Whenever I need to exercise my brain or get the ideas flowing, I like to play a game called “Word Magic”. It’s pretty simple to play: just think of a random word and then create a story that revolves around that word.
My latest attempt was using “Jump”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a debilitating fear of heights. Just the thought of standing on a chair to hang a picture in my kitchen sends my stomach on a violent roller-coaster ride. Using an elevator? No thanks, I’ll take the stairs. Going to a friend’s housewarming party on the fifth floor? Not a chance. Taking a plane to the super-important conference that I absolutely can’t miss? I’d rather take the train, thank you very much.
My friends and family say I’m ridiculous. They joke that I need professional help to overcome this phobia. They laugh when I’m on the verge of tears after they literally shove me into an elevator.
I never argue or get upset with them because, deep down, I know they’re absolutely right.
This fear stems from an incidence back in elementary school, an incident that is permanently seared into my brain. I am not athletic by any stretch of the imagination and that day almost twenty years ago proved it, both to me and the dozens of other kids watching on the sidelines. The activity sounded easy enough, just run and jump over some hurdles barely a foot off the ground. You’ll finish in five minutes tops, the teacher promised us.
I made it half-way around the track before the inevitable happened. I was actually quite proud of myself for making it that far and I let my guard down as I waved to my friends, to signal my accomplishment for all to see. And then my ankle caught on the hurdle and I fell face-first onto the asphalt.
I was dazed at first, then the pain set in. I looked over to see all the other kids, my ‘friends’, laughing hysterically and my teacher shaking his head as he casually strode over to me. The skin of my face was busted and bleeding badly, but the shame felt so much worse. My entire body recoiled with sobs and all I wanted was to just disappear and transfer to another school.
Every time I run into one of my old classmates, they smile and ask me if I remember that day I face-planted in front of half the school. I just laugh and say, “Not really”.
This phobia has constricted me and controlled me for most of my life and I’m finally ready to concur it, once and for all. The local gym has a track and a few hurdles that I can rent by the hour. As I stand here at the starting line, the asphalt under my feet and the sun glaring in the distance, I take a deep breath and put one foot forward.
To beat this phobia, all I have to do…is jump.