One February night, my friends and I took the train in from Boston College to get our own Instagram-worthy ice-skating experience at Frog Pond. Most of us hadn’t been on the ice for years and felt apprehensive, to say the least. I promised myself, though, that I wouldn’t fall once during the night. Whatever it took, clinging to the wall or simply stopping before everyone else, I wouldn’t give in and splat on the icy ground.
By the night’s end, I kept that promise. But to do so, I stayed within three inches of the rink’s edge at all times. I watched friends whizz by me in the middle of the rink, falling down every couple of seconds, with smiles strewn across their faces matching their strewn bodies across the ice. I didn’t understand how they could look so happy after falling down, and equally as eager to get back up just to fall back down again.
To me, staying upright seemed more important than any thrill I could’ve experienced off of the wall. I wondered, why was I so afraid of falling? Was I afraid of getting hurt? Of what others would think? Of possible embarrassment?
I knew my comfort zone quite well and refused to leave its boundaries. Throughout high school, I lived my life within similar boundaries. A shy girl in class with big ideas, I lacked the confidence to shoot up my hand to speak my mind. I hated forced social interactions and stayed quiet when meeting new people. I stuck to the activities and classes that interested me (AKA the ones I was good at). I figured, what was the point of trying something new if that could lead to failure?
When looking at colleges, the question of whether or not I planned to study abroad frequently came up in conversation. Throughout high school, I always answered a definite no. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to experience different parts of the world, I just didn’t believe in my ability to navigate in a foreign culture in a foreign language. So much could go wrong. A semester is a long time to live so far from home, so far outside of my comfort zone.
Luckily, thanks to encouragement from my mom and my advisor, I began to rethink my decision over Christmas break. I didn’t want to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime experience because of fear. From then on, I decided fear should dictate none of my decisions, whether that involve fear of failure, rejection or disappointment.
Now finishing the second semester of my freshman year at BC, I want nothing more than to shake this fear of failure. I realized that nothing is more detrimental to my self-esteem than the inability to accept my failures. College taught me that life involves a series of problems and those who succeed aren’t the ones who master the game, but instead the ones who figure out how to solve the problems as they come.
How can I do that if I”m too afraid to fail or try anything new? Whether it be taking a class that seems interesting, but challenging, or putting myself in social situations that seem daunting, the only way I can truly develop as an individual is by pushing myself past where I think I can go. From there, growth comes; I get a heightened sense of who I am and who I want to become.
Fear, in any form, does nothing more than hold me back from achieving the impossible. So, I am making a new vow. No matter how long it takes or how many times I fall flat on my face—even if I’m bruised, tired and cold—I will get off the wall and stand in the center of the rink, free of fear.