Bill Mei’s Essays

The Fear of Falling

The Fear of Falling

I went skating today in Barcelona. I hadn’t skated in about 6 years, so the first moment I stepped on the ice I immediately started to wobble and fall over. What looked easy from afar was quite different in person.

Everyone around me seemed to be skating quickly which was intimidating. I tried to keep my posture while moving forward until I realized: I couldn’t go faster because I was afraid I’d lose my balance and fall over.

I figured I needed to trick my body to get used to falling over. So I purposely took a dive on to the ice. I landed on my knees and instantly received a shock of pain to my now-bruised kneecaps. I made a mental note to cushion the fall next time with bent arms and legs.

I stood up slowly—but I was still wobbling too much. I decided to take another dive. Then another. Four or five falls later I thought “Hey, this isn’t too bad!”. I got up to start skating faster. Then I fell again, unintentionally this time. But I stood up in less than a second because I already fell a bunch of times and it wasn’t a big deal to get back up again. I skated faster and faster until soon I was whizzing by pretty much everyone except for one guy who was doing jumps and twirls.

I looked around again and noticed that around half the people on the rink weren’t going as fast as I thought they were; they only looked intimidating because they had composed postures. But a composed posture is not what you want—if you stand up straight you wobble too much when you try to go faster, and indeed upon further scrutiny I saw that these first-time skaters were wobbling just as much as I was in the beginning.

After I had enough fun skating, I exited the arena to return my rented skates. The guy at the rental desk had watched my escapades on the ice the whole time. He gave me a dirty look and told me “Ease off on the beer, buddy”. Funny how we think that people who fall over must be uncouth drunkards.

There are two types of fears of falling: the first is the fear that you’ll get hurt when you fall, and the second is the fear that you’ll look like a loser to someone who sees you falling. Neither one is a big deal.

I’ve falling down a lot in my journey to improve as a writer, and it’s your support that keeps me going. If you enjoyed this essay, consider joining my email list to receive more like it; I would be grateful for your feedback. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Published January 2014