A worthwhile resolution? Stretching our comfort zones

I am scared of quite a few things and flat out terrified of about three. To be specific, the thought of being stuck in any sort of small or enclosed space with an alligator while having someone rub my eyebrows the wrong way (yes, I know the last one is bizarre) almost induces grand mal seizures on my poor, fearful self. I have resigned myself to my three main phobias, and in theory come to terms with avoiding such titillating activities as caving, anything involving swamps or becoming a eyebrow-wax test subject.

However, the general kind of fears are giving me more problems as of late. General fears in this case mean the not nearly as irrational things that dictate my life every day. For example, I have what I believe to be a standard-level fear of Atlanta traffic which up until this point has helped me navigate the city.

I usually have chosen to do so in a large metal frame with airbags (also known as a car), and not while suspended on a teeny tiny metal thing with no seatbelts or storage space wearing an ugly hat that ruins what few chances I have for good hair.

I lived the first 21 years of my life in Atlanta relatively bike-free, save a few family trips to Callaway Gardens and mandatory bike rides through the neighborhood, but it seems my luck has run out. This semester I am working roughly 25 minutes away from my apartment on foot, and as I don’t own a car, a bike has become my only option. So far, I have biked all of ten feet.

The instant I started pedaling my bike, it let out a horrifying squeal. I immediately forgot everything that my parents had so diligently taught me about steering, braking and keeping my balance and instead chose to jump off the demonic machine beneath me, causing quite a spectacle over on West Campus. So, I re-retired my bike.

When asked about it, I describe bikes as fatal, horrifying and painful. I generally act like a three-year-old about the subject. Looking back at the most recent discussion of my unwillingness to bike, I can’t think of any better description than “temper tantrum.” I am therefore trying to re-evaluate my actions so that I can at least pretend to be a mature almost-adult.

What in the world am I so afraid of? While it was rare, I did use to know how to bike. I am in decent shape, and usually can walk upright with good balance. A friend of mine has supplied me with a helmet that could take on a transfer truck as well as new brakes and lights. Plus, hundreds of people bike around the city every day in traffic that is much more daunting than what I face between my campus apartment and the Technique office. Not to sound cocky, but I really should be able to do this pretty well.

Looking at it, the only excuse I have is that I am just afraid of being bad at biking. Really, I could probably reduce most of my fears (minus those three darn irrational phobias I mentioned earlier) down to not wanting to be really, really bad at something. Even as a student at Tech I have managed to avoid doing a lot of things that deep-down inside I am just afraid of.

Looking at most of us here, I think that it’s a common problem. Sure, we all challenge ourselves and keep busy, but how many of us really have stretched our comfort zones since we got here?

Can you really say you are challenging yourself as a person if you are filling your schedule with classes and activities that you already know you love and will ultimately be successful at? I am not advocating joining the skydiving club one day, attempting public speaking the next and then going through Greek Rush the next spring, but a few new challenges never hurt anyone.

Even though it is about a month late, I have decided to give myself a resolution. I am going to try to do more things that scare me, or at least that make me way more nervous than I like to be. Personally, I don’t foresee signing up skydiving or registering for physics as a challenge on my list, but I am going to try. Small steps first—starting with trying out my bike again.