by Qing Yang
I was born as a very shy and fearful person. Afraid of pretty much everything -- darkness, height, insects, snakes, strangers, public speaking... My parents tried their best to encourage me. “Go on.” I remember mom said patiently one day when we were at a playground. She was standing on one side of a ladder and dad on the other. The ladder wasn’t high, about 8 feet, but too me, a six years old girl, it was towering. I climbed several steps and then my knees started to shake. No matter how much mom and dad tried to encourage me, I refused to move any further. In the end, dad sighed disappointedly. I felt so bad that I had let my parents down. However, I simply couldn’t help but feel genuinely scared. I kept on living my life in a fearful way – refused to answer teachers’ questions in class for fear of letting others to hear my voice; didn’t have any good friend because I was so afraid to open up; longed to dance all my life, but too embarrassed to learn; loved natural scenery, but feared to climb mountains; never answered a phone call in the office for years when I first came to this country; didn’t learn to drive until 29…Sadly, the list goes on and on.
“I can’t believe you actually did it!” Mom exclaimed when I told her that I just came back from skydiving. “What happened to that fearful girl?”
“Well, she changed.” I answered proudly. “And I like her much better now than before.”
I wasn’t comfortable with myself. I didn’t even like myself. I felt so trapped in an unhappy world. Over the years I desperately wanted to change. I have read lots of self help books about fear and happiness. One book, “Fearless Living: Live Without Excuses and Love Without Regret” by Rhonda Britten, touched me particularly. I was so moved by the author’s own story. At age 14, she witnessed her mother’s murder and her father’s suicide. It was so inspiring to learn how she overcame her own fear and then set out to help other people in need.
Ten years ago, my mom had a stroke which made her lost the ability to write with her right hand. At age 65, with great courage and incredible determination, she learned to write and even paint with her left hand. Several years after the stroke, she published two books and a number of articles on magazines and newspapers, all written by her left hand. My mom is an amazing woman. She is a real life hero and an inspiration to me.
But to tell you the truth, the change actually came from within. My parents did try to encourage me, books did empower me, and my mom’s life did inspire me, but I didn’t change much until I finally realized that how much fear was in my way of living the life I wanted to live and how unhappy I was. Deep down I knew I had to change in order to experience the life I have already longed to have. I was determined to change then. It worked, easier than I thought. My own experience made me a believer that anything is possible if you have the will and determination.
Now I have lots of friends. It is easy for me to open up to people. I used to feel so lonely. “No one cares about me and I have no one to care about.” I stood alone among the sea of people and felt so isolated from the world. Now I know that I am not alone. I have friends and I will continue making new ones.
Now I can enjoy dancing freely. I simply love expressing myself through this graceful form of movement. And my happiness and passion for dancing is so apparent if you see me there.
I stood in front of a TV camera and read my winning story which I wrote using English, my secondary language. This story has been published in a book of collection of short stories.
I climbed mountain tops in New Zealand and went horse back riding in Montana.
I started taking flying lessons and just received the private pilot’s license recently after a year of hard training.
I jumped out the back of an airplane 14000 feet above the ground…
The reward of fearless living is enormous – not only I had chance to experience those fun things, but more importantly I am so much happier and so grateful to be alive.
One late afternoon, as I flew back to the airport by myself, the sun was setting under my right wing and the moon was rising from the left. I rolled my wings up and down, watching hungrily from the rosy red sun to the silver full moon, back and forth, mesmerized. The scenery was simply breathtaking and I know the profound image will stay clear in my mind for the rest of my life. It reminded me once again why I wanted to change – to experience life the fullest, and it reassured me that I made the right transformation.
Without fear? Of course not. I can still recall my shaky voice when I read my story, and believe or not, I’ve never dared to watch myself when the program was aired on TV; I was worried when I got lost in the forest of New Zealand; I was so anxious days before I sky dived…
I can still remember the embarrassment I felt when I walked into the dancing hall for the first time. Everybody seemed to know what to do and how to move their feet. I stood there feeling so clumsy and so out of place. “You have got to stay!” I commanded myself and kept on going back. In time, my shyness and embarrassment were gone, replaced by joy and fun.
I kept on saying “oh my God” when I took my first flying lesson. I am sure my instructor will tell you that story with a big smile. And there are more stories he is willing to share – I was so afraid of banking the plane in fear it would roll over; I refused to solo the first time he told me to; I was so scared when I got lost during my first cross country flight; my heart skipped a beat when the nose of the airplane dropped straight down…
“You are a courageous woman!” A friend commented with a pleasing approval. I smiled gratefully, but shook my head. Despite everything I have done, I was reluctant to label myself that way. Only I knew how scared I was when I did them. “You know what courage is?” My friend continued, seemingly knowing what I was thinking about. “Courage is doing the things when you are scared half to death.” I listened and thought about his words for a while. If this is the case, then, I am qualified. “You should write your story down.” Another friend urged me. “It may inspire others, especially those women who are trapped in unhappy situation, but don’t have the courage to get out.” Me? Inspiring others? I have been the one who needed inspiration all the time. How could I be any help to others? One thing I know for sure, though, is that anyone can be courage ous if he or she chooses to be. If I, the most fearful person, can be, everyone can!
Dr. Qing Yang: Born and raised in China, she came to US to pursue her
Ph.D. in molecular biology when she was 23 years with $500 borrowed
money, little knowledge of this country and poor English. One of her
fictional story “White Lily of Easter” has been published in Tall Tale