TIB #18: Fear is temporary regret is forever – A personal story

Written by Arno Jansen

This is a personal story on overcoming fear and how the phrase “fear is temporary regret is forever” became a mantra for big life goals and course corrections. I hope it helps you reflect on how to deal with fear.
(Read this article online to see the photo)

It’s Monday, September 4, 2006. End of the morning. The grass is yellow from the sun that has shone this Austrian alp every day over the summer months. Even now she shines full in my face. Its a truly magnificent day.

But I take in the view with clammy hands and sloshing armpits. I feel my heart in my throat.

My attention goes to the crackling sound in my helmet. The headset speaker begins to creak. It’s the instructor, down in the valley on the landing field. A tall, friendly man whom reminds me of Roald Dahl’s BFG (Big Friendly Giant).

“Arno, all looks good. Take off whenever you're ready.”

I have been here before. Twice to be exact. Yesterday and the day before. I wasn’t ready then. Saturday afternoon I blamed it on fatigue after the long drive to Austria. But yesterday I had no other excuse than ‘I am scared’.

So I have already unpacked all my flying equipment twice before. Only to pack it up again a little later and drive the car back to the landing field disappointed and full of shame. Hunched shoulders, tail between my legs.

Nobody would blame me for not going. Except me. I WANT to know what it’s like to soar like a bird here. It is not the flying that scares me. It is the mad run down the hill.

Now I am here for the third time.

My wing is ready behind me, everything is secured and the comms check was successful. The take-off assistant, a very experienced paragliding pilot himself, comes over and stands in front of me. According to protocol he double-checks everything before I am allowed to go.

He looks at me and says:

“You're ready to go. But if it doesn't feel right, don't start." 

I know that. But then I will go to bed tonight full of regret and frustration for the third time.

So I decide I must go.

This is it.

I take a deep breath.

Arms wide.

Hands open, palms up and in them the lines from my harness seat to the glider behind me.

A warm breeze blows in my face. A sign that hot air is rising up around me.

I start to walk. The screen behind me fills with air and begins to pull back on me. I walk forward with more force, into the depths. Towards that row of trees ahead with the power lines above them.

My wing rotates until it is above my head. Gentle pulling of the brakes to stop the wing from overshooting. No more drag from the screen now to stop me. I start to gain speed, the wing lifts me and I slowly float away from the mountainside.

I pull up my legs and recline back in my seat. With the help of the instructor down below and another pilot next to me, I ascend to 2500 meters.

It is really cold up here, but I am not feeling any of it. I fly right underneath the clouds and can see for miles. Tension gives way to pride and euphoria and I enjoy this to the fullest.

More than two hours later I land safely on the field in the valley. That evening I can finally enjoy everyone’s stories during the team barbecue. At 10 pm I fall asleep, exhausted but fullfilled.

Many more gorgeous flights would follow in the years to come.

Fast forward to 2014. I find myself in a theater in Meppel. My then-girlfriend, now wife, persuaded me to go to a performance by local celebrity Daniel Lohues. I’m not originally from here and can’t understand all the dialect yet. But I enjoy the music nonetheless.

Halfway through the evening I am suddenly overcome with emotion when I hear Daniel sing a song. I feel a shock in the pit of my stomach and I can almost literally hear pennies drop in my head.

One sentence hit me like a freight train. It took me back to that Alp years before. That sentence gave words to the feeling that I had standing there just before take-off.

“Angst is mar veur eben, spiet is veur altied”

Fear is temporary regret is forever

I have since used that sentence consciously for all major decisions in my life.

That night, I bought his album at the merchandise stand and asked him to sign it with that sentence to remind me to lean into my fears instead of running from it.

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