Yesterday, just before I left work, John called and offered to pick me up. I looked out my window and saw that the sun was shining. I was craving the feeling of stretching my legs and walking, so I told him that I would take the bus. As I was on my way out, someone stopped me to ask a question. Then someone else stopped me. As I was walking to the bus, I felt great. At each intersection, I had to wait for the light to change before I could cross the street. It took me longer than usual to make it to Main Street. Just as I crossed the street and headed for the bus stop, I saw my bus drive past.
No worries. There are lots of buses that go my route and I knew another one would be right along. I waited and watched as it grew darker and darker. Bus after bus went by, but none were headed for my route. It became really difficult to see the signs on some of the buses. Ten minutes went by, fifteen minutes. I started to feel a little ball of worry in my stomach. What if a second bus had come and I had missed it? What if I kept missing my buses? In the darkness, in the middle of a crowd of people who kept getting on and off the various buses, I felt afraid.
At another time in my life, I would have given in to this fear. I might have cried. I might have panicked and called someone to pick me up. I would not have believed that I could handle the situation. Instead, I gave myself a pep talk. I could do this. I am trained. It was fully dark now. I asked a woman if any of the buses in line were the #1. She told me that the #1 was just pulling up at the end of the line. I walked down to the bus and got on. I told the driver that I am visually impaired and asked him to let me know when we arrive at Lake and Flower City (my stop). I sat down and took a deep breath.
As I rode toward my stop, I felt really proud of myself. I had overcome my fear and had not panicked. I had believed in myself. It is really, really significant to me that I did this. So many times in my life, I have allowed fear to hold me back. I guess I thought that fear was a signal that I was trying to do something that I should not be doing. I have, at times, allowed fear to be a dictator that kept my world small. I have decided not to let fear be my barometer or my guide any longer. There is too much that I could be afraid of, as I travel this journey of low vision. If fear is my barometer, I will allow myself to accomplish less and less. If fear is my barometer, it will gnaw away at my independence and freedom. If fear is my barometer, I might as well just stay home – safe and comfortable.
With my memory of yesterday’s small victory as my guide, I know that I do not have to allow myself to be ruled by my fears. Even when I am afraid, I can remember that I am smart and resourceful. Even when I am afraid, I can trust my instincts and find my way. Even when I am afraid, I can step out and be independent and strong. Even when I am afraid, I can accomplish my goals. Fear is a good indicator. It tells me when to be alert. It tells me when to be extra cautious. It tells me when to prepare myself for the unexpected. What it does NOT tell me is when it is time to quit. What it does NOT tell me is that I can not accomplish my goals. What it does NOT tell me is that I am too weak, too disabled, too old, too stupid, too inexperienced, or too whatever to follow through on my daily tasks and my goals and my dreams. Catching that bus at Main and Clinton may seem like a small step to some. But to me, alone and in the dark, it was a huge leap toward believing that I can do anything.