When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I was traumatized by water. Seawater, to be precise.
My yaya at that time thought that, in order to learn how to swim I should first learn how to hold my breath underwater. And so on one of my first trips to the beach, she held me underwater several times and told me to hold my breath.
I inhaled a lot of water that day. I also made a significant donation of seawater in the form of tears.
Since then, my fear of the water just magnified. I would not go into the water without someone accompanying me, to conveniently lift me up when I felt the urgent need to be lifted up. I always had to have my inflatable ring, and I always had to be able to touch and see what was beneath the water. If any of these things was amiss and I mean ANYTHING, sheer panic would overcome me and I felt that I would die at any moment.
That sounds funny now, but it’s absolutely true.
When I grew up to be around 8 or 9 years old, I experienced a different, yet somewhat similar incident. I would often watch our house help or my mother cook our meals. On one occasion the cook (I forget now which) was frying things, sending tiny droplets of hot oil flying every which way, including on my nearby arms. These droplets were tiny, insignificant things but they stung, and as a child those stings stayed with me. So much so that a conviction formed in me: cooking is dangerous. Cooking stings. Cooking will harm me. Cooking is to be feared.
Fears. It’s funny how they start, but it’s definitely not funny how they grow.
Overcoming the Fears
I’ve always believed that you need to face your fears in order to overcome them.
I didn’t want to be fearful of deep pools and beaches all my life, so when I was about 11 years old, I told my parents that I wanted to learn how to swim.
On that summer, I learned how to breaststroke, butterfly stroke and backstroke- but it took me a long while to simply keep myself afloat in one spot in deep water. The deep water still terrified me. It took a lot of practice, a lot of courage and a long time- months after that summer- before I was finally able to keep myself afloat in deep water. By then I was diving deep into pools, swimming from end to end without a care in the world. I was free.
Learning how to cook however, took a lot longer.
As I’ve alluded to earlier, I grew up with house help and a mother with excellent cooking skills so there was always food around. But by the time I moved out and started working in Cebu, it became apparent after months of canned goods and instant noodles that I needed to learn how to cook.
I learned how to cook at a snail-like pace. And I made sure to start with dishes that didn’t involve bubbling, spitting hot oil.
I started with soup.
Eventually, I was able to cook pasta, chicken, pork, veggies and a few other things. And though I still wince every time the oil starts to crackle, it no longer stops me from cooking a good meal for myself.
You might be wondering now why I’m writing about these two childhood fears and how I overcame them. While I certainly hope at least in some small way that they prove to be inspirational, the main reason I’m bringing them up now is to remind me of what I’ve believed in since I was a child: that you need to face your fears in order to overcome them.
I have a fear of being seen.
Or more accurately, I have a fear of being seen negatively.
This proved to be somewhat at odds with a dream I started to have: having my own blog.
Having a blog entails being seen by a lot of people, by people from all over the world and quite possibly, people who will view you negatively.
That possibility scared me. But the more it scared me, the more convinced I was that I had to do this. I had to face my fear.
And so here I am now, writing my 30th blog entry since I started. So far it’s been an enlightening, enriching experience. And though I am still gripped by fear before each entry I publish, I am armed with determination and assured by these past experiences which- funny and childish as they may be- remind me that facing your fears is always something worth doing.