I heard a scream and then a thud. Something heavy had fallen, but where? And who was screaming at 3 am?
First I thought it had to be harmless. We were staying in a charming little house in the suburbs, there was no reason to scream. As my eyes started adjusting to the dark and my brain started processing the scream, I realised that I needed to find the source of the scream.
When I checked the other rooms, I ran into my mum. It turned out that the scream had been hers and that the thud was a burglar falling out of our window.
He had scaled the outside of our building to climb into the house through her bedroom window. My mum, who is a light sleeper, woke up to a man attempting to enter the room.
She was shocked but somehow her initial reaction was anger instead of fear. How dare someone try and break into her house and put her sleeping children at risk?
Within seconds she stormed towards him and, forgetting what exactly she had wanted to yell, she decided to just go with an all purpose scream.
Surprised that someone would wake up and then decide to chase him, the attempted robber climbed down as fast as he could and then jumped, resulting in the thud I had heard.
When the shock had worn off, I couldn't help but laugh. Only my mum would see a strange man try to rob her and think that running towards him was the best option.
My dad, woken by her scream, immediately followed suit and tried to grab the robber by his shoulders. In the moment, it didn't occur to either of them that someone who routinely breaks into houses could pose something of a threat. Their instinct was to rush towards the danger to achieve the best possible outcome.
After I was done laughing at the image of a scared burglar being chased off by my sleepy parents, I realised that they were completely right.
We often attempt to hide from some perceived danger, which then holds us back from reaching the best possible outcome.
Taking risks seems so scary that we don't realise that the alternative is even scarier. If we don't embrace a little danger, run towards it even, we run the risk of losing altogether.
In less extreme cases than the burglary, losing might just mean stagnation. While stagnation doesn’t immediately sound as awful as being mugged, its effects can be much more serious. Who wants to look back knowing it all came down to the one risk they weren’t willing to take?
My mum’s gut reaction reminded me of all the times I had missed out in opportunities because I was scared. Fortunately, it also reminded me of the moments where I had ignored the fear and emerged victorious.
It turns out, that most rules really are meant to be broken. The risk taking that my parents taught me meant that I started questioning a lot of the unspoken rules surrounding me.
I initially thought I wasn’t meant to go abroad because no one else in my program had. Once I started asking questions it turned out that the reason for this was not an actual rule or a ban on going abroad, but our fear.
We were all too scared of losing the respect of our superiors at work or running the risk of losing our position to ever step across the imaginary line that separated us from other students outside of our program who went abroad.
We were the lucky ones who had gotten a position at a big company. The ones who got paid to study and were given plenty of support from our departments. How could we dare ask for more?
The danger of losing out and facing multiple risks held us back. Danger isn’t always tangible, but fear is. I decided that if I really wanted to live a fulfilled life, I had to run towards the fear and the danger it implied.
Usually, the things I was most scared of were not only the things that made me grow the most, but also the easiest to get. Because everyone was so scared of asking for them, no one had actually asked.
As the only one who had asked, I won by default.
Most of the time, running towards the things that scare you seems risky, dangerous and just too stressful. Why put yourself at risk when you’re comfortable?
Or, if you’re really scared, why make it worse by running towards the thing scaring you?
Because the moment you start moving towards danger and start taking risks is the moment you take back control. You might still be scared and you might still get hurt, but now you are doing so in order to move forward and not because you chose to sit still when moving could have saved you.
Standing still or turning away from the danger ensures that whatever happens is outside of your control. Run towards danger and you get to take back control.
Better yet, you might just end up winning.