By Sara Kelm, Age 24
2011 was a very long year. Not more than usual, but still impressively long. Four seasons. Twelve months. 365 days. There were some full moons and solstices and planetary happenings in there too.
On January 12, 2011, I resolved to be unafraid. I knew things were coming that would scare me, and I knew that I had two choices. I could either run away from them, or I could face them. I prefer running away – it’s safer – but when you turn your back to something, it’s hard to tell whether it is friend or foe. If it’s a foe, by that time it’s already too late. If it’s a friend, you’ve missed your chance.
And so, I faced 2011 head-on. True, I was sometimes afraid, but I didn’t let that stop me.
I was brave lots of times. Here, abroad, in the morning, in the evening.
I was brave in the little things, like riding my bike even though I was sure I would look dumb trying to ride up a hill. And I was brave in the big things, like when I got on a plane to go to a foreign country by myself.
I was brave when I said hello to a dolphin in a city I’d never seen before. I was brave when I said good-bye to a grandpa who hadn’t recognized me for a decade.
I was brave when I said yes to weekend trips that cost too much money but paid for themselves in family connections. I was brave when I said no, because I needed to stay at home and write.
I was brave when I sent my words off to people or posted it on my blog, exposing my soul for the whole world to see. And I was brave when I wrote emails to people I care about, telling them things about myself that I may not like.
I was brave when I engaged in meaningful community with those I already knew, and I was brave when I decided to start a new community that was full of unknowns.
I was brave when I hosted a party in my own home, full of people I didn’t know. I was brave when I went to places – jazz clubs, West End performances, movie theaters – all alone.
I was brave when I ran on the treadmill and on the road. I was brave when I called a friend on the telephone. I was brave when I allowed people to make their own decisions. I was brave when I let myself make my own decisions.
And though it was hard, I was brave enough to let myself be scared.
Let me tell you the time I was the most scared.
I was sitting on the left side of a bus, near the window. My green backpack was resting in my lap, my waterproof jacket covered my arms, and my purple Keds waited at attention. My leg bounced up and down incessantly, as it always does when I’m nervous. I don’t think I relaxed once during the hour-long ride into the city, clutching my map so hard I had a cramp in my hand. My stomach was in knots, so much so I couldn’t drink my tea that Karith prepared that morning.
I watched as the fields gave way to stone houses, gave way to sidewalks and suburbia, gave way to the city. My stop was next, I thought, and for the hundredth time, I unfolded my map, tracing the route with my finger. When the bus rolled to a stop, my body did too, and I didn’t like it. I wanted to stay on that bus. I never wanted to leave the cozy metal frame, because I knew buses. I knew what to do on them.
But I didn’t stay on the bus. I stepped off that bus onto the streets of London, all alone. I found the Tube station. I figured out the coin machine, the trains, the stops. I found the exhibition hall I was looking for. I traveled to Leicester Square, bought tickets for a show. I walked Baker Street. I wandered through Harrod’s. I strolled through Hyde Park. I explored the British Museum. I got lost, purposefully, in the West End. And then, high in the balcony of the Queen’s Theatre, I saw my favorite musical performed.
All this alone. All this, I did alone. Granted, I had people supporting me, praying for me, giving me advice, lending me things. But I had to make the choice to get off the bus. Heck, I had to make the choice to get on the bus, and on the train, and on the plane. I had to be brave. And it was all worth it.
This whole year was worth it. I found a new version of myself, one constantly evaluating the tension between healthy dependence and purposeful independence. This new version is awfully like the old one, except instead of being afraid and stopping, she feels the fear. And then she brings to mind the ceilings of Bath’s cathedral. The wind atop Calton Hill. The view from the balcony as young men died on a fictional barricade.
None of that wouldn’t have happened without being brave. And I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.
So I was brave in 2011. And I am proud of that.