Posted on January 3, 2019 at 6:00 am
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I first met this quote on a refrigerator magnet. Since then, I’ve seen it online attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Kurt Vonnegut, and several more historical figures. The website Quote Investigator says that it actually comes from a 1997 article by journalist Mary Schmich, but the sentiment does have a timeless quality about it.
I find it the perfect New Year’s resolution for someone who gets bored easily. You can switch your resolution whenever you lose interest!
I usually practice this in small ways (ordering Thai food one increased spicy-ness level is a recent example), but one more dramatic instance stands out in my memory.
I was in college, and I had a choice between mentoring kids at a high school or at a juvenile detention facility. I was a 19-year-old, rule-abiding perfectionist who had never even jaywalked. My stomach tied in a knot, but I closed my eyes and signed my name hard and fast before I could change my mind. And that was how I ended up spending an afternoon each week in juvie.
I think I expected the story to end like a picture book: Dana makes a new friend and realizes “Hey! We’re not that different after all!”
Spoiler alert: We were that different.
The kids I met hadn’t read the books I had read, or played the sports I played. We lived in different pop culture universes. We had trouble communicating because we spoke different slang. I didn’t find common ground, but my fear decreased every time I visited. Ultimately I learned that different isn’t as scary as the unknown.
Not all our fears can be boiled down to a fear of the unknown. It’s reasonable to be afraid of the dog who bit you last week. But fear of the unknown can get in the way of a good life. After all, chocolate was once an unknown food to Europeans.
This year, why not examine which of your fears come from not knowing and which come from a known threat. “Do one thing every day that scares you”… because it is unknown… is how I’d amend the quote. You can even take it slower, change every day to every week or month.
Of course, your library is here to help you safely face your fears and the unknown. Check out these library resources to get started. And if you get stuck, we’re always here to answer questions and help you discover something new.
Spend an hour with a spider
Or a snake. This Nature special on DVD covers both and may leave you with a new appreciation for these species… or it may leave you with a creeping sensation running up your spine. No guarantees.
Ascend to great heights
Watch The Man on the Wire, a documentary about Philippe Petit and his walk across a high wire between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, and you will visit breathtaking heights without ever leaving your couch.
Speak in public
The book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, curator of TED, will give you the background knowledge to speak like a pro.
Sing in public
Practice at home with one of our many karaoke CDs. Then hit up an event near you!
Set a boundary
For some of us, telling someone what bugs us is a terrifying prospect. Here are books to get you used to the idea from two different angles.
Want more practice? Try enrolling in the Gale Course Get Assertive, available at no cost with your library card.
Read outside your political comfort zone
When thinking back to Thanksgiving or Christmas, were politics the scariest thing at your dinner table? Consider picking up a book by a political commentator with a different view from yours, and see what you might discover (and maybe the scariest dinner table conversation this year will be about cranberries).
Here are several titles that have recently spent time on The New York Times Best Sellers list.
Read about someone different from you
Reading a book about (or even better, written by) someone from your own personal unknown category can be a first step to conquering the normal, but embarrassing, discomfort that appears when we interact with someone unfamiliar to us. These are some books that have served that purpose for me.
Go forth this year to face your fears and the unknown.