When I think about my childhood idols – all characters in my favorite novels, the superheroes in my comics, and the legendary figures in mythology – I always admired their courage. They were never okay with living in the comfort zone, they craved adventure, and they lived with a purpose. It was a kind of life, a kind of story, that most of us leave to fictional characters.
Thankfully, my problems never got to the level of battling monsters or saving the world from alien species. As a fairly normal teenage girl, my daily problems never got too far above a really difficult math test. Still, on the precipice of what is about the be the rest of my life – the end of high school, moving away from home, starting my career path, figuring out what I want to do with my life – I feel the fear that a hero might have. I feel as if I’m stepping out into dangerous, unknown territory, with no idea of my destination, but with the strong sense of a purpose – a really good reason – to take the leap.
I know how silly this all probably sounds if you’re older than I am, but put yourself in the position that you were in when you first left home, if you’ve experienced that yet. Personally, I was born and brought up in the same town. Most of the friends and connections I’ve built have been throughout the past seven or eight years at the least. And I’ve always been very close to my family. For all my life, this is all I’ve known. And I’m not really anxious to leave. I’ve always wondered why people have said that young people should travel and see the world, live in exotic locations, break away from their hometown. I love my hometown, I love the people in it, and I’m comfortable and happy with the connections I’ve made. I don’t really see a reason to leave.
Except, inexplicably, I’m leaving. I’m moving across the country for college, to pursue a program that isn’t offered in my area, in order to fulfill a dream that I’ve had forever. This dream – this purpose – is what I want to do with the rest of my life. It’s the goal of my quest, the Holy Grail at the end of my journey. Like my childhood heroes, I’m embarking on this new adventure, and I’m venturing into new territories, to fulfill my purpose.
And even though the idea of chasing my dreams and becoming the person I want to be is amazing, and is an opportunity that I’m eternally grateful for, I could seriously use a dose of that heroes courage right about now. Because while the rest of my friends are going shopping together and having fun getting ready to go to the state school, I’m about to fly across the country all alone, and the word ‘college’ makes my palms sweat and my stomach to collapse in on itself. College is a difficult enough transition for most people, but the addition of moving so far from home, and to a college where everyone already has friends makes it worse. I’m starting to question everything. Is this ‘dream’ even worth it? Do I even know what I want? Why am I taking such a risk when my goals are so uncertain?
For so long when I read those books about adventure and quests and courageous heroes, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of an adventure myself. But now that I get the opportunity to have my own adventure, I find myself balking at the thought. It turns out that the idea of adventure is much more alluring when I know I have a safety net.
It turns out that the idea of adventure is much more alluring when I know I have a safety net.
But I guess that’s why we admire heroes so much. They do what makes them afraid, they step outside of what they know, what they find comfortable, and they do it all in order to fulfill a purpose. To save the world, or change it, they face fears head on. And though my pursuit of a college degree may be a little less courageous than defeating an alien army, I’d still like to think of myself as a hero, and my impending semester away from home as an adventure with a purpose.
And though it may be easy to wallow in self-doubt and anxiety and a longing for the familiar, every good hero knows that determination and a lack of doubt are the only ways to face the unknown.
It’s the only way to be brave.