(Photo by Lindsay O’Neil)
By Samantha Dammann
Finding Beauty in Unexpected Corners
I thought I was only afraid of spiders, but then I went surfing.
I was fifteen, and it was one of my family’s last weeks on Oahu. We had lived there for nine years, and somehow I had never actually gone surfing. That felt like a terrible crime, so our youth pastor took us to the beach to check it out. While that day was incredibly fun, it has also provoked a lot of thought over the years.
I remember that it took me almost half an hour to get in the water that day, and I remember wondering why I was being such a chicken. I didn’t even know what I was being a chicken about! I wanted to try surfing. I grew up watching people surf all the time, and it fascinated me.
Since then, it’s been almost five years since that day, and it’s taken me every bit of those five years to figure my mysterious fear out. When I hesitated to get in the water that day, it wasn’t because I was afraid of trying something new; it was because I was afraid of being new.
I am afraid of being a novice because I am afraid of what people will think of me. Despite the fact that learning is a fundamental component of human life, part of me still fears that people will judge me and say, “I can’t believe you don’t know how to do that.” The saddest thing about this fear is that it has kept me from living my life.
Isaiah 2:22 rocked my world the first time I read it. It says, “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” This is the final verse of chapter two, and the whole chapter explains how all of man’s false pride and haughtiness will one day be revealed.
This chapter of Isaiah enabled me to understand that part of my fear of man is stemming from my vanity. Somewhere inside of my mind I am placing my value in what other people say about me. The craziest part of this fear is that most people probably aren’t even thinking about me. But for some reason I think that they are, and I care about what I think they are thinking about me.
It’s taken me five years to figure out that I have a ridiculous fear of man. I’ve also realized that simply knowing that I have this fear does not make the fear go away. The times where I have made progress in overcoming my fear are the times when I have consciously done things to challenge it.
It took me forever to get in the water and on the board that day, but I had so much fun once I did. In fact, as we drove home from the beach that day I remember thinking, “Man, I wish I had tried that years ago!” Trying new things, making mistakes, and learning are some of the most fundamental components of the human life.
It is impossible to be fully immersed in life and to never goof up. I have been speaking English my entire life and I am still learning new words and misusing the ones I already know. I have been walking for an awfully long time too and I still trip and scrape my knees every once in a while. I have been a competitive swimmer since I was in the third grade, and I will be the first to tell you that my starts and turns still need a ton of work.
Try to let go of the desire to be perfect this summer. Lean into the fact that life is about growing, and challenge your irrational fears head on. If you want, give surfing a try! Sign up for an exercise class, or go on a hike. Take an art class, or finally attempt one of those DIY projects that everybody has saved on Pinterest. No matter what you do, don’t let lies keep you from experiencing the beauty that is waiting in all of the unexplored corners of life.