Not So Trap-easy
By that point, I knew I was going to cry. I was almost at the top of the ladder leading to the flying trapeze and more than anything, I wanted to climb back down. My friend, who was practically a professional trapeze artist, stood on the board at the top of the ladder, breezily chanting words of encouragement. I robotically moved my feet up the rungs of a ladder that seemed 1,000 feet tall. When I finally got to the top, my heart was beating so hard, I thought I was going to explode. I had a view of my entire camp, but everything looked small. I could see the charming lake with the little paddleboats, the dining hall where canned food was served, the cabins where we played truth or dare. I frantically told my friend to tell me a joke. “A man walked into a bar…” she began. Then all of a sudden I was being flung back and forth through the sky I grasped onto the bar for dear life.
“Kick forward! Kick back! Legs up!” the camp circus counselor commanded.
“No!” I shrieked. I was not going to put up my legs and nothing anyone said could convince me to do so. I was on the trapeze in the first place because at summer camp, I had made a deal with my friend, who was afraid of going into the lake: I would go on the trapeze if she swam in the lake. As soon as we shook hands on the deal, I knew it was a mistake.
I have a phobia of the trapeze. I know my fear is irrational. A phobia has no logic behind it. Being afraid of flying through the air while holding onto nothing but a tiny piece of wood might seem sensible. But it isn’t really the trapeze that I’m afraid of. I have a phobia of anything that involves not being in control of my movement. I’ve never been on a roller coaster and never intend to. When I was six, my aunt took me to Disneyworld. Not only did I not go on a single roller coaster, but I also was too afraid to ride the tram that takes people around the parking lot. A year later, on an eight-hour flight to France, I was afraid to get out of my seat and go to bathroom. I would prefer not to say how that story ended. In London, I didn’t go on the London Eye. I am afraid of anything in which the ground I stand on is not stationary.
I wasn’t always like this, though. My parents tell me that when I was a baby, my favorite word was “uppy”. I stood early and I walked early. To the horror of passing nannies and moms, I would hang off monkey bars with one foot and perch high up in the branches of trees. You might be expecting me to say that there was a turning point in my life when some traumatic event occurred and sparked my phobia. But I never fell out of a six-story building, or even a tree. There was no particular moment between my babyhood and now when I developed my phobia. All I knew, however, as I swung through the air, was that I was scared out of my wits.
When I let go of the bar and fell onto the net, everyone cheered. Instead of feeling proud and accomplished I just felt embarrassed. I told myself I would never go on the trapeze again. Most people love to read stories about overcoming fears. I can’t say that I go on the flying trapeze in my spare time. I’m still afraid of the flying trapeze, I still get nervous on airplanes, and I will never go on a roller coaster. Defeating all of my fears is not what’s important to me. It isn’t necessary. Going on a flying trapeze or a roller coaster is completely avoidable. Going to the bathroom on an airplane is not, however. Being able to choose when to be brave and when to sit out is what really matters.
Ailie Strauss, Age 15, Grade 9, Hunter College High School, Honorable Mention