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Editor’s Query: Tell us about a time when you faced your fears

I had just turned 40 and thought that competing in an Olympic-length triathlon was the perfect way to celebrate. Having never participated in a triathalon, I spent months training: running, biking and swimming.

My swim practice was always in a pool, so on the day of the event, I was unprepared for the early-morning dark, cold water of the lake that was to be the first event. Unlike most of the other participants I had not thought to prepare by wearing a wetsuit.

As I plunged into the inky black water, weeds grabbing at my flailing arms, unable to see in the water that was being churned into a froth by 500 other swimmers, I momentarily panicked. My mind went to places as dark as the water I was surrounded by: drowning; snapping turtles as big as buses lurking beneath me; and, most of all, failure.

I treaded water, gasping and choking with terror and watching helplessly as courageous triathletes swam by. A safety guide in a kayak eyed me with concern, wondering if he should intervene.

It was a pivotal moment. Every fiber in my being wanted to cry out to him to snatch me from this watery hell and put me back on dry land. But when I lifted my hand to wave him over, something else happened: I gave him the most confident smile I could muster, and my wave became one of assurance. “I’m fine!” I yelled, surprising even myself. And I was.

In that split second, I had decided to face down my dark, cold fears and move forward. And though I came in 499 out of 500 racers, I had won. I have never felt more empowered.

Anne Holloway,

Alexandria

***

When I was younger, I was very shy around women. When I was in law school, I became friends with a neighbor of some of my classmates who was about 15 to 20 years older than I was.

One nightat a bar, I talked, at length, to my friend about how beautiful I thought a woman nearby was. He told me to shut up and go talk to her.

When I said I was too shy, he told me to do it or he would do it for me. Knowing he would, I walked over to her. I had no idea what I was going to do until I heard myself saying: “Hi, my name’s Jeff. Do you see that guy over there? That’s my friend. I’ve been talking his ear off about how beautiful I think you are and how much I’d like to meet you. When I said that I was too shy to do that, he told me to do it or he would do it for me. Since I thought that would be really embarrassing, here I am, talking to you.”

She stared at me for an eternity of about 10 seconds, then broke into a huge grin and said: “That’s the best one I’ve ever heard. Sit down.”

We ended up talking for about half an hour. I never saw her again, but it was a great half-hour, and taught me something about talking to women.

Jeffrey Shapiro,

Schenectady, N.Y.

New Query: Tell us about a time when you jumped to the wrong conclusion.

The Washington Post is partnering with the Public Insight Network (PIN) to hear more of your 100 percent true stories taken from your own experience. Submit your answer to the query above online at wapo.st/ed­query. By sharing your story, you become part of PIN — a network of more than 130,000 people who contribute to high-quality journalism. Editors will choose an entry to run in the Magazine, but we will also share more of your stories online. You can also submit to The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or fewer.

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