Ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you that I love adventuring. And by adventuring, I mean: any activity that has an element of discovery to it. Hiking through the woods and checking out weird looking mushrooms? Done! Watching ants collect picnic leftovers? Sold! Learning how to white water canoe? Already on it! However, if you asked that same family member whether I enjoyed strenuous activity and pushing my body to the limit… Well, suffice it to say, they would laugh in your face. Because here’s the thing: while I love mental challenges, I am scared of physical ones.
You know how things that happen to you as a kid shape your adult life? Well, I grew up with a father who had been a university athlete, and he expected all of his children to play sports. Now don’t get me wrong, my dad never outright demanded that I excel at soccer or volleyball (or whatever sport I was trying at the moment). He said exactly what parents are supposed to say, “It’s not about winning. What matters is that you have fun out there!” But kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and I knew exactly what would make him proud: I had to be both the best player and the captain of the team…and maybe even help coach on occasion. Sadly, my still developing physical coordination didn’t match up with my lofty goals, and after one too many humiliating failures, I eventually dropped out of organized sports entirely. All of my (and my dad’s) broken dreams left me with a crippling anxiety surrounding physically demanding activities. It’s not that I don’t enjoy using my muscles, it’s that I’m afraid to look stupid while doing it.
Fast forward to this past fall. When James suggested that we do an epic canoe trip in northern Canada, I had two thoughts in very quick succession. This first one was, “I love canoe trips! Nothing better than getting out into nature! This will be great!” And the second thought came from that deep part of my soul, the part that doesn’t want to try and then fail. “1400 kilometers in 50 days!? That’s madness! You won’t be able to do it!” I was terrified at the prospect of getting two weeks into the trip and then realizing that I wasn’t cut out for it.
I agonized over whether or not to join the expedition for weeks. One day, I was explaining to my dad how much I really wanted to go, but also how afraid I was of being seen by my fellow canoe trippers as not good enough, or strong enough, or skilled enough. My dad looked me in the eyes (which was mildly alarming, as he was driving at the time), and he said, “Augusta, one of the most important things I’ve learned in life is that you shouldn’t be ruled by fear. Don’t base important life decisions on whether or not something is scary or you will miss out on some incredible opportunities.”
And that was it. No matter how challenging the trip was going to be, I knew that I was going.