Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free. – Jim Morrison
The July 4th celebrations are in full effect. My favorite holiday is here. This holiday of red, white and blue, of hot dogs and BBQ, of apple pie and fireworks has me as gleeful as ever. This, my friends, is a time to celebrate our independence.
As I sit here in small town Harvard, Massachusetts, looking out at Bare Hill Pond, relaxing under the sun with some of my closet friends over the long weekend, I can’t help but think about what freedom means to me. Why do I feel freer now that I ever have? Haven’t I always been free?
Let me take you back a handful of years and admit a few things. I grew up a scared child. I was fearful of everything. I was sick often. I was klutzy every day. Small injuries happened often. My parents searched and searched for that magic bubble that would keep me safe but never seemed to find it. So more often than not, I watched my friends climb up trees while I cheered them on from the ground. I sat on a swing while everyone hung from the monkey bars. I played it safe in gymnastics class while my friends kept graduating to the next level. Being afraid was my thing. And everyone knew it.
As I got older, not only did I avoid “scary” things, but I also learned to live for other people. My difficult family life pushed me to be an all-around accommodating person. I didn’t want to rock the boat because the boat was already sinking. This mentality overflowed into my friendships where anything we did was what they wanted to do. Let’s watch this movie. Okay. Let’s hang out with these friends. Okay. Then boyfriends came along. Where would you like to go tonight? Wherever you want. I’ll have the burger. Oh, me, too. But you don’t eat meat. Right…Then by the time a husband came along, it was his life. Not mine. Freedom. Lost.
I had no idea this was happening until I took a hard look at myself one day. I was sitting on the couch, heart in a million little pieces, lights off, Bravo reality shows on repeat, not having eaten for days. I thought, “What now?” All I heard were crickets. I really didn’t know. No one could save me but myself.
Enter Fi Says Yes.
Taking risks and quelling my fears became a project in a life that was now a blank slate. It became a necessity not a desire. I didn’t know what would come of it. I still don’t really know. But I knew that if I told you about it, I couldn’t abandon it (which I have tried to do a few times). And if I made “yes” my thing, then maybe life would be a lot more interesting than it was.
Since I began saying yes, here’s a little glimpse of what I’ve experienced.
- I’ve snow skied for the first time down a “massive” hill in beautiful Panorama, Canada, a place I’d never been to.
- I’ve stripped down in public in 20°F during a holiday weekend in a town I’d never visited–sorry to all the people in Beacon, NY (and mom and dad).
- I’ve kicked off summer with new friends by sleeping in a tent for the first time at a music festival in the stunning town of Quincy, Washington.
- I ran my first-half marathon–something I swore I would never, ever, ever do–in my sweet home of Brooklyn.
- I jumped off a cliff in Croatia for my birthday (the broken tailbone was worth it).
- I threw the perfect July 4th boat party in Paris and danced all night long as we rode along the Seine with American flag balloons all around us.
- I took much-needed solo trips to new places like Venice Beach and London, as well as old places like Scottsdale, Seattle, Miami.
- I got a tattoo in Paris by a man who only grunts and forgot to dot the “i.”
- I’ve invited new friends into my life and reconnected with old friends (ex-boyfriends included), while acknowledging that some friends weren’t as good for me as I thought.
And yesterday, I gave wakeboarding a try for the first time.
“Fi, you going to do it?”
“Me? Nah…I just ate and I don’t know…”
“Come on! I thought Fi said yes.”
“Well…yeah but I’ve never wakeboarded before.
“Oh, so Fi says maybe…(laughing ensues)”
Shaking, nerves at code red intensity, I strapped my feet into the wakeboard. I plopped myself into the water and yelled, “Ok. Now what?” Thinking I said, “Ok!” the engine geared up on and ZOOOM. We’re off. Alright, Fi. You have to do this now. Hold on. I got it. I got it. Here I go. Ugh this is hard…No. No. WHACK. Right back into the water. With a big, cheesy grin I asked, “Can we do that again?”
While I wish I could say I wakeboarded for miles and miles like a complete rockstar, the truth is I never fully got out of the water. That said, I did realize a few things:
- I’m a bad ass when I want to be. I’m braver than I think. All this stuff and these things and this life aren’t as scary as I deem them to be. I can’t wait to try this wakeboarding thing again.
- There is no substitute for trying. So just say “yes” already. I’m glad I strapped my feet into that board.
- It’s through these experiences that I’ve learned to respect, admire and love the person I’ve become, the person I am. I’m learning what I want, doing what I want, being who I want–and that feels good. Yay, Fi.
What I’ve learned is that the key to change is letting go of fear. The more I expose myself (not in that way!), the more freedom begins to ring. Ding, ding. And the more that freedom rings, the more beautiful this life becomes.
Yep. I. Am. Free.
Happy 4th of July, everyone!