The problem with courage is that you can’t see it.
It doesn’t make itself obvious, apart from when it involves saving lives or jumping out of aeroplanes.
Courage, however, is a quiet quality. Strength in the face of adversity cannot be measured, and it is not often presented in a way which is easily visible to onlookers. Courage is often mistaken as synonymous with bravery, but the two strengths are very different: bravery is fighting the war; courage is opening your eyes to the damage it has done and beginning to repair the damage.
I want to tell you a story today. It begins at around the time when I first began to discover how much fun life could be. This is not coincidental, because the protagonist of our story is the person who showed me a different way of being alive: a kind of living where the colours are more vibrant; the light is always on and the emotions are on the outside.
To say that she has taught me a lot would be an understatement. I laughed, until I cried, for the first time in so many years; she showed me how to be late without being scared, and she held my hand as I got drunk for the first time. Perhaps more importantly, I learnt about the love that friendship brings when our friendship wavered. I had never realised that the loss of a friend can bring pure, raw, dirty grief in its wake. At the time, I hated her for it. Now I understand.
But this story is not about me. This is a story of huge courage. For most people’s lives to change, somebody else breaks down their walls. This person broke down her own walls, even though she knew that the other side would be more painful – in the near future – than if she let the wall get higher, circle more tightly around her. She reached out for help, not because she knew it would make things immediately better, but because she realised she had to. It is hard to be vulnerable, but she was sad and let the world see; admitted her mistakes, and also acknowledged things that are hard to swallow.
To be hurt by somebody else is painful, but to decide to believe in yourself – to leave something which is apparently safe and to allow yourself to hurt – is infinitely worse. In making her decision, she left everything she knew and trusted but accepted what she had realised was the truth. To make the decision that you need to leave predictability and choose uncertainness is fearless.
And now she is free to blossom again. In any colour she chooses.
Today was supposed to be a happily ever after. Instead, today is the first page of chapter two.
That is courage.