I was a young boy of 8 when I first recall feeling the sensation I later came to understand as fear, I can still recount every moment of events that led me to experience fear in all its glory. I don’t often think about it but when I do I am transported back in time to that place and I can see the world through my 8 year old eyes once again.
Fear is not an emotion that society views in a positive light, many view it negatively trying to minimise any contact with it. Then there are the few that live to experience fear in extreme measures through performing death defying feats.
I must say I’m not really in either of those groups, I won’t look for such experiences but if they arise then I deal with them.
But I do find that fear can be a great tool to achieving results that can seem out of reach, now hear me out. That familiar feeling of dread brings about the uneasy increase in your heart rate, a sign that the body is recognising the emotion and releasing the adrenaline to help deal with what’s coming.
Whilst your mouth is drying out and your palms are getting sweaty, full ‘freak’ out mode is in action. With this momentum your mind starts to focus and the results can be amazing, to illustrate this I’m going to recount my first fear filled success.
I was out with my friends, we were a bunch of eight year olds hanging out at the local park, performing stunts on our bikes and egging each other on to be more daring than the person before.
I had a shiny chopper it was my pride and joy (you probably have to be from a certain era to truly appreciate what I’m talking about). And I had been practicing a particularly daring bike stunt for weeks, waiting for the right time to wow my friends and impress them with my mastery of two wheels.
This was that time, I puffed out my chest and declared to the group that I wanted to show them something, they all looked at me with confused eyes. Fred (names have been changed for anonymity) shouted out “what are you talking about?”
To which I just replied you’ll see, well at this point I was still feeling quite positive and told the group to give me thirty minutes to set up for a bike stunt they’d never seen before, we agreed a meeting point in the park and I set off to start getting myself ready.
I went back to my house with Fred and picked up a board and a ramp that I’d been using to practice my stunt. Fred was asking me lots of questions but I couldn’t really focus on what he was saying because now my brain was filled with thoughts of my stunt and the slowly increasing feeling of dread. The truth was whilst it was true I had been practicing, I’d only practiced certain elements not the whole stunt from start to finish.
We made our way back to the park and I started to see more kids from round the area than were there earlier. I didn’t think much of it until John, who lived a few streets away came over to me looking excited.
Hello Kenny, I can’t wait to see your stunt I know it’s going be good you’re mates have been filling us in. I asked him who was here with him and he said that he’d come with all the boys from his area to watch. Well I won’t lie my palms were starting to feel slippery and my mouth was getting drier.
I made my way to the meeting point where I saw the true extent of how effective the ‘grapevine’ had been in drawing kids to watch and I had heard mutterings of what they thought was going to happen. At least 50 kids had gathered. I was trying to mask my inner turmoil off as being cool so I had stopped talking and just started giving head nods to those gathered.
I started to set up my kit trying to focus on the sequence of tricks for my stunt, it was going to entail a prolonged wheelie, followed by a sprint up the ramp and a spin off the top, then a reverse wheelie with another jump off the ramp this time, on landing I was going to flip over the handlebars and land in front of my chopper.
The more I ran through the sequence the more my head was getting dizzy I decided that I was just going to start. I got on my chopper started to peddle and my heart started pumping I could feel it in my neck. I could see the look of anticipation in the eyes of those gathered.
I commanded my wheelie which was one aspect I was confident about as I had practiced it well. Then came the ramp this started to make me feel dread as I’d only achieved a decent spin 3 times, now I was wishing I hadn’t started this event. But all those kids looking at me and my Street cred at stake, opting out was not an option!
So I peddled like crazy up the ramp and ejected off the top into a spin and landed well (much to my amazement) my head was feeling light and my stomach was delicate but my reverse wheelie would be fine (again this was a bit I had practiced), and it was.
The young men watching were smiling and I’d seen a few nodding heads of approval, by now I was enjoying the feeling of my heart beating fast and my head feeling light. Now it was time for the finale, my handlebars moment.
Sweaty palmed and light headed I went for it, up the ramp, into the sky this moment seemed to go on for ages, many thoughts were floating through my mind like would I make it, how would I land, would hitting the ground hurt, why did I start this and many more, suddenly I could feel a dullness at the back of my head and distantly I could hear shouting.
My next recollection was coming round with Fred beaming down at me.
“That was amazing!” He said with a glint in his eyes.
I nervously asked him did I manage it? To which he replied with some vigour, “yeah too right you did that and more”. I was confused enough but what did he mean?
I started to become more aware of my surroundings now, I was on the floor lying down, and my bike was nowhere to be seen. I was in a flower bush in a part of the park that was out of bounds.
I asked Fred how I got there, “you flew” he replied but before I could ask anymore I heard the cry we all feared “parky!!!”
That meant the park attendant had been spotted. My new found friend, the beating heart in my neck reappeared and the release of adrenaline sprung me back into action this time on foot, to leg it.
I managed to getaway and out of site fairly quickly, it was an unsaid rule that in this type of situation it was “each person for themselves”.
I arrived back at home, my heart rate started to settle which led me to notice more things about my appearance, my jeans were a bit ripped and my right wrist appeared swollen. I was starting to feel pain now and didn’t like it.
Slowly my friends started to gather, all smiling and laughing one of them even had my chopper, it also looked a bit battered. I didn’t want to appear stupid so I didn’t ask what had happened but my friends couldn’t wait to talk.
“That stunt was amazing, the way you went through the sky”
“Yeah you were wicked!”, “you looked like you were flying”
It turned out that I hadn’t just flipped over the handlebars, I had done a full somersault over the handle bars mid air and landed in the flowers on the other side of the railings about 50 feet away.
I couldn’t believe it, one that I’d completed my stunt but that it had resulted in my flying through the air and avoiding being caught by the ‘parky’.
That situation made me accept that although fear is inevitable and not a feeling I enjoy the outcome can be truly amazing.
It’s something that I aim to encourage my trainees to embrace when preparing for their part two and three driving instructor examination.
Fear is your friend!