Bravery is a thin rope to walk on. When we see people leaping off cliffs and plunging into the water do we think they are brave? When watching the horrifying video of a Chinese man who performed stunts on skyscrapers, only to fall to his death. Was that brave? Or just foolish? Why is it that people crave the brief attention of someone scrolling through the internet so much–someone who will just undoubtedly forget about them– that they are willing to complete increasingly daring tasks? The average adventurer is daring. The cliff diver is impulsive.
The school dropout is reckless. People like that make our knees weak and stomach drop. But that is the easy part of being brave. Being daring doesn’t require a brain. In fact, it requires a lack of a brain; a lack of thought and doubt. Sometimes, it seems like children are the same way. They are reckless, careless and hasty in a way that makes people worry. “No don’t touch that!” you scream at the child. But they don’t listen; they simply do. Their minds are full of thought and wonder, yet they are empty. Their eyes are always wandering, yet they never actually see. As a child, you always dreamed big. “I want to be a rockstar when I grow up” was typical from you. However, this phrase was left behind when the tides of life swallowed you whole and stripped you of your innocence and creativity, turning you into a mindless laborer, just trying to outcompete, outsmart, and out-study your competition.
Along went your bravery, your foolishness, and your recklessness. Your belief that you could be something more than you are. But children aren’t really all that brave are they? In fact, they are afraid of nearly every trivial thing. “Check for the monster under the bed!” they would urge. “Will a grow a watermelon in my stomach?” another child would inquire. Others run away when they see strangers and others cry when it starts to rain. Looking back now, these fears seem unreasonable. Because now the fears are real. Nothing as silly as swallowing a watermelon seed will worry you anymore. Those fears are gone from your mind but so are the dreams. The dreams that you used to have but are now put away on a shelf just to collect dust and rot and to be forgotten and disregarded.
Those are the dreams that are unreasonable. Those that are impossible. Those that others scoff at and laugh at. That’s when fear will start to creep up like a tentacle that silently clings onto its victim’s ankles. Fear will grab onto you, whispering thoughts of self-doubt and denial until you forget what it feels like to be brave, to be a child again. Until all you know is fear. Yet fear has a deceptively addicting and sweet taste. Fear is easy. It is easy to not take action, to give into the disease of fear, to never think about what you could have been. Then how can you be brave when fear is so compelling, so irresistible and so painless?
You can never escape fear without being reckless. Fear is the only thing keeping you sane. It is the only thing that tells you that you are human. But bravery isn’t the absence of fear; it is embrace of fear. It is knowing that it is ok to fail and chase after something bigger than yourself. It is the understanding that bravery can’t always be documented with a camera. It is knowing how it feels like to dream big and be a child again. And it is knowing that the tentacles of fear have always been there and will always be there. So be afraid. Be scared of what might happen if you fail. But also know what might happen if you succeed. Know how it felt to let go and not worry about the tentacle of fear creeping behind you. Know that you can be brave.
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