Sententia (sen-ten’-ti-a): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegem, gnome, maxim, paroemia, and proverb.

“Always do what you’re afraid to do.” Because of that saying I am a different person. I used to be cautious and calculating—steering around my fear. Safety was all that mattered. When it was cold I wore mittens. When the speed limit was 25, I went twenty five. I paid my bills on time and ate the same healthy food night after night. I had my oil changed regularly. I crossed at the crosswalk when the light said “Go.” I always wore a condom. I took a cab late at night, even if I was only a block from where I lived. I always wore my seatbelt. I wore my face mask and got all my vaccinations. I wore sunglasses. I wore SPF 90 sun block. I had a colonoscopy every year. I wore Birkenstocks. I kept the batteries fresh in my smoke detectors. I sprayed my legs with DEET when I went hiking in the woods. I bought my cars on the basis of their safety ratings.

Then I met her.

The first thing she asked me was “What are you afraid to do?” I said, “The usual. Meeting Freddy Krueger, jumping out of airplanes, climbing mountains, diving off a cliff.” I was lying, there were enough more fears to fill a three-ring binder. That’s when she said it: “Always do what you’re afraid to do.” The “always” part of her words of wisdom is what threw me. I think there’s a saying about the pitfalls of “always,” but I don’t know what it is. Also, I am unsure of the benefits of always doing what I’m afraid to do.

So, she talked me into skydiving. We went through a couple of hours of training, donned our helmets and parachutes, got into the plane, and took off. We got up to around 3,000 feet and the instructor told her to “Stand in the door” and then “Go!” and then she jumped. It was my turn next. As I stood in the door, I saw her tumbling through the air and hit the ground with a puff of dust, like a bag of cement. The instructor pulled me away from the door. I sat down and we circled down toward the landing strip. When we landed, there was an ambulance pulling away from the drop zone.

Now, safety matters even more to me. I’ve added hand washing, changing sheets and pillowcases every other day, and spraying disinfectants to my safe-living repertoire. I’m thinking of changing my name to Marty Caution. Although I didn’t go through with the jump, I will not do anything again that I’m the slightest bit scared of. Lately, that means going up and down the stairs.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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