My parents tell me that, as a young child, I was afraid of “everything”. If there was a dog at the park, I would climb to the highest point of the play structure. At my first movie, when the doors were closed and the lights went out, I panicked and we had to leave. Clowns and adults in Halloween costumes terrified me. One studio photograph shows only my twin brother, as I refused to pose in that frightening situation.
I am not sure why I was afraid. It might have been some kind of anxiety that was hard-wired in my brain. From the little I remember, I certainly wasn’t making a decision to be afraid – it was just pure panic.
I somehow got over those basic fears. The breakthrough with dogs came when we took dog biscuits for me to give to my aunt’s dog while we visited, and I found the key to every dog’s heart. Now I am a complete “dog person”, and can’t imagine ever living without a dog in my life.
My other fears also disappeared naturally. I don’t know anything about brain science, but maybe just getting older changed the chemicals or whatever had made me afraid in the first place. Now I can ride a roller coaster and watch scarier movies than my friends can stand.
Now, I believe in courage. As a young adult, I am the master of my feelings and actions to a greater extent. Courage, to me, means having the strength and dedication to be strong and suppress fear and take action that I know is good even though it scares me.
When I was seventeen, I decided to travel by myself from Colorado to Indonesia, where my father is from, and to stay with our family there for a month. It was frightening to imagine making all the airport transfers in foreign countries along the way, and on the return trip to have to go to a hotel and spend the night alone. And it was frightening to imagine being away from my home and parents and brother in an environment that was so different. However, as you might guess, the trip was a life-changing experience that I am so glad I had. Now I have a closer relationship with the Indonesian side of my family, and a different view of who I am myself, and an appreciation for the language and culture of Indonesia. I love the food, the TV shows, the popular singers. It isn’t just an intellectual accomplishment.
I followed that experience with others where I put myself out. I was the MC at a large benefit concert just days after I returned from Indonesia. The next year, I got a job that uses every bit of my abilities and challenges me to work hard to learn more. I love my job and have found my career.
Life has shown me, again and again, that courage has rewards. Therefore, I have decided to believe in courage.
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