I used to surf. Then I almost drowned.

I used to surf. All the time, I was addicted to it. I loved the rush of catching each and every wave, but even moreso I loved the feeling of serenity when I was on my board, out on the ocean, slowly shifting up and down with the rhythm of the world.

But one day, I almost drowned. I had a new board, and there was a problem with the leg rope. There was another surfer — younger and inexperienced I guess — who cut in on my wave, and I took the fall so I wouldn’t hit him. I came off my board, and it was a one in a million chance that my leg rope wrapped around my neck and choked me.

I was dragged under my surfboard, choking and struggling, and when I tried to get my head above the water, the board was right on top of me. Then the panic started. The thrashing started.

If another surfer nearby hadn’t noticed me, I could have died that day.

When they helped me back to the beach, I looked out at the water and suddenly, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t go back in. The fear was there, the fear was stopping me. Looking back now, I know that if I had just pushed past it…I would have been okay.

But I didn’t. And the fear grew. And the fear grew.

And now it’s almost a decade later, and I haven’t surfed since.

The Fear

The fear is real. The fear is what grips you in the middle of the night. The fear is what sets in when you check your bank balance over and over, and it doesn’t change.

The fear is what sets in when you check it and it’s dropped and you can’t remember why. The fear is what drives you to panic in silent rooms and want to scream in crowded rooms.

The fear is that if you try to do something incredible, you’ll drown.

But that fear doesn’t have to limit your life. I’m set on that. I believe in that. Because I don’t believe that it’s ever too late to take control of yourself and your life, to take the wheel, to chuck a U-turn and find a new direction.

Fear can help you. I don’t shut down any feelings, I don’t reject any feelings. Anger, sadness, excitement — and fear can all be used to get what you want. They can all be used to tap into your own power for change and progress and a personal revolution.

Fear can help to propel you, as long as you don’t let it determine where you’re going.

It’s okay to be scared of where your life is headed. Thats fine.

Use that fear. Use it as fuel. Use it to help you succeed.

Today, I chose a new surfboard. I’m going to buy it this weekend, and I’m going to go out to the beach and I’m going to try. I’m going to suck, and I’m going to make a damn fool of myself, but I’m going to try. The fear won’t stop me, not this time.

[This post by Jon Westenberg first appeared on Medium and has been reproduced with permission.]

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