On Fear and Snowshoeing

I have been thinking a lot recently about fear. I have also encountered it a lot. Fear unconsciously drives our lives, causing all of us to make (or significantly, to not make) the decisions that ultimately shape our lives. For example, current events seem wholly fear-driven at the moment; political agendas and responses to perceived threats appear to be entirely defensive and isolationist. This affects all of us, pushing us, justifiably, to seek security. With uncertainty writ large on the world stage, I am more frequently seeing fear dictating everyday responses and motivating decisions in the lives of the people I encounter.

As change occurs it is easy to understand why we all want to retreat, find some stability, and hold on to what is familiar. People – all of us – want some guarantee that things will be okay, that we will be able to make our way in the future, that we will be able to live a meaningful life, and that our (their) children and those we love born in the next generation will have the opportunities and comforts we have enjoyed.

Don’t misunderstand me – I am far from immune to my desire for security and stability. I am perfectly aware that I allow fear to prevent me from doing certain things and from living what could possibly be a richer, more authentic and more meaningful life. I am also aware that fear is a motivation that I am not conscious of some of the time: I do my best to avoid deluding myself and to examine my own motives but I am very much a work in progress. However, a handful of recent situations and conversations have caused me to reflect on the extent which fear used to dictate my decisions – and how I have moved towards creating a life that reflects what I value as well as just spend my days. Which brings us to snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing was something I’ve wanted to try for about 15 years. The act of snowshoeing itself is not a big deal – at all – but is just one of many examples of the things in my life that I didn’t try. Which ultimately culminated in me living a life I didn’t want to live. Why I didn’t ever go snowshoe in the past 15 years isn’t about me being afraid of doing it in the literal sense, though in the spirit of full disclosure there are (both important and non-important) things I would like to do with my life that I am still ultimately too scared to do; rather, it’s the mentality that I adopted somewhere along the way as I entered adulthood and began making choices in general. I don’t know for certain if the fear came first or the unhappiness – though I believe they’re actually inextricable – but all I do know is that I was afraid of making decisions and challenging myself to try things that would have been fulfilling and that this made me unhappy which resulted in me being less and less likely to take action that could have changed the course of my life. Or, I was unhappy which led to the passivity that made me more unhappy. Either way. There was nothing particularly wrong with the life I lived in my 20s – I had a good job, good friends, a partner I cared about – but it wasn’t mine. I constantly felt as though I was living someone else’s life, like I wasn’t supposed to be there. There were reasons beyond my control I stayed in that life but the only reason for why I entered into it and did nothing to make it my own was fear. So yes, I am all too familiar with fear.

Snowshoeing popped into my mind last March after we returned to Utah though I honestly don’t remember my rationale for not going then. I know I asked at the local sporting goods store if they sold or rented snowshoes (they didn’t) but I obviously wasn’t committed to the idea because I didn’t pursue it. Could have been partially the apprehension of trying something new or it could have been that it was late in the season and there wasn’t as much snow as this year. I don’t know. But a few weeks ago, after we finished the majority of the house repairs, the thought popped into my mind and the only thing holding me back was the acquisition of snowshoes. And so 2 weeks ago I put the dog and my new snowshoes in the car and drove up Cedar Canyon to find some snow.

I obviously love hiking and walking outdoors so it is no great surprise that I absolutely LOVED snowshoeing, but what brought me so much happiness that day came from contemplating how full my life is today compared to just 4 or 5 years ago. Reflecting on the feelings of gratitude and freedom and joy and love that frequently overcome me. Realizing that I no longer felt shackled to something. Being reminded that that I can choose my future and how I want to define my life. So you see, my romp in the snow was more than just learning to not fall over when turning around. Yes, I found a new activity that I really enjoy and will be (and have been) doing more of, but it meant much more to me: it was a manifestation of my agency, another reinforcement of my will.

I have been making decisions and planning to embark on a new chapter in the upcoming year and as such, change, uncertainty, and fear are constantly on my mind. But fear no longer controls all of my choices, and I feel free in moving towards a future that expresses what I believe in, what I love, and who I am. What will come in the future will always be unpredictable but what I have gained through beginning to address fear is a certain amount of confidence in myself to ultimately make the choices that will reflect what I really want, even when it may be uncomfortable and difficult. Quitting my job, living out of my car for a year and a half, and putting myself in positions where I had to confront lack of security and ability went a long way toward preparing me to make the choices I have made. And I intend to continue making choices and challenging myself in ways big and small so that I may gain the strength to forge the path I want in my life.

I am also hopeful that continuing to challenge myself will provide me with the strength to change my path in reaction to opportunities that arise because I do not believe that I am meant to stop learning, growing, starting over. I don’t see security and stability in my own future, such as a single set path with a goal, and considering this fact can be terrifying at times. And so when I look at the people around me who are responsible for children, aging parents, and loved ones I have a great deal of empathy. Their fears and responses to it are completely understandable and they – much more so than I – have reason to desire a path that will provide a greater chance of guaranteeing security amidst times of upheaval.

So now that you’ve read about what my first day of snowshoeing caused me to reflect on and what I’ve been pondering, I will show you some pictures – of course. I first tracked around Cedar Canyon Campground to get the hang of it but after about 45 minutes of tracking back and forth I returned to the car and drove further up the mountain to Duck Creek Pond. I began walking through the trees along the north side of the pond, continuing east following Duck Creek itself which meanders to the east over volcanic rock. I have always thought the creek to be particularly scenic in fall as it is surrounded by yellowing aspens, but with the snow clinging to the rocks I dare say it might be prettier in winter.

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