Living Up to a Word

When I came home for the first time during my freshman year of college, I got my first tattoo. A single word in a simple black script, three inches long on the inside of my left wrist.

The tattoo artist questioned why I wanted the tattoo to face inward, as it would be visible to me but appear upside down to everyone else. Art, after all, is meant to be shared and enjoyed by many, not just one. But I wanted a constant reminder that I could see at any moment–one that would give me both comfort and courage, especially as I faced new challenges every day. And then there it was, right in front of me, for me to see every time I looked down or caught a glimpse of my wrist as I moved through day to day life.

It is an ode to a musician who first taught me that I could live as full a life as possible, in spite of my fears. It is also an ode to myself–for making it through all of my bad days, for fighting to be myself, and for taking chances. In the years since the eight-letter word has been inked into my skin, it has given me the comfort and courage that I hoped it would (and more). I held onto it when I jumped out of a plane from 13,500 feet. I held onto it any time I was scared to be honest or brave. When I tried something new or stepped into uncharted territory. I have held onto this word every day since I was sixteen, so it is not something I take lightly. When I place my fingers over my tattoo, I can feel my pulse beating there. My blood pumping through my heart to my lungs and my body. And I know I am alive, even when I am afraid.

I have been asked more times than I can truly count if I am really fearless. If I really have no fears. But, for me, that is not what the word means. Being fearless is not about not having fears, but about living life regardless of those fears. About not letting those fears take control of your life. About being brave in the face of fear. Being fearless is about taking that jump even when you’re scared or unsure, and then growing from the experience.

This word has become my mantra, a reminder to take bigger leaps (and not just for “the big stuff”). To say yes even when it’s difficult, or when you don’t always want to. It isn’t just about the times when you are scared or afraid either, but all of those other moments in between. Say yes when you are tired or bored or sad. Say yes to things you have never done before or things you said you would never do. There is so much good that can come from saying yes, from stepping out of comfortable territory and embracing opportunity. The only way to know if something is worth it is to try, regardless of any fears or reservations, and to seize those opportunities as they come. While there can be good inside of comfort zones, there are often better things outside of those lines.

When you are given the choice between “yes” and “no,” between taking a leap and letting yourself stay behind–do everything in your power to say yes, to take that leap. To be fearless. It is always worth it.

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