Scare Me

Illustration by Jeanette Nash, Kerrville Daily Times

Jan 31, 2018–You should do something every day that scares you.

I read that somewhere.

It was one of those sayings that niggles as you go about your daily habits. Like a religious aunt looking over her glasses at you.

The thought percolated as I listened last week to a band in a lounge, playing some Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.

The players were talented, and they handled the familiar tunes well. But I realized those were the same songs I was playing in bands going back to 1969. We hit those same chords and sang those same words in many bands over many years.

I used to do it full time. It was fun when it was scary. I remember those sweaty palms as I crawled behind the drums those first times when I was still in my teens. Even though I was playing in a small town for a small room full of drinking, distracted people, in my mind it was Carnegie Hall.

Over the years, it became less and less stressful, until it became comfortable. Then it became a job.

I realized this one night when I was coaxed back into playing a gig at old Turner Hall. Sure, I thought, it would be fun to get out the sticks again.

Midway through the first set, I turned to the bass player and said, “I forgot how boring this was.”

And I had 3 1/2 hours of two steps and waltzes to go before I could collect my 50 bucks. It hit me what was really happening: I wasn’t scared of drumming in a band anymore.

That fear of doing something new, going out on stage feeling underprepared (you can’t help but be when you start anything)–that is what gives you energy.

As my daughter navigates through college nursing courses, she was sharing how stressed she was starting a new semester. Cherish that feeling, I told her. Anyone who has gone to college knows it well. The fear of the new, of getting into something over your head, of competing with others who all seem to know more than you do. It’s terrifying, and it should be.

It’s scary starting your first job, seeing your first customer, getting married, buying a house, having kids. Forget about trying to reduce stress, to relax, to lie on a beach. Life is supposed to be terrifying, if you are doing it right.

As you mature and gain more experience in more things, you lose that edge, and in fact you continually feel the pull to fall back into the state of contentment. I maintain you should avoid it.

I realized, as I listened to that lounge band, with zero desire to play drums in a band again, that I stop doing things when they lose the fear factor. So as I lost my fear of drumming, I moved to the piano and got back the fear. I was well into midlife when I picked up a violin for the first time. Learning it and playing in quartets and eventually orchestras was good for about 20 years of terror.

Acting in community theater for the first time, when I was old enough to parent the teenagers I was acting with, terrified me. As did tap dancing in my 50s in public view.

But when I stopped being afraid of doing those activities, I lost interest, and started looking for the next fear.

What still frightens me?


Thank goodness.

What scares you?

Are you doing it?