“Are you Miss Rachel Byrd?” asked the uniformed lady, her striped scarf coordinating intimidatingly and perfectly with her navy blue skirt.
I am sitting at a table alone, waiting to take a ride in a zeppelin. My heart is racing as I answer with an affirmation of my identity. It is early morning, I am over-caffeinated and under-slept. I panic, automatically assuming something has gone terribly wrong.
Her bright red lips break into a reassuring smile, “You are the only English speaker on board, so I will give you your safety briefing separately.” Almost immediately my mouth is dry, my heart galloping, and countless scenarios waltz through my thoughts. What if there’s an accident and my language barrier prevents quick response? What if it crashes? What if it is too windy? If I disembark incorrectly? What if, on this perfectly clear day, a bolt of lightning strikes us from the sky? As anxiety wells up prior to take off, these outcomes feel distinctly possible. Doing anything for the first time can be quite intimidating.
However, it is my birthday. A few weeks ago, feeling brave, I allocated money in my meager budget (along with birthday money from family) to buy a flight ticket on a zeppelin ride. With my wallet reminding my brain that it will be an enjoyable experience and my heart screaming “run,” I sit strapped into the cabin of the zeppelin, a tin can attached to a big balloon. The flight attendant continues to give instructions in German. Occasionally she repeats her instructions—in English, looking directly at me. Not only am I the only one on board who came alone, it quickly becomes clear to my fellow passengers that I am the only English speaker. I feel distinctly out of place.
The aircraft rises. We safely reach cruising height. Free to move around the cabin, everyone has cameras in hand, relentlessly attempting to capture moments of this incredible experience. It is a beautiful morning as we floated along the Bodensee. Two other countries are visible, Switzerland and Austria, as we drift past the German patchwork scenery of fields, towns, and forest. With such beauty, awe replaces anxiety.
Instagram and Facebook obsess over adventure, with the most daring exploits. Social media is rarely a platform to discuss the anxiety that, for some people, tangles impossibly with new experiences. This anxiety is no less a valid experience. Every marvelous adventure, as your heart races from excitement instead of nerves, reinforces the importance of recognizing that anxiety, resisting it, and refusing to let it control your course. Victory is sweet, especially victory against yourself. Without these victories and these adventures, we can never reach new heights. Let me assure you, the view is indescribably stunning.