For instance, I remember walking through the grocery store when I was pretty young and glancing up at the top of a shelf where there were VHS tapes on sale. (Those came before DVDs, kids.) One of the covers caught my eye.
For YEARS thereafter, I would flush the toilet and RUN out of the bathroom before whatever that thing was could get me. At least I’d built a safety net in my mind that the flush was what alerted them to my presence. Otherwise I might be typing this from a shack in the woods.
…I just realized I could do an entire series on stories of ridiculous things that scared the living daylights out of me as a kid.
One Halloween, our family was at Wal-Mart and I decided that I was going to be BRAVE. I was going to conquer my fear and wasn’t going to be ruled by it any longer. And what course of action did my child brain decide was the most effective?
I was going to walk down the entire Halloween mask aisle at Wal-Mart…without running.
Wal-Mart used to sell really scary latex Halloween masks. You know, the kind that look like something from your deepest, darkest nightmares. They just kind of…hang there, daring you to walk close enough for them to come to life and eat your face off.
I didn’t tell anyone my plan. I had to carry it out before I lost my nerve. I built it up in my head that it was vitally important that I was able to walk past all the things that scared me and show them (and myself) that I was brave and that I could conquer my fear. (I was a pretty intense kid.)
My parents and my sister were in another aisle looking at face paint or candy or something. I took my opportunity and started walking down the DEAD CENTER of the aisle. I kept a slow, but steady pace. I didn’t panic. I just kept walking.
I also kept an eye on all the masks hanging on both sides of me. My eyes kept darting back and forth, from one side of the aisle to the other, challenging all the monsters, creatures, zombies and nightmarish faces to do their worst.
I got to the halfway point and realized I was going to make it. I was proud of myself! This was a huge step forward for me! I wouldn’t have to run or avoid things anymore!
I picked up my pace just a bit since I felt that I’d done a really good job and kind of just wanted to get it over with. Then I started moving just a bit faster. By the time I approached the end-cap, I was trotting and so pleased with myself that I just wanted to be done with it, go find my Daddy and tell him how brave I was.
Just as I went to round the corner of the end-cap, at a full trot, my Dad jumped out from around the corner wearing a dark green latex full-face creature mask with red eyes and little spikes all over its head, RIGHT INTO MY FACE and yelled
“BOOGAH BOOGAH BOOOOOGAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”
I screamed and collapsed onto the floor into a heap of complete fright. I’m sure people in the parking lot heard me and stopped to turn around, wondering who was murdering a small child. Dad whipped off the mask, laughing so hard he was in tears and reached to pick me up. I fought him off and ran crying to find my Mom who, while she was trying to look “not impressed”, was also fighting back laughter.
Bravery is waaaaaay overrated.