When author Patty Chang Anker turned 40, she decided it was time to stray from her straight and narrow path of life in order to not have it pass her by. She began taking risks and learning new skills that some might find easy but easily intimidated her - things like learning to ride a bike, diving into a pool, and even mastering a handstand. The results left her feeling triumphant - and she now encourages other to do the same in her new book 'Some Nerve.' Before her appearance at Forever Books in St. Joseph on August 7, she shared her tips for facing your fears whatever your age, beginning with how she learned to surf - in February on the shores of Lake Michigan, no less:
"It was my first time in a wet suit; it was my first time trying to get on to a board. I had a fear of moving water anyway because I almost drowned on a river when I was a teenager, so I felt like there was a lot to overcome. I had the kind of upbringing where as the daughter of immigrants who lost everything when they came over and had to start over again, really were concerned about survival and being able to support your family and legitimately felt that anything that distracted you from doing well in school and doing well in your career and providing for your family - those things, especially if they were risky - were irresponsible. I kind of felt like 'Gosh, anybody who would spend a lot of time trying to learn how to surf' - which has no societal value - why would you spend time and energy pursuing that? Then to do it in the winter - that's just insane."
Here's an edited excerpt of her interview.
On walking the walk and bonding with others who are facing their fears:
"I think that it can help very much to either have someone who feels the same way as you do who has similar fears and who is on the cusp of wanting to break out of that where you can really take each other's hands and just go. The very first fear I tried to face was because my daughter was scared to jump off the diving board at camp, and the counselors had said to me that it would be really helpful if you talked to her about it. And in talking to her about it, I realized that that's really all I do is talk. I talk the talk...I'm not so good at walking the walk, and I had never really learned how to dive off a diving board myself. I found a friend - an old college friend who felt the same way and we made each other do it. We went and cheered each other on and it was a wonderful feeling afterward to have shared that. I've taken [out] groups of people who are afraid of heights - I took a group of people out to a ropes course and these are people who did NOT know each other buy by the end you feel very bonded. They say that when you're scared, it's a much more different boding experience than when you're comfortable."
On deciding not to live life on the sidelines:
"I don't think that we need to do everything that our kids do. You can't spread yourself so thin - there's only so much energy that you've got. But if there are things where it would open up your life, those things are absolutely worth pursuing. If I had always said to myself 'You know what? I'm just not comfortable at the beach and I'm just going to live with that because that's just the way I am'
- well then that's a lot of life that I would have suffered through. The work in order to face the fear - it's a
commitment, it's a lot of work - but the payoff comes. It's like 'nothing ventured, nothing gained.' So I really encourage people (to try) just one thing at a time. Pick one thing that you feel you've sidelined yourself for no particularly real reason. So if you can look at your reasons and see that they are actual and pertinent and current - and if they're not then let it go. Let that old story go and replace it 'I'm capable of learning. So if I am capable of learning I can try and see where this takes me.'"