Based on a true story.
Just last summer, my family had three months planned for fun before school began. We were really busy all the time, but at one point we were finally packing to go to California to visit our cousins. The fact that we haven’t seen them in over a year, this was kind of a big deal. My family and their family were really ecstatic. Who knew what terrors awaited me there.
I was in my room reading a fairly interesting book when I heard my mother call.
“Janet! Come here, I need to talk to you.”
After I got off my bed and stretched out my back, I reached the living room where my mother was.
“Yeah, mom?” I asked sarcastically.
She looked at me with annoyance written all over her face. “No need for that kind of attitude. I just wanted to ask you about something.”
At that moment I started to get uneasy. Whenever my mom asked a “question” it would lead to a four-hour discussion. I really wasn’t in the mood to talk — I was just getting to the good part in my book.
I sighed. “OK, shoot.” I prepared myself for whatever she wanted to ask.
“So your uncle just texted me about this app he has that gives him coupons. He just got one today for the ice skating rink near their house. He asked if that was something we wanted to do with all together, and I texted that I would ask you guys first. I know your brother and sister would be more than thrilled, but I wasn’t sure about you. Do you want to try ice skating?”
That was NOT what I was expecting. Ice skating? I could already feel the goosebumps on my skin. I hated feeling so scared, but I can’t seem to ever control what I am afraid of. I don’t even know how my fear of everything scary began, but I do know that I used to be brave. I used to play in the swimming pool with my friends, but now I can’t even sit next to the water without feeling like it was going to swallow me up. From that moment, I never could do anything scary.
I hesitated with my answer. Every part of my being was saying “no,” but my heart was saying something different. A part of me was tired of hiding behind my fears, part of me realized I was never truly living if I didn’t take chances. I stood there a very long time, contemplating what I should do.
“Yeah, I’d like to try,” I said with some confidence I didn’t realize I had.
“Are you sure Janet?” my mom asked.
I walked back to my room as my mother texted my uncle back with our decision. I felt good with my choice — besides, we wouldn’t be visiting for another month!
That month passed in a blur of hanging out with friends, missing my brother when he went to summer camp, and taking my sister out for play dates every day when, out of the blue, we were on the drive to California. Time had passed so quickly and I had missed it. Even though this drive was getting me closer to my fear than I would have liked, I wasn’t afraid. That is until we actually got to the rink. After three days of parks, golfing, and late night movies with our extended family, it was finally time for the dreaded activity.Ice skating. We all got ready and left for the rink. Each minute brought us closer and closer, just couple feet closer, I thought as I felt my heart nearly popping out of my chest. We made to the rink just as the doors opened, I felt the bite of cold air on my face which made me all the more terrified. At this point, only one thought was going through my mind: What was I thinking?! I watched skaters glide effortlessly on the ice with my cousins and siblings while our parents went to grab some ice skates for the rest of us. One by one, each of my family members went on to put on their skates until I was by myself. It was finally my turn to skate. Once I felt the weight of the skates against my feet, I suddenly realized just how real everything was.
There was a line to get in the rink, which was nice since I could take some time to calm myself down before I blew up from anxiety. Unfortunately, even though the line was long and slow, it was by a window showing the inside of the rink. I wish I could say the people gliding soothed me, but it didn’t — It just made even more scared. Soon, it was my turn; I took a second to look at the icy white ground before me, and then back again at the nice carpet I was standing on. Something snapped in me — not anger, though — and I found myself fighting to get out of the line that wasn’t really a line anymore. I didn’t want to do this, why did I think I could do this? I thought. I picked a nice spot out of the way, but by a window so I could watch my family laugh and have fun. Watching them broke my heart. My uncle and his oldest daughter, she only a bit younger than me, came to ask me to come try skating with them.
“It’s not fun without you,” said the oldest daughter, Makayla. “Come on!”
I couldn’t bear to see my cousin this way, but I wasn’t brave enough. After some talking it over, we compromised that I would skate by the side with one hand on the ledge and the other hand held by my uncle. I felt embarrassed as I imagined people judging me with confused and sour faces. Two-year-olds were skating like pros around me while I could barely skate for a second without losing my balance and almost falling. Halfway through, though, I started to feel a little bit braver. By the end, my confidence faded and I found myself scrambling for the exit. Luckily, no one noticed.
“I’m not doing that again.” I smiled, then cringed at my failed joke as I sat down on a hard, wooden bench.
My uncle gave up trying to bring me in. Makayla came every once in a while to beg me in too, and then leave with a sad smile. My mother came, standing next to me.
“Why did you tell me that you could do this? You’re sitting here feeling guilty for yourself when you could be having fun out there.” It hurt to hear and so it led me to not respond very well.
“I’m too scared, I can’t handle it. You should know what fear feels like.” I was nearly sobbing.
“Sure I do, but I don’t handle it like this.” With that, she walked away leaving me conflicted and angry. I wanted to be angry with my mom, but I realized it was me I was furious at. I wanted to do this so I could fight my fears, and yet I was hiding from them just like I always did. I don’t know how long I sat there watching people skate when I heard my mom.
“Janet!” she called. “We’re leaving in fifteen minutes. Are you coming in? If not, come over here so we can return the skates.”
I didn’t respond, and I sat there conflicted. I was going to be mad at myself if I didn’t at least try, but my fear froze me in my place. I remained where I was as my mom motioned for me to come over. Then, without a thought, I turned back to the ice rink one last time. I don’t know what made me look back, but I’m glad I did.
My uncle was playing with my younger sister and his young daughter, who was three years younger than my sister. I saw that he was carrying something white. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a walker to keep your balance on the ice. My uncle caught me looking, smiled, and motioned for me to come on and use the white walker. I looked at my mother and then back at my uncle. The once impossible choice that was placed before me was suddenly easy. I had made my decision.
I climbed up the ramp where the line was and got on the ice. My uncle gave me the walker and I started skating. I skated to my heart’s content and skated some more. I probably looked like a big smiling idiot, but I didn’t care. I fought against my fears, though it took forever, and I was… having fun! I looked over at my mom as she recorded me skating with a video camera, my sister jumping with joy watching me.
Finally, it was time to go back to the house. During the ride back, I couldn’t stop smiling. True, I still had many fears to conquer, but this was the best way to start.