My father is great at making me believe that I can do anything; something that got passed down from his father before him. My mother, of course, is exceptional at letting me live out those beliefs in idiosyncratic fashion; with a forgiveness and acceptance she learned to do for her own mother. And my brother, ever the guide who made any space feel safe enough to experiment Hail Mary ideas, especially in sports. This combination had instilled in me a sense of fearlessness and reckless abandon that suited the instigator in me, curious for the social behaviors that would result if I did something or said something, and ecstatic at the ones that would surprise me in return. Apologetic for the ones that would disappoint others.
When you get older and more refined, they call this being a catalyst. I have always been in love with making things happen. But something even more surprising happens when you move out from under the wings of those who have patted down your feathers whenever they got ruffled — you get ruffled and on occasion, come undone.
Life does this when he wants you to surprise him. The pokes and prods that demand your attention bring you down to Earth, where action is favored more than inaction, and the safe space of thinking in the clouds no longer becomes welcome, lest you remain there forever. Teething on the truth of this matter, I have become uncomfortable, incessantly hesitant about decisions. So I have made none. The past two weekends without travel have made this painfully obvious, giving me all the time in the world to search for some clues as I sit poolside and get lost in other people’s stories. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald offer a sparkling beacon of what not to do, as well as a blunt reminder of the tragedies of grand imaginations that are far cries from reality. Hallucinations.
Even my surroundings have given me no meaning. The only thing my Friday morning breakfast at the diner offered me was a hearty Western omelet and a stack of napkins I didn’t even write on. The large glass of orange juice, a tall order of acid to swallow. The whipped pies sat in perfect rows behind the display. Just like thoughts, they could sit there forever. Untouched. No one would ever know how delicious they’d be. On Sunday morning, I slept off my gluten-full Corona from the night before as an (un)intentional experiment, and by 3 p.m. I was ready to retrieve my Washington Post delivery from outside my apartment, bra-less under a white t-shirt with yellow boxers decorated in sail boats and whales. The reality of my sleepwear became not only strikingly obvious to me, but my neighbors with raised eyebrows. Dismissing their unspoken criticism, I was disappointed that my Sunday paper had been stolen again. I should have known. Good ides wrapped in stories and printed on paper is knowledge with a big bow on top. And just like thoughts, if you don’t claim your own, someone else will.
All of this brings me to Being Fearless in Moments of Change, the prompt I had given for this year’s scholarship, but had purposefully not tried to address myself. I had no idea Life would instigate otherwise. In the busyness of travel, I had made a mess of scattered thoughts the way the wind does to dandelion seeds before the yellow weeds show up everywhere. And to think I was growing roots…the reality of just getting tangled.
My moment of change is already happening. Many things that I have envisioned, prayed for and always believed in for years, have been showing up in the flesh and walking around this world as mediums unafraid to make magic. The overwhelming disbelief that my make-believe (though never quite as I imagined) is now very real, is startling if not paralyzing. And though I am unafraid of change, I am caught in the undertow of uncertainty, knowing that the impact of direct action heavily outweighs the most sincere inspiration. At some point in the near future, I will have to make sound decisions for how I’d like to pursue these realities. And then, of course, live out those decisions. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t afraid.
Story is one of the more powerful ways to organize Life. So in this moment, I will finally answer the question to my own scholarship prompt: What does it mean to be fearless in moments of change?
Being Fearless doesn’t mean you are unafraid. It is believing you can do anything, and committing yourself to that belief beyond all measure, including Fear. Change does not have to be grand or tumultuous, uplifting or heart-breaking. Change is the forgiveness and acceptance you offer during those idiosyncratic minutes when everything unravels, and the humility when everything connects perfectly, as if made especially for you. Moments are not the miracles that save or enlighten in a split-second of time. Moments are the sum of all the previous decisions you have ever made, and the patterns, trends and outliers that either lead us to continue the course or explore new ones. They are the only spaces to experiment. Being Fearless in Moments of Change means having faith in your story and the courage to own it.
I don’t know what decisions I will make or the extent of them. I don’t know the consequences they will have or who they will impact. I don’t know the narrative of my story or how I will live it out. I didn’t know any of these things a year ago either. But I made the decision to move to Maryland, carrying with me all that I believed — incapable of imagining all that has happened since.