Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~ Winston Churchill
When I was a child, I spent part of almost every summer on Lake Shafer in Monticello, Indiana. Those memories are some of my all-time favorites. I still remember waking up to the smells of frying bacon and coffee brewing in the morning, the feel of walking into a cold, air-conditioned cabin with a wet bathing suit, and the sight of the beautiful sunshine glistening on the lake. This is where I learned to swim. I had no formal lessons at the Y. Instead I was taught by my family, showing me the basics: how to hold your breath, move your arms, and kick your feet. I remember my mom demonstrating for me many times, and guiding me as I tried to model her. Once she let go, I would always stop and touch the ground. I never had the courage to do it on my own. I guess my dad was frustrated with my multiple attempts, and believing that I had all the moves down, he took me on the dock and threw me in the water. You’ve heard of sink or swim? I experienced that literally. Sometimes courage is thrown upon us, whether we like it or not.
At other times, we have to leap for ourselves, which leads me to my next memory of swimming. After several years of successfully swimming, we had gone to the city pool and I saw the diving boards. There were three different heights: big, bigger and biggest. I loved watching people dive off and it looked so fun, but I was afraid. I’m not sure how long it took to get my courage up, but I recall the slow walk to the end of the board, and standing on the edge. Was I going to dive in or walk back? The longer I stood there, heart beating unusually fast, sweaty palms, shallow breathing, I knew that I was making it worse. I stood there long enough for other kids to yell at me to hurry up. The courage to continue hadn’t kicked in yet. After bouncing at the end of the board with my toes barely sticking over for who knows how much longer, I swallowed a big gulp of air, closed my eyes and dived in.
If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know that I’ve taken a big gulp of air, closed my eyes, and taken a “leap” of courage by resigning from a career I’ve loved for 15 years to doing something else. Yet, I wasn’t sure what that something else would be. Hence, the need for courage. Last week, I found out. On the last full day of school, I also had an interview. My first interview in this entire process. I tried to calm myself by thinking that it didn’t really matter and to just use it as “practice”. This was also to justify a future failure.
I’m sure we all play out scenes in our minds before they actually happen, and this interview was not going down as a I rehearsed it. In my mind, I kept screaming at myself. “Don’t say that!” “WHY did you say that?” It took courage to silence the voices and just keep talking. The end result was that I was offered a job on the spot. I was cautiously optimistic. On the drive home I could hardly believe that it all happened. I even said, “It just seems too easy.” And then a wonderful friend gave me some profoundly encouraging words. She said, “Maybe the hard part was this past year.” I believe those gave me permission to feel successful. Will this success last forever? Of course not. I will fail at times, but those won’t be forever either.
I have just finished my first full week at an entirely different career. I am loving it. I am learning new things and my brain is working overtime. Change is so scary, but so exhilarating! It gives you new life. It’s like the rush of a jumping off the high dive. The slow climb up is nerve wracking and ties our stomach in knots, but the adrenaline rush on the way down makes it all worth it. Don’t be so scared. Practice courage in your life today. Mary Daly, a theologian, writes, “Courage is like — it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” So jump in the pool, and be courageous today!