Feeling the fear and being brave

Feeling the fear and being brave

Let’s talk about bravery. What does ‘being brave’ mean to you?

Over the last twelve years or so I’ve tackled what some people might describe as ‘brave’ undertakings. It started with getting my surf bronze medallion at the age of 43. This, from a self-confessed surf-phobe, terrified of going in over my head and highly anxious about getting caught in a rip.

My secret to a bumpy road to surf lifesaving success was friends and building slowly toward my goal. Our little group of ‘middle-aged’ women had to be able to swim eight laps of a 50 metre pool in nine minutes or less. That was all we needed to qualify for the program. I can tell you, that seemed like a hell of an unattainable goal!

Three of those brave women who tackled huge surf at Newport in Sydney to get their bronze medallions way back in 2007. One of them has serious attitude!

For weeks we’d get down to the ocean pool near where we lived, getting fitter, trying to improve our techniques. And we knew we were up against it. We weren’t going to get into that bronze medallion course if we couldn’t prove we could swim to save ourselves.

To begin with, I went out too hard on the first two laps of that ocean pool. I’d have to stop to catch my breath mid-length. But slowly I built a rhythm that allowed me to get further and further before I needed a rest. We all swam that distance eventually. Wow, did that feel good!

We all got our surf bronze medallions that Summer A bunch of middle-aged women, some of us conditioned to believe over our lifetimes that this was not something we could or should do.  I was so proud of me. And of us all. That memory of unlikely success is something that continues to fuel me each and every day.

Learn to swim or learn to float. Both may keep you above water, but only one will move you deliberately in the direction you want to travel

Cleo Wade

I took that confidence and went on to race on large yachts, sometimes in very challenging conditions. All the time I was learning more about what I was capable of. Then I signed up to walk the Kokoda Track with my uncle and a bunch of his crazy mates. And I began to realise I could do anything if I put my mind to it.

Fast forward and since those heady days in the surf, I’ve covered lots of ground trekking into Machu Picchu, Milford Sound and from one end of Spain to the other on the Camino Frances. And every time I turn up, heart in my mouth, attempting another challenging feat, I remember that bunch of 40 something women who did the work and got their surf bronze medallions. And I salute them.

Being brave means something different to every one of us. It’s very personal. I don’t always FEEL brave and confident. Far from it. But I know one thing for sure. We’re all brave.

What do you do when you’re being brave?

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