Commit or Cower, a blog from Phoebe Wright


This is Phoebe Wright's fourth blog for us. She calls it commit or cower, but I feel it is the Moment of Phoebe, where her fear and her ability to overcome said fear co-exist.

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Wright_PhoebeQ1-USAout15.jpgPhoebe Wright, photo by

Commit or Cower

I am a Tennessean born and raised. Which means, yeah, I grew up in the woods. During the summers I would pack a backpack and live literally in the woods, and only come home for dinner and the occasional shower.

One of my favorite activities of Tennessee summers: Cliff jumping! Actually, if I am to be honest, it is more of a love/hate relationship. But all my friends either love it or pretend to love it, so I therefore have no choice but to love it more than hate it--thanks peer pressure! Even though I am an adrenaline junky, I am one of those adrenaline junkies that also value safety and life. I like to do scary things, but at a minimal to non-existent risk. So yeah, I'll rock climb, but you best believe I am going to check the safety of my rope and gear an obsessive amount of times before I get more than 2 feet off the ground.

Anyways, last time I went cliff jumping I did the usual routine. Boyfriend says the stress inducing sentence, "Want to go cliff jumping today?!" Well, boyfriend, I like the idea of cliff jumping, but I can't just decide to go and do it without a little preparation first. I need to fully assess everything that is involved: Where are we going? How high is it? Is there anything to hit on the way down? How do we know how deep the water is? Are there snakes? Are there snacks? And have I done this jump before and survived? Once the risk assessment is done to my satisfaction, I have to prepare myself to actually jump. I have to convince myself that I will be ok, and that I took all the necessary precautions. Therefore, if I die, it is not my fault. I have to remind myself that if I don't jump I will miss out on all the fun. Also, worse, I will look like a pansy. I am not a pansy.

Me "not being a pansy" involves me stating, "Boyfriend, I am a pansy. Therefore, you will have to jump first, and survive, and then stay in the water to rescue me if I mess up." Boyfriend agrees (he obviously does not know that his agreement is a binding contract and that it will involve treading water for half an hour while I work up enough courage to jump. It was in the fine print).

As I stood up there thinking about all the things that could go wrong, I took a minute to reflect on my feelings. Almost every part of my logical brain says, "Just back out. No one will care." My emotional brain is trying to think of any possible excuse to get out of that situation--maybe I could climb down? Maybe I could disappear? My present self says, "Why the fuck did you commit to this again?" and my heart says, "DO IT GURL! YOU DA BOMB PROVE IT!"

I looked down at supportive and encouraging boyfriend. He would be there if anything went wrong, which felt nice to know. But I still was scared. I wanted him to hold my hand and jump with me. I realized that I felt lonely--it is just me up there; I alone have to make this choice to jump. But in this loneliness, I realized sometimes lonely is empowering. That's how I felt: Empowered. It's like the universe presented me with a choice: I could commit or cower. It is a very definitive decision once you decide to jump. It's that choice and that decision to commit that makes cliff jumping so fun. The way down is the stomach flipping reward--the proof that I am, in fact, a bad ass.

A few months after the cliff jumping, I found myself on the USA championship final start line. I was scared. My logical brain was telling me to back out now, no one will notice. My emotional brain was trying to come up with any viable excuse to run off the track or worse, run but not try. My present self was cursing at previous self for this obligation. And my heart said, "YOU ARE GOING TO WIN THIS, GURL!" While I stood there looking at boyfriend wave from the crowd, I realized how remarkably similar that feeling is to cliff jumping. There is so much fear. There is so much to lose. And yet so much to gain. It was me alone to make the choice to commit or cower. It's empowering. And it's the feeling I love most about racing.

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