Category Archives: Self confidence

Shaky Leg Triumph

By Jan K.

I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life. My earliest memory of this dates back to third grade. My school’s third through sixth grade classrooms were on the second floor of an 1890’s era building in the Midwest, with a basement that rose several feet above ground level.

Jan(2)

For an eight-year-old, those two-and-a-half stories seemed as high as the Empire State Building. Fire drills were done on a regular basis. The fire drill route from this classroom was out a window and down the two and a half floors on a wrought iron fire escape on the outside of the building.

I still remember the terror I felt at the anticipation of taking that first step out onto the fire escape. I tried as hard as I could to not look down through the iron bars, but the fear of falling down the stairs forced me to look. My legs shook the entire way down, and by the time I reached the bottom, I could barely stand. Even worse was the climb back up when the fire drill was over. I was too shy to admit to anyone how afraid I was, so I suffered in silence, dreading the next drill. How happy I was when I graduated to the seventh grade and a classroom on the first floor.

Fast forward several years. I’m a big history buff, and have always been interested in the Aztec, Inca and Maya cultures. While reading an article about the pyramids in Teotihuacán, Mexico, I told myself that if I ever went there, I would climb one of those pyramids, no matter how high it was. My opportunity came a few years later when a friend organized a group tour to Mexico, and Teotihuacán was on the itinerary.

Pyramid of the Sun

Finally there, I surveyed Teotihuacán, wondering which of the two large pyramids I would climb. I determined that if I were going to go through the combination of agony and exhilaration of climbing one, it would be the tallest – the Pyramid of the Sun – at over 200 feet, the third largest pyramid in the world.

As I began the ascent, I thought back to that fire escape, my shaky legs and the internal torment I was sure to go through. Would I really be able to do it?

The Pyramid of the Sun is built in levels. At each level on the way up, I stopped to catch my breath, renew my energy and stamina, and encourage myself to go on. Each step up made my already-shaky legs even weaker. I found if I only looked up, I could make it from level to level with the least amount of agony.

When I finally stepped onto the top ledge, I felt a rare sense of accomplishment. I walked around the top of the pyramid, taking in the view, and recording the moment with my camera. I had really done it – climbed one of the tallest pyramids in the world and lived to tell about it. Even though I’d felt the fear in every step, I had wanted to do it badly enough that I continued anyway, no matter what.

That experience convinced me that fear will only keep you from doing things you don’t want to do badly enough to overcome the fear. In other words, if you find a reason to avoid doing something because you’re afraid, you don’t want to do it badly enough to work through the fear and do it anyway.

Tackling something so full of emotion is difficult to do all at once. Scaling a pyramid seems a daunting task when it’s viewed from the ground. Climbing it was easier when done level by level, one step at a time, with time to rest and reflect.

I learned to always look up. Never look down. The future is ahead, and looking back only makes you want to retreat to the comfort zone that kept you imprisoned for so long. It’s all right to be afraid. It makes the accomplishment that much sweeter. And if you slip, regain your footing and keep going.

How Switching Careers Changed My Life

Leo21Aug2014
In 2008, I was making good money as a network administrator. I received an offer from another company that would have bumped my earnings significantly. I turned it down.

My career wasn’t satisfying like it once was. And more money, I reasoned, wouldn’t make it better. The treadmill of industry certifications, the nights on call, the high-pressure environment and the overall lack of fulfillment had taken their toll.

Money is the motivating factor for most it seems, always going for the next highest paying position on the company ladder or jumping ship to a better paying job somewhere else. And while I’m not completely immune to the power of the almighty dollar, the bitterness and anxiety I felt about my work didn’t improve when I tried to visualize myself down the road, doing the same work, with more responsibility, at a higher salary.

I knew it was time for a change. My brain’s right side was craving attention after being suppressed for such a long time.

The first thing I did was take an acting class, which despite some apprehension in the beginning, allowed my introverted self some relief by inhabiting other peoples’ minds. Then I returned to an interest I had earlier in life: writing. My boss was worried, and he was right to be so.

I put my acting career on hold but kept writing and pursuing other interests including web design and Internet marketing. My wife got a new job in a different city, which gave me the chance for a clean break.

Emboldened by a couple of articles of mine that got published online (one of which paid just over $3), I applied for a part-time job writing for a content website. I was now a professional writer.

Though I was excited and enjoying my part-time job, the transition out of a lucrative line of work wasn’t easy. My father, with genuine concern and the best of intentions, tried to talk me out of it. Imagine the humiliation you might feel if your parents doled out career advice as if you were an adrift 20 year old when you were almost 40.

I did my best to ignore outside advice. I had interests to pursue and time to explore them. I took another part-time job doing search engine optimization (SEO) work and managing pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for a chiropractic office. Then my wife and I had our first and only child.

A full-time web copywriter and account manager position came along and didn’t work out. Then I started my own web design company with a partner. We had a few clients and a lot of fun doing and learning, but we weren’t establishing a client base quickly enough to make ends meet financially.

Eventually, I landed a content editor job with a large hospitality company — finally achieving financial stability in my new chosen field. It may not be the ideal job, but it’s a good fit. I’m in the business of digital storytelling, which is where I want to be.

Though it happened gradually, when I compare my new life to my old life, things have changed significantly. I do sometimes have regrets about the money I could be making and the status I could be enjoying, but I’m not as agitated now as I was then.

If you define happiness as a moment of pleasure and satisfaction, then put me down for happier too because I have more of those moments now than I used to. My Type-A personality may prevent me from enjoying life as consistently as I would hope, but the time I spend outside of work with my family and friends are moments nearly fully enjoyed, without job-related anxieties, pressures and thoughts occupying my mind.

By Leo K.

career switch makes leo lighter

Hippotherapy for My Hip (and My Soul)

Horse Spirit Rider Angela
By Angela N.

I was born with a deformed left hip joint. My parents, ranchers in North Central Texas, discovered the problem when I failed to walk around age one in the mid-1950s.

My life journey since then has included a number of challenges. Starting at age one, I spent six months in a “frog cast” from my armpits to my ankles to force the deformed hip socket to change from a plate shape to a more normal cup shape. Then when I was 28 years old an orthopedic surgeon told me that it would be a bad idea for me to go through a full-term pregnancy because my left hip joint was still fairly deformed. Finally, at age 52, I had successful total hip replacement performed by a talented Dallas surgeon (a grateful shout-out to Dr. Michael Champine!). Recently, I found out that my birth defect was caused by a rare connective tissue defect called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Now as a bionic babe, I am trying to live my life as normally as possible. For several years I assumed that I could never ride a horse again since tradition dictates that riders have to use their left legs to pull themselves up on horses’ left sides. Many horses would spook if riders tried to mount them from the right side.

This was a tough blow for a kid who got her first horse — a sweet paint horse named “Pronto, the Pinto” — in second grade. I was one of those horse crazy little girls who had horse figurines on a display shelf in her bedroom and adored books by Walter Farley, the author of The Black Stallion. Farley helped me to fall in love with reading.

Two years ago one of my friends who is a fellow horse addict suggested that I check out therapeutic riding places in the Dallas area. Known as hippotherapy (“Hippos” is Greek for horse), this type of therapy uses specially trained horses to help people with all types of disabilities. A recent magazine article in Experience Life magazine titled “Horse Power”
explains how hippotherapy helps riders boost their self-confidence through interaction with horses.

Starting in January 2014, I began taking riding lessons and volunteering at SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center in Corinth, Texas, which is north of Dallas. The facility serves adults with various health challenges and disabled children with conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy. Providing free services to financially disadvantaged children, the facility uses specially trained horses and staff to ensure the safety of the riders. They also have adaptive aids such as a wooden mounting platform with steps to help riders easily mount the horses.

The wonderful horses and staff at SpiritHorse have greatly enriched my life by letting me get back in touch with my inner cowgirl.