As I turned 27, I realized how much of my life has been driven by fear. Fear of heights, fear of rejection, fear of failure. I started musing on how much I have missed out on or was never fully involved in because I was afraid. Entering my late 20’s has been a needed wake up call, a call to stop fearing and start living, a call to, “Do it for the Story.”
“Just do it for the story!” my friend and travel companion Lindsey encouraged me as my fear of heights took hold on a steep hike in Hong Kong. Almost 1,000 feet in the air and nearly paralyzed with the fear of plunging from that height, I had begun to have an anxiety attack right in the middle of Dragon’s Back trail. “Come on, just do it for the story. The hike will be over, then you’ll have this amazing story!” Being a writer, which is essentially being a story teller, her advice resonated with me and more importantly, distracted me from my fear and gave me something useful to focus on, having a great story to tell.
The “Do it for the story” mentality is pretty self-explanatory and is simple yet powerful. The idea of doing things for the story you’ll have is not meant to keep you from being in the present moment during your experience, nor is it meant to encourage incredibly dangerous or reckless decisions. Instead, this mentality is meant to combat fear and help you think beyond the potentially awkward or uncomfortable experience to the story you’ll have later, letting you know that there will be a later and you will be okay. Scared to go on a blind date? It could be a terrible time; it could be a funny story. Scared to travel to a foreign country? It could be uncomfortable; it could be a powerful story.
After adopting this outlook on a trip to Hong Kong, the entire experience became more exciting, and I became more open to doing things I probably would have been too afraid to do. Having shamefully eaten at a Burger King, yes a Burger King in Hong Kong, Lindsey and I set out to find an authentic Chinese dining experience to atone for our sin. Well, we found one in the form of dim sum at Pier 88, a wall to wall packed, very authentic Chinese restaurant. Literally being the only white, English speakers in the restaurant was, at first, daunting as there were the inevitable stares and even a few glares, but we stuck to our plan. Watching and following the lead of seasoned customers, we took a number and waited to be seated. When our number came up on the screen, we were told “later, later.” So we waited until a little later not really knowing why or what was going on. When we were seated we were given a pot of green tea, a picture menu, and a pencil. We deduced that we were supposed to mark what we wanted on the menu with the pencil, easy enough. I saw a few things that looked familiar from my days of living in San Francisco and dining in Chinatown, and then we gambled on a few items, you know, for the story. Then we sat back, enjoyed cokes, and waited. Now, I’m not saying this will happen every time, but our gamble paid off, and we really enjoyed everything we got though I couldn’t tell you the name of any of it. And though our waitress seemed annoyed with us at first, by the end of our meal we had won her over with our excitement for each dish she brought out.
For the story, I tried eggs and bacon ice cream and lobster ice cream. I liked the eggs and bacon, but old bay seasoning, lobster essence, and sweet ice cream just do not go together for my taste buds. For the story, we took a double decker bus on a tiny mountain road to hike three and a half hours to the beach. We took the metro to Lantau island to climb 260 stairs to see the big Buddha statue. Hell, for the story, we went to Hong Kong in the first place. Parts of it were scary and awkward and uncomfortable, but those parts make the best stories, or at least the most interesting ones.
So when you’re questioning whether to go on that date or that trip or to that interview, ask yourself what your story will be afterwards. It will remind you that you will have an afterwards even if it was a bad date, a bad trip, or a bad interview, and perhaps you will be just a little bit wiser and more interesting, and you’ll most certainly have a story to tell.