"Holding the tarantula was one of my biggest fears," said Michelle Poler. "My heart was pounding really, really, really fast and hard and loud. But it started to feel so nice, it was really surprising for me."
Poler, who grew up in Venezuela, has a lot of fears. One was the trapeze, "because it looks pretty dangerous and high! The idea of going on a trapeze is terrifying, but I'm here to face that fear, so let's do it!"
At Circus Warehouse in Long Island City, N.Y., Poler took the plunge, as it were. "Legs long and kick forward and back," said instructor Stuart Moulton. "Forward and back. Don't bend the knees!"
Scared? "Yes, very scared!" said Poler.
"Great. Let's do it!"
"Oh my god, that was amazing! Pretty, pretty, pretty scary," Poler said after her aerials. "It was more scarier than I thought it was going to be. Being up there doesn't look so high from here. From there, looks extremely high!"
A few months ago, Debbie Millman, co-founder and leader of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, gave her students an assignment, called the 100 Days Project.
"The students spend 100 days doing one thing again and again and again for 100 days," said Millman. "They decide what the topic is. What are the things that everyone cares about? What are the things that everyone can relate to? What are the things that everybody hopes for?"
"When Debbie gave us the assignment, I knew I had to do something that would change my life," said Poler.
Poler decided to spend her 100 days exploring and conquering her fears: 100 fears in 100 days.
Such as Fear #46: Holding a snake. "The snake, I was freaking out," said Poler. "I was walking through Columbus Circle and I see the guy with the snake on the shoulders. And he approached me and he's like, 'You should take the snake.' And I was like, 'This is God telling me I have to face this fear.'
"I did not move. I was not enjoying that moment, and I was just praying God the whole time."
Adam Stramwasser and Poler have been married for four years. "Michelle has a lot of fears that's been keeping her from enjoying life to the fullest," he said. "For example, she was afraid of frying food. Little stuff like that."
"Frying food (Fear #25) scares me because it's boiling oil," said Poler. "So I was terrified of the oil coming out of the pan and getting to my skin."
"I'm always trying to push her to the limit, push her to try new stuff," said Adam. "And it's just been really hard, so I thank God for this project!"
How about Fear #53: Eat insects? "Eating insects was crazy," Poler said. "But I invited my husband. And that was our lovely dinner for the night. He joined me. He was even more scared than I was! It was crunchy, it was salty, it wasn't that bad. But the moment that I was getting it to my mouth was terrifying."