I feel that this year, but this summer especially, there have been so many events that required way too many people to be courageous: the Grenfell tower fire, hurricane Irma, the Las Vegas shooting, the Harvey Weinstein scandal… There are probably many more, but these come off the top of my head. It has been a pretty horrific summer, now that I look back at it. Sometimes, when you consider all of that and think about the issues affecting the world today, not being able to think about your future seems to be incredibly petty in comparison.
As a university student, I am having a hard time thinking about this new academic year. Being a finalist is not something that I am dealing with very well at the moment – and I have been one for what, two weeks? I thought I would eventually stop experiencing that sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I think about the future, but being a finalist means that in a few months I will be out of university and heading down, well, a path of which I am not quite sure, yet. I am not sure where I will go, or what I am going to do; there are many unknown things and the unknown is unsettling me greatly. Like I said, it has only been two weeks since term started and this is positive. I am sure I will be fine, but there is so much to do and even more to think about.
In times like this, I start asking myself why I tend to overthink situations, why I worry so much, and most of all, why I do not have the courage to either face my fears or dismiss them. Some people may scoff at the fact that I am using the word courage, but I do think it is the appropriate one. Courage is not necessarily a word that always needs to be associated with great or chivalric deeds. In all honesty, how many heroic deeds can a university student pull off?
The courage you need may be used to face your own fears, your own insecurities, your own doubts. They might not be related to school/university life. They may be labelled as “petty.” They may come across as being far too preposterous – you know, the kind of things that some people would laugh at and tell you benignly: “You don’t have to worry about that.” For example, I spent the first few weeks of September scared out of my wits, because I was afraid that the US was going to start a war against North Korea. To be fair, I can say that my fears were somewhat validated by the way the media were treating the issue – one time on the news someone explained that, in case of a nuclear attack, we needed to run to the nearest shelter in two to three minutes. We live on the twelfth floor of an apartment and running down too many flights of stairs was not something I was particularly willing to do. I knew my fears were somewhat exaggerated, yet that did not stop me from not being able to sleep at night sometimes.
There is this line from the musical Daddy-Long-Legs, that I keep coming back to whenever I feel that my fears are taking over, that I am over-exaggerating situations, and that I do not need to react bravely but simply set myself a rigid schedule. “It is not the big troubles in life that require character. Anyone can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage. But to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh, I really think that requires spirit.”
Those people who stand up to authority and are not afraid to speak their mind in front of hundreds and thousands of people deserve our applause. Those who have the courage to prioritize others over themselves deserve a great deal of recognition. Again, those who understand that in times like this we need to act on our beliefs need to be awarded medals. However, it is easy to put these people on pedestals and look up to them so much that you forget you are not like them. You should not necessarily aim for their same, hardly achievable standards. You should not be thinking that, since they are doing so much, what you are doing is not enough. We all should know that facing your own insecurities and telling yourself that you are good enough is something that deserves, if not the same applause, at least a little pat on the back.