Lessons in courage

Principals of (I)ndividualism

Image by PropagandaTimes via Flickr

Lately, I’ve been spending my time in some lessons on courage, strength, and identity. Little journeys of self-discovery can happen right where you sit every day, just as you fall asleep thinking the same old thoughts, and anywhere in between. Anything life-changing for me in these past few months has been centered squarely in my mind as the world passed on its regular course; yet, over time, it’s also taught me some valuable lessons.

At 29 years old, I finally realized “who I am.” In terms of career and productivity – a big part of who I am, She-Who-Cannot-Sit-Idle – this meant that finally, it clicked in my head what drove me, what I really wanted to do. Since I was young, my brain has always been conservation bound (particularly toward animal life); my dreams of being a vet eventually grew into dreams of being a biologist, an environmental lawyer or consultant, an activist, a journalist dedicated to the field. Lately, that drive has been eyeing a zoology degree. This weekend, it caught eye of a job in conservation efforts an hour away, but well worth applying to.

Not that long ago, I’d be ashamed of admitting that at 29, I just figured out my path in life. We’re pressured as young as possible to think about our careers for the rest of our lives, to settle upon becoming something. Exploration is seldom encouraged, considered a waste of time, money, and one’s life. After all, by the time I can get a Bachelor’s, I’ll have a working life cut down to only 15-20 years by most current standards.

There is, however, much reward in self-discovery. Had I made career and life choices when I was “supposed to,” as a senior in high school, I’d be living a miserable, unhappy life right now. I would have settled for what I knew then, rather than opening my eyes and mind to the world I’d yet to know. Perhaps my life would have been more comfortable financially – but misery would have sunk in quickly and led to despair or drastic measures.

Still, it takes courage to not only know yourself, but be yourself. This is especially true of any of us who have a public presence. We are quietly encouraged to keep a low-profile, to hide our eccentricities, our failures and faults, that of us that is socially unacceptable or, at least, socially impolite. We are encouraged to airbrush our public image to perfection. Being one’s self publicly, openly, honestly, is brash, bold, dangerous, for we still live in a world where inseparable parts of who we are can deny us the freedom to live as we wish.

As a writer, this has also been a great struggle. While writing in the games industry allows more personal wiggle room, other aspirations do not. Writers are easily labelled, easily gain reputation by their comments, their beliefs, their identity; their skill at language is tossed to the wayside. Identity can destroy careers. Perhaps this is why I admire Anne Rice so much as a writer; not only does she actively engage with her readers, but she discusses religion, politics, and other views openly with them. That’s a lot to be said against many writers who sit cowering beneath their desks as they write, and shove copy quietly into the world, hoping not to cause a ripple by virtue of their identity.

As a writer, as a career woman, and as a person, I’ve no desire to play darting on the edges of the shadows. I want to be a bold individual, one who dares to be herself in the face of a deep-seated hatred toward individualism and identity. And I will continue to fight for my right to be myself, no matter what price of freedom it may cost me.


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3 Responses to Lessons in courage

  1. Melody Jones says:

    I did pick a career at a young age, started it at age 22 and spent nearly 20 years pursuing it. Eventually, I had to be done with it. I probably would have chosen a different field, or at least refined the career I did choose, but even so, I still think the courage to pursue what I love most would not have been present until my 40’s anyway. I think my choices were still fine for me despite the eventual pain and burnout, and your career track is perfect for you. Who cares if you discovered what you love at age 29? At least now you know yourself much better! Congratulations.

  2. “Live never to be ashamed if anything you say or do is published around the world, even if what is said is not true.” –Richard Bach

    It does take courage to truly know yourself; even more so to express your uniqueness in a world where differences and nonconformists are riduculed. The most interesting people are the ones who deviate from the norm though. They also tend to have the most fun. Certainly, they are the most free.

    Great post, Jaime.

  3. Fran says:

    You didn’t SAY what you gave up….or for what you had to fight. The concept of stepping outside the norm is sound, and you seem to have avoided becoming a “template”, but where’s the courage in that? The definition of courage is to be afraid but to move forward in spite of your fear. Did you do that? Perhaps. But you didn’t make it clear to the reader.

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