I stepped out of the boathouse with my rowboat and saw the muddy Mississippi River. Off to the left was the I-74 Bridge along with the new one being built. There was a narrow dock down the hill to board the boats. As I headed down to the dock, I noticed how the current sped past and I wondered how I would keep up in the water. Slight waves glided over the river, making the dock rock back and forth, making everything on it unsteady.
It would have been a fine sight, except -- I am terrified of water.
As I stared at the water, I stood paralyzingly still, scared of the thought of sitting in the unsteady, two-foot-wide boat. My partner in the boat was waiting for me as it was my time to get in; the only thing that moved me to get in the boat was the blank look and silence of the intermediate rower I was partnered with. Once we were in the boat, there was this sunken and deep feeling that did not want to leave. We both pushed off the dock and rowed up the deceitful current. The thought of there being just a thin piece of carbon fiber between me and the unknown water did not sit right with me. I did everything in my power to keep the boat steady and upright. The practice went along and everything seemed to be going fine with only a few times I had to stop rowing and steady the boat.
That quickly changed.
On one of the last stretches downstream, we were going faster than either of us could handle. All in what seemed like slow motion, the boat slowly tipped over, and we both went under the water. As I came up out of the water, it was not long before I was sitting back in the boat in cold, wet clothes. Both my partner who was still in the water, and a coach that had driven over, looked at me amazed at how fast I got back on. Once I helped my partner in, the coach gave us empty subway cups to throw out the water that had gotten in the boat. It took every ounce of courage I had, but we continued to keep rowing for the last 15 minutes of practice.
I would have liked to say that was the worst of it, but it not only happened another time, but a third time, all in one practice.
Each time I fell in, it did not make continuing to row much easier. After the third flip, our coach agreed to just go to the dock as it was getting close to the end of practice anyway. Once I stepped on the dock, I realized I was not the same person that stepped off.
As we were cleaning off our boats and I had calmed down I thought to myself, That’s it? That's what I was afraid of? Of course I did not enjoy the experience, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I felt a sense of accomplishment and confidence for overcoming my fear of even going on the boat in the first place. Although I did not go back because it just wasn't the sport for me, I am proud of myself for overcoming my fears and stepping out of my comfort zone.
Ever since that day, I could see my life changing in ways I never expected. I thought I was going to live with that fear for the rest of my life, and that it was just something I was going to have to deal with. I did not realize how much that experience impacted me until I found myself doing things I could have never had the courage to before. I started making memories with my friends like boating and swimming in the river, that did not even phase me anymore. I also found a love for paddleboarding that I never would have found if I hadn't overcome that fear of water. I have found new hobbies such as machine rowing and lake surfing that helped me find a way to stay active and motivated through life. This new life of adventure and freedom has brought me so many more opportunities for making memories and living life to the fullest.
Through my rowing experience, I found many new friends and skills that I will use throughout my life. I learned to navigate through adversity, teamwork, and discipline. Most importantly, I learned to try new things and to step out of my comfort zone because stepping outside of our normal routines could result in some of the best moments. I have grown as a person and now see life in a more positive and resilient way.
I found a new respect for myself even though it came with an unpleasant experience. Now, whenever I am faced with fear, the common saying, “You only live once” comes to mind. I think of how short life is and how fast it has already gone, and it motivates me to make memories now to think back on. There has been such a burden lifted off of me, and I am now encouraged to overcome any fear that comes my way.
I am now living the life I want to live with little to no fear, and am grateful for where I am today. This experience has been more of a blessing than a burden to me, and has opened my eyes to so many more views and outlooks on life. It is crazy to think that only ten minutes of hardship, struggle, and fear can change an entire life and open so many new doors. I learned that the best way to overcome fear is to face it head-on and that I am in control of how I live my life. It never occurred to me how much fear was affecting my life until I was looking from the outside in. The thought of how small our fears are compared to this world, and how our own conceptions of things that might not even be true can stop us from being a whole different person, astonished me. We only have one life to live, so go live it; do not let fear stand in the way.