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Fears evolve over time. What is one fear you’ve conquered?

When I was a child, flying in a propeller airplane (that’s what we had then) was a tremendous adventure. Almost otherworldly. I remember when I was about 15 flying into Washington National Airport for the first time. The flight path takes you over the Potomac River right past the city. As the plane descended I was sure we were going into the river until at the last moment the runway appeared at the water’s edge!

At some time in my teens I developed a fear of flying — I don’t recall a specific event that precipitated it, but all of a sudden I was just afraid of what had previously been exciting.

Quite possibly it was the fact that my dad died when I was fourteen. The suddenness of it, the finality, and the contemplation of where he had gone certainly took up a lot of my thought-time. Being a well-educated church-going Lutheran, I knew the theological answers to my questions, but that didn’t quite cut it. What is heaven, eternity, praising God forever? Where did all this take place? Some old dyed-in-the-wool conservative Lutherans in my congregation, were quite skeptical about where he’d gone since committing suicide was a mortal sin that separated a person/spirit from God. Some even questioned a Christian burial. They were in the minority, and having known my dad, and the battle he had been fighting with his mental disease, I didn’t question where he’d gone — he wanted peace and he knew where to find it. Bless his soul.

For me, unlike a lot of other teens, sudden death was a possibility. Teens usually feel invulnerable, but I could no longer feel that carefree.

I did fly, but it was very stressful. When I was accepted for my junior year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, I realized I had to cross the ocean. My choice was by ship, Holland American Lines, a five-and-a-half day crossing to Southampton. That’s about as far an entry point as you can get from St. Andrews, so I had a long time to contemplate my decision on the long train ride up there.

I returned to the States in June by ship and remember far less about that trip. It was a student-special, and not as enjoyable as the commercial voyage.

I opted to finish my degree in Scotland, so I had to go back — this time reasonably I flew. I didn’t like it much, and it was still a prop job, a Boeing 707, biggest plane of it’s time.

After a couple of years of fear and stress, I realized that flying was a necessary evil. If I wanted to travel, and I did, flying simply had to be endured. I now consider it just a means to an end. It’s no fun (except for the couple of occasions when I was bumped up to first or business class), but I do it patiently and uncomfortably to fulfill my more important desires. And those are enjoyable.

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