A few months ago, a friend of mine thought it’d be nice to surprise me with an excursion a paddle boat. For most people, this would be sweet and nice, but then again most people know the basics of swimming or avoid water like the plague if they don’t. Given that I have a penchant for pushing myself to the edges of my fears just to see how I cope with them, I went along with this plan.
Everything was going fine.
I found myself thinking that paddle-boating’s not so bad, it’s actually pretty fun. It was a gorgeous day, there were ducks swimming around, the boat didn’t seem like it was going to capsize or sink, and I had a life vest on so even if some freak winter storm would overtake us and flip the boat over with its horrendously strong winds, I’d float. Of course, right when I feel secure and at peace with the universe and proud of myself for confronting my fears is the moment my friend seizes to jump up and walk around on the boat.
I’d like to think I was not complicit in the events that proceeded to occur, but I was just as guilty for letting my fears get the best of me. What happened went something along the lines of this:
Me: What are you doing? Why are you getting up? [I’m thinking no sane person wants to take off their vest and get up!]
Friend: I want to walk around, this is cool!
Me: No, this is a bad idea! [Anything that leads to me feeling like lives are at stake is naturally a bad idea]
Friend (already walking around): Lighten up, what could go wrong? [Likely thinking I am raining on the parade]
Me: EVERYTHING! [yelling because panic mode has been engaged: what do I do if this person who I thought was my friend continues with their bout of insanity and jumps off the boat? I can’t swim, and even f I could they’re bigger than me, we’d both drown! What if there’s some unknown beast lurking in the water and attacks?! Why did I think this was going to be ok?!?]
Friend: Jeez, calm down. Hey, the boat’s rocking when I walk, do you think we could flip it? Why are you freaking out? [Likely thinking capsizing boats is not something you can do every day, wait why is Liz yelling she never yells]
Me (mumbling): I can’t swim. [Why are you asking? Now I have to admit I’m terrified and there’s nothing I hate more than being afraid than admitting I’m afraid]
Me: Ahhhh I CAN’T SWIM!
Friend (laughs): You can’t be serious! [Likely thinking this is a joke, no sane person gets on a boat when they can’t swim, who doesn’t know how to swim?]
Me: I aaaahm aahhh WHY ARE YOU ROCKING THE BOAT!! [In panic mode, wrestling between hoping non-friend will come to their senses or fall off already so I can paddle back to safety]
Friend (realization dawning, ceasing to rock the boat): Wow, you are serious! Why’d you even agree to get on the boat then?
Me (relieved boat is no longer likely going to capsize): Because I didn’t think you would even want to walk around or rock the boat! Who does that? Besides, you know I believe in confronting my fears and I thought a paddle boat ride would be easy.
Friend: Stand up.
Me: What? [I thought you weren’t going to kill us all?]
Friend: The boat’s safe, I’ll paddle, just stand up and come over here. You don’t have to do it right away, or even at all, but if you do, you’ll be on the edge of safety and what it is you’re afraid of. I know how to swim, and you’ve got a safety vest, so no matter what happens, you wouldn’t drown.
The logic of that statement hit me, and I’m glad to stay that even though I was probably whimpering and wanting to just stay seated, I did wander over and stand up. We reached the shore, and I recalled that the only difference between a courageous person and a coward is not whether they feel fear, but how they choose to act in spite of it.
Fast forward to the present: although it’s only the beginning of the year, I feel time accelerating like someone’s set the dial on warp-speed. I’ve also been fighting the urge to just up and vanish, but this is primarily due to the fact that I’m now exactly a month away from taking the LSAT. Again. I’m freaking out just a wee bit
Or at least, I want to be, and by all normal and sane measures, I should be, right? The way the logic goes, you need to get a great LSAT score to get into a great law school so that you can have the great life that you’ve been dreaming of as far back as your memory goes, so when you say forever it’s not quite an exaggeration because it feels like forever to you. The contrapositive, which is totally valid in cut and dry arguments, is thus: you’ll have a terrible life if you don’t go to a great law school because you’re a total and utter failure as a human being for scoring a sub-average LSAT score. So whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, your entire life is riding on your performance on this one day.
When I get to that point, it’s normally where I want to start hyperventilating and start trying to plan a life under a different name, because I won’t be able to face anyone ever again because I’ll just be so ashamed of myself for failing. How can I bear to see colleagues, friends, and family who believe me to be an intelligent individual when I’ve so clearly shown myself to be anything but smart and capable as a prospective law student, a future lawyer? Failure isn’t the actual LSAT score, it’s knowing that the life that will come after is anything except what I had dared to dream of is just that: a dream. There can be nothing more disappointing when you’re traversing the Sahara than thinking you’ve been moving towards an oasis and discovering it’s actually a mirage.
And then I’ll remember: a good LSAT score is sufficient, but not necessary, to lead me to my end goals. If what I really want is to be a lawyer, then what matters is that I go through the paces at a law school, any law school, and then pass the bar exam so I can be a lawyer. Success and happiness, or lack thereof, won’t come from finally getting to say that I went to this law school. Much as that pains me to type, because I know I would be happy if I did happen to get into that law school, if I don’t it won’t be the end of the world. It won’t be the end of my world, either.