“Do one thing that scares you everyday.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Living on a subtropical island, it’s pretty easy to do things that scare you every day. Just moving down to the island was scary in and of itself, but I also found it a little invigorating when people told us we were crazy. I would guess that most expats who pick up and move to an island are slight adrenaline junkies. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I asked myself. Though admittedly, the answers to this question get a lot more complicated when you have little lives to worry about on top of your own.
As we prepared for island life, my imagination went wild. I had quit my job, we sold our house, and we moved to a water access only island. A hurricane could come and wash our house into the Gulf of Mexico. What if I need to work in the future and can’t find a job because I have an employment gap from my island time? There are venomous snakes on the island… what if one of my kids gets bitten by one? There are sting rays in the water… what if one of my children gets stung by them? What if we feel too isolated? What if there is a medical emergency and I can’t get to the hospital fast enough?
It’s always been my desire to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice. There is something empowering about facing your fears and gaining the confidence and courage to do the things you were at first afraid to do. While I don’t think she meant literally facing down hurricanes, snakes, and stingrays, I do think her intention was to encourage people like me to get out of our comfort zones.
Picking up and moving my life and family to a small island may have been on the extreme side, but I think it could definitely fall under the category of getting me out of my comfort zone. As we get older, we’re encouraged to stay mentally and physically active to keep our minds sharp. I think that embarking on adventures and activities that scare us a little can really help in that regard. I’m not a particularly anxious person (and in my younger years, was even a little reckless), so I find myself currently trying to distinguish between a healthy fear I should listen to and an unfounded fear I should face down and ignore. This can sometimes present a challenge.
Each day on my island, I find myself tiptoeing a little further outside my comfort zone, pondering how I might face down these fears of mine. I tell myself that if a hurricane blew our house away, we have insurance and could rebuild. If I need to find a job, my experience with the fishing charter business could be marketable and I could always go back to school. We don’t see snakes every day, but I am always on the lookout for them, particularly in the warmer months and when it starts cooling off and they are looking for places to warm up. I’ve never really felt like I was afraid of snakes, but I definitely do not want to get bitten by one and I especially don’t want one of my kids to be bitten by one. (Sorry – I know that snakes are part of the ecosystem, but if one of them hisses at my kids, it’s going down.) That being said, we are still going to go outside every day. I have to constantly remind my kids to do the stingray shuffle as they enter the ocean, but I would never deprive them of the wonderful experience of swimming in it due to my fears.
But there was still one lingering island life fear that I couldn’t come up with a comforting answer to. The worry of how isolated we are and what we would do in the event of a medical emergency continued to tug at my anxieties.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how to drive the boat and haven’t really been able to learn because I always have the baby with me. They don’t make car seats for boats, so I just have to hold her while my husband Tim drives the boat. That means that every time he leaves for any extended period of time, I feel completely stranded and helpless.
Sure, if there was an emergency, I could call the doctor on the island and I could always charter a boat to get to the mainland, and of course if there was a life or death emergency, they would send a helicopter. But the one thing I know that I could do that would make me feel a little more independent and a lot more in control would be to learn how to drive the boat. Though – here comes that fear again – I am really scared of driving the boat.
What if I get lost and get swept out to sea? What if I hit another boat or the dock and I damage the motors? What if it’s really rough and I capsize? Fear brings up all the worst case scenarios and the only way to overcome them and gain confidence in those things not happening is for me to start driving the boat.
So here I am:
This video is of the first time I drove the boat on my own to the mainland with Tim following me in the big boat. While I was shaking afterwards, I was also smiling. Since then, I have driven it one other time by myself from the mainland to the island. I plan on continuing to practice driving the boat as often as I can and perhaps I’ll even let my kids come with me eventually. At least now, I feel confident that I can take myself to social events on the mainland and get us to the hospital in case of an emergency.
So along with avoiding venomous snakes and stingrays, driving the boat will be added to my list of island life fears that I’m working on conquering. Once they stop scaring me, I suppose I’ll have to move on to overcoming my fears of striking up conversations with strangers and asking for help.
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What island fears have you conquered? And which ones are still conquering you?