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Hope, fear can work for you before a new job, speech or adventure

Rafting through Haystack Rapids on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Because of its rapids, the river is one of the most popular in the country.
Rafting through Haystack Rapids on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Because of its rapids, the river is one of the most popular in the country.

How can people who live in New York City for years claim they have never visited the Statue of Liberty?

I now understand that attitude, since I’m guilty of it.

I have lived in Idaho 30 years and have not floated the Salmon River until now. I regularly meet people from all over the U.S. and beyond who have been on the river. In fact, for the last 20 summers, a high school friend from Arkansas and 20-plus buddies have driven 2,000 miles with all of their boats, gear, food and whatever else to float the Middle Fork.

So, as he says, it’s about time you Idahoans come along.

Mind you, I am not a camper. My friends know that my obituary should read “She loved the outdoors, from the indoors.” But I’m taking the plunge this summer. I’m hoping to see lots of stars, bighorn sheep, birds of prey and maybe mountain goats (I could do without the rattlesnakes).

Notice that I say “float” the river and not “raft,” though the photos and the stories make it clear “there will be water” and lots of it — sometimes more than I might like.

When I began thinking about this trip, I realized I had lots of hope and excitement and lots of fear and trepidation. That tension between hope and fear is what makes for a good short story, movie or novel. But I think it may also exist in our daily work lives, and perhaps we need to learn to harness it.

If you are about to give a big speech, you probably feel excited about what you want to convey, but perhaps you face some nerves and a little fear about how you’ll do. Will your voice quiver? Your knees shake? Your hands fly around? Hope. Fear.

If you are about to begin a major new project, whether building a bridge or starting a new job, you feel enthusiastic and eager but perhaps a bit anxious or uneasy. Hope. Fear.

The tension of hope and fear, if you recognize it, can work for you. It can make you sharper and more aware of what’s going on around you. It can help you learn to read an environment or be more watchful of others’ emotions and actions. Since the environment is new — like floating down a river or walking up a trail — you’ll be more likely to see objects or maybe ideas that stimulate you and help you understand in new ways.

And in the end, if hope outweighs fear, you might take off and excel at that speech or project.

Believe me, I’ll be keeping my eyes open on the river — noticing my hope and fear and trying to use it to be open to the environment. And, if I’m lucky and work at it, perhaps the excitement and hope and joy will crush the fear.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll take up river guiding as a next career.

Nancy Napier is distinguished professor, Boise State University, nnapier@boisestate.edu.

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