The fear of success is an authentic human experience. Yet, the emotion seemed to have no source when I was crying with my morning coffee.
The Fear of Success
What brought on this sudden tearful episode? Then I had one of those aha moments when the ray of sunlight shines through. I had recently experienced an example of success and conquered the fear.
Was it a Walk or a Hike?
The weekend before, I joined the Blue Ridge Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society for a hike. This event allowed me to get out and meet like-minded people, surround myself with nature, and exercise.
In my mind, it wasn’t clear whether I could complete this opportunity. There were a lot of unknowns. For example, how long is the hike? What is the difficulty?
Even so, I was excited to give it a try.
Was Nature Testing Me?
Waze showed it would take me about thirty-five minutes to drive to the Bluff Lodge parking lot in Doughton Park, where the hike began at 11 am.
As I’m ready to step into the shower, I see two young wild turkeys in a panic, caught inside my backyard fence. Mama turkey and two siblings are encouraging them from their freedom of the pasture.
The decision was clear; take my shower and deal with the turkeys afterward.
With focused determination, I completed my grooming, put on my clothes, and assessed the situation by the back door. My bird dog, Sugar, was on high alert. How could I open the fence gate and shoo the turkeys toward it while keeping Sugar at bay?
As soon as I opened the door, the young turkeys flew toward freedom over the fence. So all the worry before was wasted energy. And I was still on schedule to make it to the hike on time.
The Meadow Stroll
Our leader, Annkatrin, had structured the day with two opportunities. The first part was a stroll through a large meadow filled with blossoms, tall purple spikes of Liatris, yellow Coreopsis billowing below, and occasional milkweed in bloom.
Although I felt gratitude for this hour, I wanted more. So, talking with Annkatrin and looking at the map of the longer hike, I decided to try it. Three of us drove to the parking lot at the end of this extended portion, and a fourth followed to bring us back to the meadow. The drive back to the field was the perfect opportunity to tell the funny turkey story. We all enjoyed a good laugh.
The First Section
With my hiking boots strapped on, my walking poles in hand, and a day pack with water, I was enthusiastically ready to start.
Our route took us down a path toward the road, Annkatrin pointing out a few flowers in the shadows. As we trekked along the shoulder of The Blue Ridge Parkway, the variety of native plants exploded up the embankment. In this photo, there were three unusual finds; Hairy alumroot, Allegheny stonecrop, and reindeer lichen.
Traffic was light as we quickly crossed toward the Visitor Center. Luckily, the line for the portable toilets was short, and we soon observed another meadow. This time it was in a raised bed next to the parking lot by the park restaurant.
Annkatrin remarked, “I could spend hours here on the varieties of lichen alone.”
As we left the parking lot, another meadow of milkweed emerged. There we saw the only Monarch butterfly. We poised our phones and snapped photos and videos while he sipped nectar hungrily as he walked the flower clusters.
“We know it’s a male. He has white spots along the hind wings. Let’s hope he finds lots of eggs to fertilize. Since Monarchs are territorial, he’s staked out this entire area to defend.”
The Middle section
Halfway through the hike, two people turned around. So our original group of eighteen during the meadow stroll was reduced to eight. At that point, I felt good. There was a fantastic vista of the mountains with meadow flowers surrounding us.
The Final Miles
As we left the meadow with the incredible vista, I saw the trail meander up and down an area of tall grass before disappearing into the pine forest.
“The difficult section is coming up,” I thought.
It still was never as difficult as I feared it could be. The rain forecast had held off, mud was nonexistent, and we were in the shade. However, the hour was growing late. It was 3 pm, and we still had a quarter of the hike left. I had forgotten the opportunities to sit and rest might not show up. And I had been standing or walking for four hours, except for the short ride back and forth to the parking lot at the hike terminus. Three of the hikers in the front opted to press on, leaving Annkatrin, another couple, a young man, and myself at a slower pace. In the past, I would have berated myself for apparently holding up the hike. Annkatrin understood the consensus.
“We’ve seen a lot of flowers today. But, unfortunately, it’s put us a little behind schedule.”
Annkatrin’s words and this beautiful Carolina Lily gave me the strength to know I could still do this.
Annkatrin and I emerged from the forest and joined the remaining three participants, who rested on the stone walls or foraged blackberries. First, I stretched my hamstrings and quadriceps after taking a long drink of water. Then, I stored everyone’s backpacks and my walking poles in the back of my Subaru while Annkatrin took the opportunity to continue her walk in nature.
After dropping Will, the youngest hiker, at the Visitor Center parking lot, I continued onto the Bluff Lodge parking. Bob, Catherine, and I talked about the hike and the native plant organization for a few minutes.
I felt it was time I voiced my disappointment in keeping up with the pace. It wasn’t a rant. Instead, it was a compassionate relation to the situation.
Then Catherine said, “Currently, we don’t offer less strenuous opportunities for our field trips. So perhaps it’s time we did.”
Her statement filled my heart with gratitude. Any kernel of guilt I felt dissolved. My difficulty opened new opportunities for myself and others. In the end, the fear of success and the sore muscles were minor considerations.