There’s not a whole lot of “common fears” that get me. I love public speaking. I’ve been skydiving. Snakes and spiders don’t really faze me and I actually enjoy watching the needle when I’m giving blood. All that said, I am phobia-level terrified of bees.
I’ve written about bees before (that’s how prominent this issue is in my life). Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside riding bikes, climbing trees, playing basketball. Growing up, I got stung a lot. This was always frustrating to me because I was told if I didn’t bother them they wouldn’t bother me. But I wasn’t bothering them! And there they were, stinging me from inside my nightgown, stinging me when painting a bench on the porch with my mother, stinging me while I attended a charity 5K walk.
I’m not allergic – therefore in some ways this fear is unfounded. Nothing bad is going to happen to me. It might swell, sting, and itch, but in the long run, I’m going to survive. But something about the buzzing and their sneakiness and the entire concept of a bee just petrifies me.
Naturally then, when we pulled into the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center on Friday, July 13th and saw “bee warning” signs everywhere, I was a little perturbed. We filled our water and grabbed our maps and were off on the loop. Joshua Tree was everything people say it is and nothing I’ve ever heard all at the same time. We pulled off the loop to climb up rocks and look at the trees and after we’d exhausted ourselves, drove back on the loop – destination: the final scenic overlook.
Climbing on rocks, we had seen bees. But pulling up the hill to peak Joshua Tree, the yellow warning signs were everywhere, “beware bees!” I cut the engine and looked at Zack, positive I could not exit the vehicle. Out my window were swarms of bees. Out his window were storms of bees. He’s allergic. I’m terrified.
From inside the car, I was panicking. I was starting to sweat and could feel my heart rate rising. I can’t get out, I told him. He said he would go out for a second and then come back. Reminder: he’s allergic.
I watched him calmly exit the car and head toward the overlook. I could see the bees everywhere but suddenly my panic turned into temporary anger. I had come this far, for Pete’s sake. I had driven through 13 states to get to this point. I was going to see the – I stepped out of the car and instantly regretted it. They were swarming everywhere. I could hear them near my ears. I could feel them brushing past my arms. I know they can sense fear.
SCENE: Nearly in tears, I catch up to Zack and rush to the view that better be worth getting stung for. I take a couple pictures and then – on the verge of legitimate tears – begin the short descent to the car. An older couple who seem unfazed by the bees sees my hesitancy. The car’s shadow seems to be the community center for the bees. The older gentleman tells me that they are attracted to dark things – as he gestures toward my unruly, dark hair and the shadow of the car.
There’s no way to get into the car without walking through the swarm. There’s no way to get into the car without bringing a few with you. I am now effectively shutting down. Zack calmly walks to the car, gets in, and starts to drive away. Hyperventilating, I follow the car until we are a safe distance away from the masses and with far less grace than any James Bond, throw myself into the passenger seat as he navigates away.
We sit in silence for a few miles while I regain composure. Finally, I pull myself together enough to tell Zack I’m never doing that again. By the time we reached Los Angeles a few hours later, I had calmed down enough to relay the story to my cousin. By the time I fell asleep that night, I had reasoned with myself to be happy I did it.
At the risk of sounding dramatic, I had stepped out into one of the scariest things I can possibly imagine. It hadn’t been pretty. I had to rely on a little help from my friends. But at the end of the day, I got to see a really pretty overlook. Even when it’s scary – go for it. You’ve made it this far. It may not be pretty but maybe, just maybe, someday you’ll be able to laugh about it just a little.