Monday, September 23, 2013

Bravery and Babes

By Julie Baldwin

I've never felt very brave. I was picked on a lot growing up because I was shy, and I stuttered, and wore glasses. And even after the stuttering was "fixed", I had a hard time not allowing my feelings to be swayed or hurt by other people. This feeling has lasted for many years, although I grew much better at masking it. In the meanwhile, I developed as a writer.

I joined the high school paper, Lion's Roar, my freshman year, as an outlet for writing. It was so fun seeing my name in print and contacting people, asking them what they thought, collecting the facts, writing up a story. I remember when I was named Sports Editor, one of two juniors who got a spot usually reserved for a senior. I was so proud of my little section, which I grew from three writers to six. Our space grew too - a whole page!

I had the glued-to-my-phone pre-req. down
I went to college and decided I didn't want to do journalism any more, so I didn't sign up for the college paper. But then, I got drawn into the independent paper, and spent my entire college career editing, writing, promoting and nurturing it. The tiny staff again grew under me, as I pulled in every resource I could, helping my writers and making them feel wanted as much as they were needed. I hurt a lot of feelings with my edits and editorials and "Hillsdalians of Genius" columns, but I didn't stroke any egos, and I told the truth, and people respected the paper. I even got along well with the journalism department, and got a scholarship to write book reviews for it my senior year.

It seemed the obvious answer, then, when asked what I was going to do after college: journalism.

Statehouse reporting was thrilling, but my work environment was not. I worked for a non-profit, who accepted a grant to fund two journalism positions. Though I was successful, my articles were well-received and picked up by outside outlets, it was a difficult work environment for me, and for personal-affecting-professionalism reasons, I quit.

That was one of the scariest things I had ever done, and it changed my whole life. I had accepted that job because it was great cub reporter experience and I was two hours from home. But now I had quit, and I was thinking about the other job I turned down in Washington, D.C. Was that the better choice?

I decided not to pursue journalism when I returned home, which my journalism mentor severely disagreed with; he told me not to waste my talent. Since then, it's been an interesting ride: family business, nannying, freelance, and plenty more "not-for-profit" writing -- as well as more family time, a new family, marriage, a new city, a baby, and a whole new set of challenges. And I'm happy, even though a part of me twinges to be back in journalism.

And what does this have to do with bravery? I still don't think of myself as particularly brave. I'm still introverted and still have glasses. But I've tasted "failure" - I know what it's like not to have what you want. I know what it's like to think you know what you want. I've known surprise, and I've known success. I know what it feels like to stand at the crossroads, and make another decision you know is going to change your life. Then another. Then another. I keep pressing forward. That's brave. That's living.

We all live with the consequences, whether our action by active or passive. And can you live with regrets? Sure. That's one way to live, but it's not a preferable way - because regret stains all future successes if you allow it. Or you can learn from your mistakes, which is my attitude: I have only one real regret, and that was letting people lead me to think I wasn't worth it: as a friend, as a girlfriend, as a student, as a writer.

That is a lie, no matter who you are. 

We all have potential. We're all on a road to Damascus. None of us have completed the work we were put on this earth to do; most of us are still discerning what that work is, exactly. We should keep working, keep seeking, keep trying, keep loving, keep going.

In Jennifer Aist's book Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping & Boating with Babies and Young Children (my current read), she tells parents back off a bit and to let their kids explore (while still under supervision, of course!):
Watch an eight-month-old baby crawl around a coffee table. If left to explore it on his own, he'll run into it a few times, bonk his head on the bottom of it as he tries to crawl under it, and maybe even get a bit frustrated by it. Very quickly, this same baby will learn to duck going around that coffee table, slow down to avoid crashing into it, and generally learn how to be safe around it. The baby with "hover parents" never has an opportunity to learn by trial and error. So though this baby may never bonk his head on the coffee table at home, he also never develops the skills to avoid bonking his head on any other coffee table. Teach children the skills they need to safely negotiate any coffee table they may ever encounter, and you have given your children an incredible gift. You will have taught your child to be capable. 
Remember, frustration teaches children problem solving. Boredom teaches children creativity.
This is the same for adults as well. Be brave enough not to squander the chances in life to try, to "fail", to be who you want to be. You are exactly who you're supposed to be, and that is a true gift to the rest of us.

Republished with author's permission.

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