“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”
L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz”
I’ve never considered myself courageous. In fact, that is the least likely adjective I would ever pick to describe myself. Courage is a word that’s found in history books, that’s saved for heroines and wonder-women, that describes inspirational people who overcome odds and stare down adversity.
I’m a worry wort. And a bit of a paradox, as I’m incessantly optimistic, yet I tend to envision the worst case scenario, letting fear too often hold me back. I’m easy to adapt, yet I’m scared of that first step towards change. When it’s fight or flight, I fight and then cry (or sometimes I cry and then fight). I panic easily, and yet I’m the first to calm other people down.
I blame the Libra in me.
Suffice it to say, though, none of these traits indicate a courageous woman on the precipice of adulthood. At least, I didn’t believe so until today…
My best friends left a comment on yesterday’s post that caused me to pause and reflect on my adventures in travel. She told me to look at all I had gotten through, that despite my tears and panic, I hadn’t run home, which would have been so easy to do (and very, very tempting…I would be lying if I said that thought hadn’t run through my mind a thousand times during the journey). He told me that I’m stronger than I realized, that nothing could bring me down for long. (Dear friends, I love you both.)
These simple words sparked something incredible inside of me that I don’t quite have the words for yet. Hope? Satisfaction? Pride? I’m not sure, but I already feel as if I have grown from having gone through that small ordeal and still being able to smile about it. I already feel changed.
For the first time, completely on my own, I was forced to face my fear and deal with it head on. I cried. I panicked. I called my Mom and Dad and cried some more that I wanted to be home. I missed my dog, I missed my friends, I missed my family. But I was chasing after a dream, and I had already gotten so far. And for all of those strong emotions that overwhelmed me as I encountered obstacle after obstacle, I now feel no shame for them because they were my natural reaction to a difficult situation. And as hard as it was, I dealt with it.
And I didn’t turn back.
This trip has been so much more than a writing retreat. As I had expected, as I had hoped, it’s a way for me to grow into an adult, something I’ve wished for a long, long time. But what I’m realizing now, is that it’s also a chance for me to face my fears about leaving home, of growing out of a childhood I’ve always cherished, of leaving my comfort zone.
What I’m finding in myself is something stronger and more incredible than anything I’ve ever known: I can do anything.
If I could sum it all up in a collective metaphor, it would be a reference to the Wizard of Oz: I had heart, I had intelligence, I had home. But for a very long time, I was the lion cowering in the woods and I was the man behind the curtain, hiding behind a false mask of self-confidence. Now, I feel able to step out from behind that curtain to acknowledge my own inner strength and the greatest gift that I could ever ask for — the courage to break away from a fear that I had used to create a shell around me, to see the future for it’s opportunities and not recoil at the thought of obstacles.
Finally, I’m able to move forward and pursue opportunity, to let life lead me and have faith that the direction in which I’m traveling is the right one for me, to take chances, and to stop holding on so tightly to something that I now know can’t ever be lost.
I will have moments of weakness, where I doubt myself, where that familiar emotion will sneak up on me, tug at my heart, and make me want to hide under the covers. I know that I’ll find myself at a crossroads again or find myself headed in the wrong direction or be beyond late. But I also know that I will make it through that, just as I’ve made it through this — if I don’t rush it, if I take a step back and not let fear overwhelm me. Because I’m empowered with something greater, something that has risen up from inside of me, something that has begun to change my life. I found courage in myself.
And there’s no turning back from that.