Brave and Bold

confessions-of-a-college-freshmen-2

“Brave and bold we must be, Love, for brave and bold we are.”

As someone I love set out for the journey of a lifetime, he left those words behind as a rallying call. At the time, I could only look at them with an eyebrow raised to the stratosphere – questioning. I’m a slightly asthmatic 5’ 4’’ young lady floundering a bit to achieve this thing they call an “identity.” How much Brave and how much Bold can you fit in a person like me?

I’ve come to know the answer to that question. No, I couldn’t tell you the exact volume of Brave to be held in my body. It’s probably somewhere between a pint [of ice cream] and a drop [of tears]. Somewhere between curling up in a ball and crying and resorting to my comfort food of choice, I have found the surety that can blossom into courage.

Disclaimer: Bravery is subject to variations depending on the individual. Such boldness is not fool proof, and side effects include rash decision making, moments of regret, and enough face-palming to earn one a black eye. Read the fine print and you’ll find that embracing boldness can doom as well as rescue you. I’m not saying you should test your ability to fly, hurdle brick walls, or dance on thumbtacks. There are some levels of idiocy and ignorance that boldness only highlights. Bravery is not a cure.

Yet, brave and bold we must be. With some peeks into the whirlwind that has been my day of March (because, no matter what that goofed up calendar says, it seems to me March only lasted about 24 hours), I have a pinch of advice to savor over your afternoon dawdlings. In my mind, there are five facets of heartfelt boldness that, when carved together, add luster to a stone of courage which failed to shine before.

SMILE bravely. Some days you wake up and it’s like somebody is already pinching the Band-Aid of your worries ready to rip it (and your arm hair) off at some unknown moment. One tear and that burn will hit, maybe you’ll get a smirk of warning and maybe you won’t. But you know the best part about tearing off a Band-Aid? No, it’s not the free waxing to that part of your extremity. It’s the knowledge that removing a bandage means you’re healed beneath it. What’s a wince when it means a greater wound is gone? So smile at the dawn of days that herald discomfort. Nothing builds character more than matching the shine of a grin to the bleak of a trial. Smile bravely, as a shield and a gift.

EXPLORE boldly. From this point on, the beaten path is something you don’t like. Remember those toddler days when the dark patches on the carpet were lava and touching on them brought yelps of boy-who-cried-wolf agony? Yup. That’s the well-known route from here on out. Just yesterday, I made the case in my own life for a change of pace. Not that Facebook isn’t fascinating (I think they need a Facebookers Anonymous these days, and I shall head the establishment), but I found out a spectacular “Instead”. “Instead” of exploring the interwebs, “Instead” of lazing around in the late afternoon, my mother and I laid the first bricks in her plans for a 2,700 square foot labyrinth. Lugging a stubborn sky-blue wheelbarrow with a discouraged flat tire and a creek to deafen the neighbors wasn’t easy. But we moved the earth and laid a foundation! And the “thud” of a brick hitting sodden ground beats the tacka-tacka-tacka of a keyboard ten to one. Explore your pathways, your possibilities. What will be your legacy?

CHOOSE bravely. I did it. Granted, I nearly passed out in my advisor’s office when I saw the “Declared Major” box in my planning system change, but it happened. And, truly? It needed to. I have now formally left the ranks of my journalism peers in declaring a Psychology major and an American Sign Language minor. I’m not sure exactly where that combination will take me, but I felt at heart that I would be better able to find peace with that major than purpose in the other? I made a choice, and tried my best to be steadfast in it. Indecision is stalling. Deliberation is healthy, but only if it’s focused. Wishy-washyingly (not a word, roll with me!) rolling back-and-forth like a wave with no intent on reaching a shore just erodes the meaningfulness of your choice. If it helps, imagine the Jeopardy theme song played on an ill-tuned harpsichord. Think how quickly THAT would make you decisive. Choose with information and intention.

SPEAK boldly. Get it? Boldly? And my type is in bold? Okay, moving on. When urging you to speak with courage, I am not referring to volume control. As you can see from any elementary school playground, volume is not always an indicator of quality when it comes to speech. Then again, think of all the insightful, gutsy things you may have said as a kid that you would never dare to utter now? After letting something weigh on my heart for a span of several months, I finally found the will to talk about it in frank and honest terms with someone close the other day. I feel lighter. The weight of that thought wasn’t lost, necessarily, but speaking boldly and with a conscious acceptance of consequences transferred that weight of worry to a weight of words. And our words are more constructive than our worries. What have you been wondering about, or fretting over? Speak boldly about it, and make a change.

LOVE bravely. For me, this phrase means a number of things. It means sending out little acts of kindness and compassion to let your family know you care for them even when your world gets all sorts of helter-skelter. It means realizing how much laughter and genuine comfort a long distance relationship can hold with over a year’s worth of dedication to your other half. It means loving despite distance, time, popular opinion, or degree of familiarity. It may mean loving the homeless man who took the time to pass on a 30-second drawing of Tweety Bird to a friend and me when we were visiting Chicago (Thanks, Sketch!). In this time of turbulent political discussion, it might mean loving your spouse or your partner in accordance with your values and understanding that love is a dynamic, varied mosaic in our world. In whatever situation, I have found that to love bravely is to open your heart and find acts of caring to be beautiful rather than uncomfortable. At my college, I am hugged once a week after Tuesday dinner with a close friend. This is wrong. Perhaps loving bravely might include a culture where embraces were like smiles, exchanged freely. Love bravely and fully.

Brave and Bold we must be, for Brave and Bold we are. This reminds me of a quote by Mary Anne Radmacher that I first saw nestled in my mother’s collection of highly inspirational refrigerator magnets.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

To say we must be courageous and vibrant in spirit when carrying out our missions of exploration and love isn’t to say that we have to wake up every morning, brush our teeth, and put on our Viking helmets – ready to take the world by storm. If that’s your style, more power to you. But, my understanding is that bravery in a world like ours should be less about forging the way in our individualized paths, and more about communication. How will you communicate your love for someone? How will you speak your mind? How will you explore and lead others? How will you choose wisely, and seek advice?

And above all, how will you do so boldly? I am choosing to rewrite myself in a way that underlines my strengths, boldly proclaims what I wish to add to the world, and emphasizes my commitment to change in the name of progress. With one more month to go in my freshman college experience, I aim for one truly incredible finale.

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