decision. If I had to go somewhere, I would find some other mode of transportation, or not travel at all.

Sure, it made for a reined-in existence. But at least I’d be safe, right?

The truth was, my reluctance to fly was only part of a gradual shift in my life from being a typical fearless child to a scared adult. As a child and teen, I swam competitively, wrote and submitted stories, played tennis, attended sporting events and plays, and traveled extensively. I’d tried snow skiing, jet skiing, snowmobiling, and snorkeling. I’d spent time with friends, gone out to dinner and to parties. Now . . . well, I stayed home a lot.

Why had I become frightened to live my life? The reasons were plentiful. My parents divorced right when I was beginning high school, an already turbulent time. A couple of years later, our house was robbed twice, and I received numerous phone calls from a man saying he was “coming to get me.” Like many women, I had trouble with relationships, and had a hard time finding that “special someone.” Then I did find him, but he tragically passed away. I’d come to believe that good things just didn’t happen to me and that the world was filled with danger and heartache. To avoid it, I would just stay home or do things which made me feel safe.

But here was the opportunity for something good, really good. I was being asked to go to Hawaii, one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on earth. So why couldn’t I just say yes?

The next few months were fraught with indecision. I checked out books from the library about flying and how to relax on a plane. They just made me more anxious. My brother offered to talk me through exactly what happens and why air travel is so safe. This frightened me even more.

Then, someone tried to break into my bedroom while I was sleeping. I scared him away but it took me a number of weeks to recover from the shock. It was just another indication that the world wasn’t safe.

Before I knew it, it was March, and the trip was just ten days away. Would I conquer my fear? Or would I just stay home?

Though not convinced I would be safe, I started acting as though I was going. I arranged the time off from work. I told friends and family I was going. I was going to do it.

The big day arrived. We had an early flight, so I got up at 4:30. We drove to the airport. We boarded the plane. My heart rate picked up, but I was still all right. Then the plane started moving down the runway, faster and faster. I held onto my mom’s arm. We took off. I had done it!

Landing was even easier, as was the flight home — after a lovely vacation that I will never forget. I had conquered my fear.

Afterward, I was asked how I had, seemingly so easily, gotten over a fear I’d had for twenty-five years. The best answer I could give was the quote from Ambrose Redmoon: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”

It was true. I had found something more important than fear. And I knew then that I would carry that attitude through the rest of my life.

~Carol E. Ayer

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