I've been surfing a lot lately-something I'm absolutely loving, and something that I was terrified of doing just a few years ago. When I was 15, I took a long board out in the Atlantic and got hit in the head with the board so hard that it punctured my eardrum. As you can imagine, that first surfing experience totally turned me off from the sport, and I had this fear of it all my life.
When I moved to Los Angeles, one of my goals was to get back on a board and really learn how to surf again, but I mostly blew it off. Then, about three years ago I went to Costa Rica and met an awesome surf instructor. She gave me these incredible lessons and a lot of useful tips to help me stay safe in water. She really inspired me to get back in the water, and when I got home to Venice after that vacation I bought a board.
While I got in the water sometimes, I still found myself paralyzed by my fear-and coming up with all kinds of reasons why I just couldn't get into the water. But this summer, I made a commitment to myself to face my fear head on and go surfing two to three times a week. I stuck to that commitment and haven't looked back.
That's not to say I never get scared. And I still come up with all kinds of diversions to tempt me to ditch a surfing session. But now when that happens, I just go. And when I get hit by the board, I embrace the fact that I'm going to have a big bruise and just stick it out.
What I've realized is that facing my fear head on like this is such a great metaphor for life. Things happen, you have to make changes and adjust, and you have to always strive to be better. The water is like life itself in so many ways. Once you get out there, you see that you don't always have that much control. Of course, you have some control-the skills you've picked up and the smarts you can rely on to get you through the unexpected. But being out there in the water has truly reminded me of how big the universe is and how we're really just little nuggets here on Earth, trying to chart our course.
Facing your fears and charging head first toward them isn't easy-but it's something I'd encourage all of you to think about doing. After all, you've got to fall down sometimes. The amount of learning and growing you do as you pick yourself back up is priceless, and all of those adventures sure beat sitting at home doing nothing.
A few weeks ago, I almost skipped surfing one day even though I'd planned on going. The waves were a little big and that little "I'm scared" voice piped up. But I pulled on my wetsuit, grabbed my board and got into the water anyway that Sunday morning. When I was sitting out there, a school of dolphins swam up just a few feet away from me. As I sat on my board, I was mesmerized by the blues and grays of their skin and the beauty of how we were all just in the water, hanging out. My hope for you as we usher in a new year is that you go after your fears and learn, like I have, the gift that's waiting for you when you do.