What I Learned About Bravery from My Younger SelfFriday, March 10, 2017
When I was 15, my church's youth group went to a ropes course. (No, that's not me in the picture above.) You know the type of place, where you do trust falls, climb walls as a team, do ziplines, and other challenging tasks. There was this one challenge where we had to climb a telephone pole. Once at the top, you had to walk out onto a plank and jump from the end of the plank to grab a metal ring that was suspended in mid air.
I believe the plank was about 30 feet from the ground if not more. We all looked up at it thinking, maaaaaybe not, but the boys were determined to prove their bravery, and several of them immediately ran to the pole to give it a shot. One by one, they went up, walked to the edge and jumped... except they missed the ring.
Some missed it by several feet, some missed it by mere inches. Each time they missed it, they were caught by the people below who were holding the ropes attached to their harnesses. Then, they would be slowly lowered to the ground. Until they fell, they were essentially on their own for balance.
I wasn't the toughest kid, and knew I was going to struggle at this one if the boys couldn't even do it.
Either way, I was the first girl to volunteer, and I decided it would be easier to just get through it quickly than to move slowly and feel how high up I was. I bee-lined it to the pole, climbed it quickly, and started to walk out on to the plank. I suddenly realized why it had been so hard for the boys to jump to the ring.
The ring wasn't super far away from the plank. But, once up on the plank, the wind and the plank's design, made it wobble back and forth, and the walk out to the edge was definitely one that required steady footing and good balance. Plus, you were up there near the tops of the trees, and that made it seem so much higher than it had from the ground. I moved quickly, because I figured I was going to fall anyway, why not at least try to get out as far as I could. Right?
It didn't take too long before I was at the edge. It was shaking and wobbling, and part of me just knew I was going to fall. I took one quick look out at the ring and thought to myself, "Yeah right, it's waaaaaay farther than it looks from below". Then, I took a deep breath, and jumped as far as I could with my arms outstretched. Almost involuntarily, I felt my hands hit metal and grab on tight. I was hanging on the ring!
I hung there for a few seconds, feeling like I was on top of the world, and then I let go so they could lower me down. Once on the ground, everyone high-fived me and I felt the positive endorphins that kick in when you do something you didn't think you could do. I carried that feeling with me for the rest of the weekend, and often remember it now. I had faced something scary and actually been successful!
Although I've always been a worrier, a planner, and someone who is more pragmatic than dreamer, I have my moments. Moments of fearlessness where I normally wouldn't. It's in these moments, that I see just what I'm made of. It's also in these moments that I grow and feel the most joy.
Some of these moments from my life also include:
- The time I transferred high schools just because I wanted to meet more people and take a different language than my school offered.
- The time I moved to college and didn't miss home at all. (Sorry, mom.)
- The time I broke up with my boyfriend because of his drug addiction, despite being pressured by his family to not dump him or it would be my fault if he overdosed.
- The time I went to Europe with one of my girlfriends, and navigated my way around cities that spoke foreign languages with little problems at all.
- Every time I started a new job and pretended I was solid in my confidence when I really felt overwhelmed.
- Seeking out therapy to take back my life.
- Kissing my mother goodbye on her deathbed, knowing I would never see her again for as long as I lived.
- Sticking up for myself when I was being treated poorly by my bosses because I am female, only to be fired and made to look stupid.
The lesson my past has taught me is that when it matters most, I will be there for myself. I will catch the ring, even if I feel like I'm going to fall. Bravery isn't about being the one who doesn't fear. Bravery is about standing up and saying, "This is scary, but I'm going to face it anyway."
Knowing you have your own back in life is extremely vital to success. If we can do that, we can get through anything. That is one of the most reassuring lessons I've learned in this life and one that I think is important for all of us to know about ourselves.