There is an episode of the original “Wonder Years” TV show in which junior high-schooler Kevin Arnold likes a girl he goes to school with, and he tries to work up the nerve to call her on the phone. Picking up the rotary, dialing her number, and attempting to engage the girl in conversation is a process that gives him fits, such is the extent of his trepidation.
While Kevin is having his crisis of the soul, his family is in the living room watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. The time is July 1969.
In between his aborted attempts at calling his crush, Kevin pops into the living room to watch the NASA mission with his family. He ultimately overcomes his fear by reasoning that if humans can send one of their own all the way to the moon to step foot on it, then by golly he can pick up the phone and talk to a girl. So he does.
The paralysis that grips Kevin and initially keeps him from going for what he wants — I wish I could say I was immune to it. I wish I could say the people I know are immune to it. Alas, that is not always the case.
Do you ever look at old scrapbooks or pictures of yourself when you were younger, these keepsakes cataloguing things you did, places you went? Do you ever look at these mementos with wonder: “I did that?” “I accomplished that?” “I attempted that?”
You marvel at your courage, your moxie. You remember things you had forgotten, things that evidenced your pluck and fearlessness. You say to yourself, “That was me?” The person you are seeing and remembering might as well have been a different person.
In another TV show, a character played by Tom Berenger makes an observation. He says something like, “When you’re young, you live like giants. As you get older, you get noticeably smaller.”
The fact is, fear of going after what we want can stop us in our tracks. It can be fear of failing, fear of attempting, fear of the unknown, fear of succeeding even.
If you think that young Kevin Arnold’s anxiety would not plague you in a similar situation, you might be right. However, you might be wrong. Think of a boy or girl (or man or woman) you like.
Next time you see them (and provided you have not pledged your love to another, dear reader), ask them out on a date. Or ask your boss point-blank for a raise. Or sing karaoke in public. Or run for office. Or sky-dive. See if doing so does not get your stomach a-churning a little bit.
What is the key to overcoming the fear of chasing down a goal? Me, I do not know. I only know that when we go after what we want, we make ourselves vulnerable. We expose a part of ourselves that before was not exposed. We feel young again.
Luke Cameron is a contributor to the Southern Standard.