There are only 12 DAYS LEFT in the fundraising campaign for Rhodes Hall High School!! We are hoping to raise additional funds to purchase track spikes and shoes for competition and are closing in on $2,500! Click here to donate now, or read more about the kids and their incredible stories here. I am accepting new and gently used running apparel of all genders and sizes at: Danielle Cemprola, PO Box 26101, Greenville, SC 29616 until February 15, 2016! Don’t hesitate to email me at thetrexrunner(at)gmail.com!

So, the other day, I mentioned to a coworker that I have to have my gallbladder taken out in a couple weeks. It was part of a normal conversation, and I didn’t really think anything of it – I said it casually. The look on her face was priceless: “You have to get your gall bladder out? Aren’t you afraid?? I would be sitting at my desk crying hysterically if I knew I had to have surgery!” The look on my face was probably also priceless, because the thought of being afraid never really occurred to me (nor did the thought of crying hysterically at my desk. I’m more inclined towards maniacal laughter). I mean, it’s not my first rodeo – this is my 6th lifetime surgery and the 4th in the past 3 years. It just is what it is and at this point I more or less assume something on my body is going to fail me each year and need to be surgically repaired – no reason to dwell on it. The point of this story is not to bash my frequently rebellious internal structure. Her comments made me think, because I actually get comments like this quite often in all areas of my life:

  • “You’re running a marathon? I could never do that! Aren’t you scared?”
  • “I can’t believe you’re divorced. I would never have survived that.”
  • You’re going to the Middle East? What about terrorists? I would be way too afraid.”
  • “You’re traveling by yourself? Isn’t that terrifying?”
  • “OMG, you have to deal with snakes and bugs at work?! What if one bites you?!”
  • “Weren’t you scared to visit Colombia? Tons of people get kidnapped there!”
  • “You run in the dark/by yourself/ with headphones on?”
  • “How do you teach fitness classes in front of other people? That’s so scary!”
“You went to a local market in Ecuador?? Did anyone try to mug you?! You picked up a puppy? What if it had a disease?!”

Many people perceive me as fearless, and I think that’s funny. It’s a compliment, I guess (although some of those people might also be implying that I am insane, but I’ll take what I can get). But at the same time, it’s not true. I have a ridiculous number of irrational fears, and anyone who has known me for a long time, particularly pre-2011 (when my ex-husband and I separated) will tell you that my life used to be ruled by anxiety and fear. Chief among my fears:

  • The dark (I won’t walk through a dark room, even in my own house, even if I have just turned off the light and know the room is safe)
  • Birds (All birds that can fly and have beaks. Penguins are not included, but ostriches are)
  • Raw chicken (AJ handles all raw chicken in our house. I wouldn’t even cook chicken until about 2 years ago, and I still rarely cook it using anything other than a crock pot.)
  • Unknown numbers on my caller ID, and voicemails from those numbers (DID I FORGET TO PAY A BILL FIVE YEARS AGO OMG?!)
  • Being buried alive (I have an elaborate funeral plan in place to assure this does not happen – seriously)
  • Mosquitos
  • Outer space
  • Mice/rats/vermin
  • Giving birth/raising children/being responsible for children/having to interact with children/talking to children (I’m sure they’re lovely, I just am really, really awkward with kids)
Mosquito nets are a staple clothing item in Alaska in June. Fine, maybe just for me.

The list goes on and on. And yes, my fear of birds does frequently make traveling and my job difficult because hello, birds are everywhere. But you want to know the thing I am most afraid of? The thing that keeps me awake at night and the thing that forces me to confront many of the things that used to terrify me/still sometimes terrify me, like living alone, or being attacked, or eating dinner by myself or not knowing how to communicate in a foreign country?

It’s the fear of dying without really living. That’s what is spinning in my mind when I can’t sleep, or when I’m slogging through hours at work, the barre studio, and my freelance assignments. It’s why I devote every spare cent to travel and experiences and stepping outside my comfort zone. I’m not fearless. I have the same anxiety as everyone else when I’m in a strange place and someone pays me a little too much attention, or when I don’t know where I’m going and I feel like I’m entering a bad neighborhood. I worry about the plane going down, getting ripped off, looking like an idiot in front of clients at the studio, and my heart exploding during speed work. I worry about something going wrong in my operations.

But more than that, I worry about what my life would be like if I never had my stomach or back surgeries and lived with that pain forever, or if I had never taken the steps towards recovering from my eating disorder. I worry about not having enough money to travel and make my dreams come true. I worry about staying stagnant, never growing, and never building meaningful relationships with others because of hurt from the past. Those things are much more scary to me than the other fears will ever be, and they drive me to push myself out of my comfort zone constantly. Am I a little scared to be traveling to Nepal for two weeks by myself (it’s possible I will have a travel buddy, but it’s TBD right now, and I’m going either way)?  HELL YES. HELL YES, I am scared! But what is the alternative? Wait to go on my dream trip while I search for just the right person to come with me (it’s not everyone’s ideal trip), knowing that I might never find that person? Wait for the perfect time to go, or more money, or whatever? What if that chance never comes? The thought of that is terrifying, and it makes going alone seem not so bad at all. In fact, it makes it seem pretty awesome.

I’ll suck it up for those views (not the khaki shorts. The mountains. God, you guys.)

The beautiful part about having fears is pushing past them. Things that terrified me years ago are barely blips on my radar now; instead, new fears have taken their place – and that’s a good thing! The process of stepping outside my comfort zone and redefining it has changed how I look at myself and the world. While I still have plenty of fears, I know that they can all be overcome if I so choose to do so. My first tattoo (I have 9 or 10, I can never remember) was a seagull on my right hip. I got it right after breaking up with my high school/college boyfriend and right before transferring to the University of Maryland, where I knew no one. It’s symbolic of conquering my fears, and since then, I’ve added two more birds – each at a proverbial fork in the road in my life. I might still be afraid of birds (I believe my fear of them is a healthy form of self preservation), but I’m not afraid of living life anymore and most importantly, I’m not afraid of relying on myself to make it through tough situations.

So when you see people doing things you want to do, don’t assume that they aren’t afraid or that they have some bravery you don’t possess. They’re almost definitely not fearless – no one is! Don’t wait until you “get over” your fears before you go out and live your dreams. The only way we overcome our fears is by confronting them. The only way we face death is by living life. I promise not to let my fears hold me back, keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and keep writing about it if you promise to do it, too. Well, maybe not the writing part – that’s a lot of work, quite frankly. We’re in this, together, ok? Wimps of the world, UNITE!

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela

LEAVE A COMMENT: What are you afraid of?

20 thoughts on “Fearless

  1. This is just amazing Danielle – and so inspiring. Go forth and conquer – there are many people who will join you on the journey! And talking of being fearless, there is a woman for whom that is a catchphrase, Kathrine Switzer – the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in the days when women were barred from doing so. You and she have so much in common and she is now setting up 261 Fearless clubs for female runners who want to use running to set them free from self-doubt, fear and anything that’s holding them back.

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! Katherine Switzer is absolutely amazing and such an inspiration. I will have to check out her Fearless clubs!!

  2. You are a survivor and life needs to be lived! What am I afraid of? Also dying, but only because it will mean I won’t be able to see my three girls again (sorry, I have three of those little creatures you find scary 😉 ). Like you, have gone through divorce, my ex-husband moved 12,000 miles away, being diagnosed with this and that – but I just think, F*CK, I am going to live every precious moment I have, because it can be over so quickly. PS I know that as a fact as I step up to being a Vet45 next month (over here in the UK) and I have no idea where the last 15 years of my life went, apart from having/looking after three daughters)! You’ve got to just do it *despite* what life delivers. May you enjoy every moment of your precious life 🙂 x

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I can definitely understand how adding kids into the mix creates a whole new layer of fears. The older I get, the more precious I realize life is and see people dying too soon. That adds a sense of urgency for me to do things while I have the chance!

  3. Hell YES!!!! I think you are beyond brave for traveling to all those “crazy” counties. (sidebar: almost anywhere outside the US is “crazy”) but I love how you live life OUT LOUD!
    I’m pretty terrified to get on a plane and I’ve had other passengers remark they cannot believe I even get on one, after they see how fearful I can be. But, like you, I would never let what I know is an irrational fear of flying stop me from traveling and going to see people I love, new places and experience amazing things. All within the US and Europe of course 🙂
    PS – You should absolutely be afraid of having kids but they are worth it 1 million times over! xo

    1. Oh man, I didn’t know you are afraid of flying! That must have been a long flight to Portugal! I would drink a lot of wine, I think.

  4. This is why we get along–we are both so fearless, but at the same time vulnerable. That is why I always related to you and felt connected to you: we both know what it is like to take on something no one else would but still be scared of what our bodies might do. Big picture and little picture. But I also feel that, in the past few years, we have grown out of so many of the fears that we previously had. And we are both doing so much better, even if our bodies are still fighting back!

    1. Definitely! We have both grown a lot over the past few years. That’s what our 20s are all about, right?

  5. I haven’t posted in so long (not since our 90 Day Fiance Twitter chat during the 1st season, hahaha) and while everyone is posting how brave/fearless you are, I’m sitting here paralyzed just thinking about SQUIRRELS. Yes, squirrels! They are the scariest thing in the entire world. They will jump down from a tree as you walk by and bite your exposed neck. IT COULD HAPPEN! I once ran away in terror while drinking in Epcot (Disney World) because a guy bent down to feed one. My husband just cackled and followed after me.

    Evil squirrels.

    1. Girl, did you watch Season 3 of 90DF? Oh man. SO GOOD!! I have to say I have never heard of anyone being afraid of squirrels, but I guess they kind of look like rats with furry tails, so I will go with you on that one.

  6. I’m afraid of skiing. That’s right, I’m afraid of the most popular winter sport in the world. I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop or be able to swerve around obstacles. I’m afraid I’ll ski right into a tree. I’m not sure why I have this fear. I’ve only been skiing twice, both times as a child. I didn’t have any major accidents or injuries. These things are often quite irrational. I’m not afraid of other things like whitewater rafting, skydiving (well, maybe just a little fear…but not enough to keep me from trying it someday), traveling, snakes, sharks, etc. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to live in the mind of your coworker. There’s definite truth in FDR’s famous line: “the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”

    1. I think a lot of people are afraid of skiing! Well, not skiing so much as falling or crashing into a tree. It’s not irrational – I go skiing a few times a year and I still freak out when I go too fast.

  7. My list of irrational fears is a MILE long and we all know I have issues with anxiety. I’ve learned to suck it up and deal. I certainly won’t intentionally put myself in harms way, but beyond that? I just take a deep breath and do it because I know the fear leading up to things is worse than the thing itself.

    1. That’s a great attitude to have, Ange! That is how I feel as well. There are a lot of things (like talking to people I don’t know) that I find super scary, but I know that I am actually not bad at them and so I force myself to do it anyway. Once I’m doing it, it’s not so bad.

  8. This is awesome. I’m not going to lie, I always admire your ability to go out, travel and get things done. It’s awesome. Some of your travel might make me nervous but I feel like everything is scary to someone…

    1. You’re totally right! Everything is scary to someone and there are lots of things I think are scary that other people probably think are no big deal. That’s sort of the point of this post – everyone is afraid of something!

  9. I am coming late to this conversation. I fear treadmills. Just looking at one makes my heart race so forget getting on one. Yes, a lot of people think this is silly, but it is a real fear. I am fine with stationary bikes, but no treadmills.

    I believe it boils down to a fear of a lack of control over my life. That is what drives me to do everything I have done in my life.

    1. I don’t think that’s a totally ridiculous fear! I’ve seen people fall off treadmills. It seems like you’ve got the running thing down without the treadmills, though 🙂

  10. I definitely have never thought of you as fearless … but you sure as heck are brave and strong!

    It makes me think of things we talked about with the kids – how being nervous about doing something, like calling to check on something, talking to a teacher, looking for a job, asking someone out, can sometimes cause you to do nothing … it is important to always remember that not choosing is a form of choosing. But in this form you determine the outcome in a negative way. So you can not audition for a play, which means you won’t get rejected – but you also are 100% guaranteed not to be able to do something you know you want.

    And it is easy to say “I could never do that” … when it isn’t in your personal sphere. And for me I get it – I’ve never broken a bone, and only had one ‘real’ surgery when I was 17 – and that wasn’t remotely major … so I don’t have a lot of context on that. But helping Lisa and our older son through things … I don’t fear it.

    And since when our younger son was born, there was a point where Chris has turned blue (i.e. stopped breathing) for the second time and was in the NICU, and Lisa had her whole internal system shut down after the C-section and it wasn’t starting again even after a week and the chief of surgery was in the room … I stood there at one point thinking of the very real possibility of going home to be a single parent of a toddler, losing both wife and younger child. So going through that situation … it is not something I have a fear of.

    But I also don’t consider any fear ridiculous … it is all about what triggers our anxieties and fires certain synapses in our brain – it isn’t about OUR thoughts, it is about the thoughts of the person who has the fear.

    1. I LOVE that- “not choosing is a form of choosing.” It’s definitely true! You are deciding your own path either way. To me, it’s worth it to try new things, knowing there is the possibility of failure or danger just because I have the chance to experience something great. I hate the idea of not having the chance at all! Thank you as always for sharing your insight and your stories 🙂

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