Be a Little Braver: What I Learned From Felix Baumgartner and the Space Jump

Sunday morning was fairly typical for me. I was curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and flailing a bit as I tried to fight off a small bout of social anxiety and self-doubt. (Fun fact: I’ve never been very comfortable with the whole making-friends gig. I love interacting with people and I’m damn friendly if you reach out to me, but I’m terrible about doing the reaching out myself. It’s even worse on Twitter because there are no facial/physical cues to read, so I spend a lot of time second-guessing myself in this arena.)

What I’m saying is, obviously I was being pretty productive with my time. #sarcasm

Somewhere in the midst of staring at my computer screen, wondering if I should’ve said that one thing that one time, lamenting how I must be coming across as an irritating wannabe, and generally feeling sorry for my self-perception as The One Awkward Kid in the Online High School of Life, I picked up a bit of news: Some guy was going to jump from high up.

No, seriously. High up. REALLY high.

Felix Baumgartner skydived from a capsule approximately 24 miles into the sky.

They called it the space jump because he was literally on the edge of space, at the end of our atmosphere, staring at the curvature of the Earth with the blackness of space yawning above him.

I watched the live stream for an hour and a half, often with my hands over my mouth, whispering, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.” They would show angles of how far he was up, and I’d start reaching for a paper bag to hyperventilate into because…DUDE. I don’t even like ladders. Scratch that, I don’t even like fucking step stools. They’re dastardly assholes, just waiting to tilt and send you crashing to the ground.

He threw himself from the edge of his little man-sized capsule and plummeted through the air, in total free fall, for over four minutes before he pulled his chute and steered his way to the ground. He threw his hands up in triumph, his family cried with pride and relief, and I sat there thinking how fucking cool it is that we have the science and know-how to allow this one crazy bastard to climb to very edge of our planet and jump home again.

And then I realized how silly I was.

On the same morning that he was spinning through the heaves, breaking records, I was worrying that people didn’t like me. That they would think I wasn’t cool.

Kind of puts your life in perspective  a bit.

I am not as fearless as Baumgartner. I will never skydive from the edge of space. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be an example for me – for anyone, really – to be a little braver. To dream a little bigger. To reach out to people despite fear of rejection, fear of sounding ridiculous. To put myself and my work out there despite the very strong possibility someone won’t like me or what I create.

I am, down in my knotted-up core, a fretful, anxious creature, but I don’t have to accept that. We are what we make of ourselves.

I’m gonna keep working to make myself braver. How ’bout you?

5 thoughts on “Be a Little Braver: What I Learned From Felix Baumgartner and the Space Jump

  1. I think I just cried over this. Beautiful. And I know how you feel sometimes. And know we can turn our brave cheek.

  2. Once again, you just summed up how I often feel with, “wondering if I should’ve said that one thing that one time, lamenting how I must be coming across as an irritating wannabe, and generally feeling sorry for my self-perception as The One Awkward Kid in the Online High School of Life.”

    And yet you appear so confident and fun on Twitter, which makes me wonder how many of those charismatic, fun tweeters with their fantastic tweets and huge lists of followers are second-guessing what they type and worrying about how they come across. After all, how many followers does a person really need before they stop worrying that they look like a wanna-be? (I’m guessing here, but I’d say maybe A LOT.)

    Kind of like all the authors who are convinced that their previous book will be the last one they ever write, huge backlist to the contrary. I have a feeling I’m going to be one of those, by the way.

    All right, now that I wrote way more than 140 characters (good thing this is a blog and not Twitter) I’m going to go be brave by jumping back into my manuscript. <— Unintentional pun on the space jump. Good luck in your quest to be braver, too!

  3. And here I am, envying every one of my friends with their self-confidence and I can’t even muster an email. Who am I to say anything? I’m a nobody! I don’t know the craft well enough. I should just wait and see what others say, before I open my mouth and say something I will regret. I always regret. It’s why I write. I can take my time, say what I want, delete the harsh things and make it all pretty. But then, before, as I hit the send button, and oh so many minutes, hours and days after, my stomach turns to knots and I know I’ve made someone mad.

    Felix said, “Sometimes you have to go really high to see how small you are.” Well, I think he got it right, only he got to the high to see it. For that, I’m grateful. He put things in perspective. I’m small. We all are. And I am slowly learning, though flabbergasted at the fact, that every one of my friends I think have that self-confidence, has the same fears and emotions I do. Even those experienced authors, famous even…

    So, take a deep breath with me. And we will get through this. It’s normal. And we’re all fine! 🙂 Everything works out in the end!

  4. I try not to let it show either, but I do a fair amount of second guessing/insecurity myself. But then I remember, most people are doing the same thing. Most people are so wrapped up in their own worlds, their own lives, they aren’t paying as much attention as we fear they are.
    When I was a kid, I was painfully shy. Like, not just wouldn’t talk to strangers, but wouldn’t raise my hand in class even though I knew all the answers. When I left that school at the end of 4th grade, over the next year I started learning to speak up, and to at least wear that extrovert mask. I went back to visit near the end of their 5th grade year, and one of the girls said to me, “Oh wow, you’re so nice. We always thought you were stuck up!”.

    That comment stuck with me, ever since. Because while I was shy and worrying about what people were going to think of me if I spoke up, they were forming opinions based on how quiet I was instead. I’d rather be judged for what I actually do than for what I don’t. ❤ Be brave. You can't fly if you never flap your wings. 😛

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