So I’ve heard that on Monday night, two clever artist-types pulled off a guerrilla circus act when an aerialist performed without a harness from the supports of New York’s Williamsburg Bridge. “My goal is to face my fear and to inspire others to face their fears,” said the performer, before climbing 200 feet straight up and commencing with some whimsical lawbreaking.
These wacky kids are currently in jail, but we can learn a lesson from their bravado, beyond the obvious. (“Don’t resist arrest.”)
A popular bit of one-size-fits-all advice is to “Do one thing that that scares you every day.” It’s not bad advice, per se, but it’s a little aspirational, and not the kind of advice that makes you feel better. Sometimes it’s all you can do to just manage the things that make you vaguely uncomfortable. And sometimes everything scares you. It’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough, or you’re not moving as quickly as you should.
But you don’t have to be an inspirational death-defying force of chaos every single day in order to feel like you’ve accomplished something. Sometimes it’s enough to keep breathing and moving and surviving.
That’s why I prefer our Williamsburg acrobat’s pre-flight assertion. It acknowledges that facing our fears is difficult, and that facing our fears is a process, not something we can complete in a single instant of courage. Facing our fears doesn’t necessarily mean those fears will immediately dissolve. We all get a little bit braver, in time, by continuing to confront the things that frighten us, the things that make us feel alone and helpless and vulnerable. We need to face these things on our own terms, and if by doing so we help others to feel strong enough to try it too, and eventually build a community of support, then all the better.
Whether you’re scaling the Williamsburg Bridge, or dressing in a way that makes people uncomfortable, or speaking up to a cruel friend or family member: courage is courage. Give yourself credit for all of your daredevil stunts, no matter their context, even if they only happen in your living room.
Love, Your Beluga Best Friend
Dreamy BBF art by Hannah, who Tumbls at http://ladymalstroem.tumblr.com/