by Blakeney Schick
In August, I went up to Maine for 4 days to see my cousins. It was a great weekend, with day after day of sun, low humidity and perfect temperatures. And from the second I arrived, my 5-year-old cousin – the only small child there – made me his buddy. We played cops and robbers and then intergalactic cops and robbers. He told me all about an animal species he had invented. He sang me songs he’d written and ones that I also knew.
One morning, as we drove to a state park, the 5-year-old and I were sitting next to each other in the back seat. We were talking about firefighters, which, along with interesting facts about dinosaurs and what snow leopards eat, are one of the things that 5-year-old boys seem to be particularly interested in. He was telling me about a scary fire and how the firefighters had arrived and they weren’t scared, and they put out the fire.
The yoga practioner in me, the one who collects quotes about bravery and courage and finding meaning in life, replied, “Well, maybe the firefighters are scared. But they go ahead and put the fire out anyway, and that’s what makes them brave.” And even as I was saying it, I knew this wasn’t the right audience for this particular insight. I was greeted with a measured look and absolute silence. Clearly, I didn’t understand firefighting at all.
Bravery is a funny thing because the more you look at it, the more it seems to have everything to do with fear. If you don’t feel the fear, then it isn’t really bravery. Get consumed by that fear, though, and you’re unlikely to do anything at all, which is precisely why we admire the people who rush in to put out fires and risk their lives for others in many different ways.
The fires in our lives can be at work or at home or on the mat. It could be a crisis or a situation that’s tricky to get out of. Maybe it’s a goal that seems out of reach right now or staying true to who you are. And the approaches we take can be just as varied: maybe the solution is to chip away at the challenge. Or you could plow ahead. Maybe it’s to hit eject. Perhaps you hit pause.
In the six months since it happened, I’ve come back to this conversation over and over. In truth, I wasn’t really talking to the 5-year-old at all. So I say it to myself again: Be scared – that’s okay. And then go ahead, anyway. Be brave.