Bridges, Chicago’s Hancock Building, the Space Needle, and the Empire State Building all terrify me. Like many, I have a fear of heights. The fresh air, the wind in my hair, and cars the size of bugs do not exhilirate or inspire me. Instead I cry for the feeling of terra firma directly under my feet, not thousands of feet under.
Now my fear has not stopped me from driving on bridges or from going to the top of each structure. I am normally with other people, and I do not want to limit them with my irrational phobia. This summer is going to provide me with the ultimate challenge: the London Eye. The Eye is a mega-ferris wheel in which people enter glass bubbles and can see all of London around them. Basically you’re floating in air and can look straight down. This time I will not be with eye-rolling friends and family, but with students. I want to convey to them that they need to try new things when they have the opportunity to do them, and not be haunted by the “I shouldas”. When I went to Europe the first time at age 15, there were some opportunities I passed up that I regret today. One being not going to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and the other was refusing to join a Spanish tour group in flamenco dancing. I was too shy and afraid of embarrassing myself. Not dancing is my biggest regret. Unlike Anne Frank’s house that I can still visit, my time with the Spaniards was a once in a lifetime moment. What was the worst that could happen? I would make a fool out myself in front of people who would never see me again? Most likely they wouldn’t have cared and would have been happy that I joined in. And what a story it would make!
So I think of Beryl Markham who flew solo as a bush pilot in Kenya and her reflections of looking at the world below. I think of all of the people at the 1893 World’s Fair Exposition wh braved the first Ferris wheel. I think of looking at Big Ben from a bench along the Thames and from up in the air. I think of my students and the lessons they will learn from my example. I think I might just do it.