And so it begins. Here’s the introduction to my new book “Courage Is A Muscle.” I’m sharing the first few chapters here on my blog – each week I’ll post parts of the first 3 chapters. Happy Sunday and I hope you all enjoy.
Most of us have experienced something that make us feel as if we’ve been swallowed up by a black hole of despair. It’s these experiences that flood our hearts with emotions, both positive and negative, but it’s at times like these that we learn what we’re made of. We might even be surprised by what we’re able to endure and accomplish once we’ve made it through to the other side. For some of us, it also inspires us to reacquaint ourselves with our dreams and even pursue them with renewed vigor.
One of the most profound moments in my life was when my grandmother passed away in 2013. As kids my brothers, sisters, cousins, and I had dreaded the thought of life without her, to the point where one of us would become visibly upset with tears and anguish if someone were to mention her fictitious death. I too believed she would always be with us – she’s Grandma. She was around long before I’d gotten here, and I wouldn’t dare picture her being anywhere else.
I can still recall in the weeks leading up to her death how agonizing it was not only for me but for the entire family as we prepared for the loss of our beloved matriarch, but if there was one good thing to come out of it, it’s that something so drastically life-altering nudges you toward self-awareness: you find yourself wanting to know the purpose of it all, of your life. You suddenly find yourself almost desperate to get things right.
That was me. After cycling through confusion, frustration, doubt, disbelief, and a physical pain in the pit of my stomach, knowing that there was nothing I nor anyone else could do to change what was inevitable, I realized that my grandmother wouldn’t have wanted us to put the brakes on our lives. She empowered us with stories of her youth, reminding us that it took determination and persistence to move forward in life, especially instilling in us the fact that things weren’t going to be handed to us.
I think about her words often, especially when things aren’t going as planned, because it’s easy to lose yourself in the daily struggles of life and business. She always had a few wise words to let us know that opportunity was still out there, and that we were more than capable of accomplishing anything we wished. The only thing holding us back was our courage, which I came to believe was little more than a muscle that helps the heart get its work done.
I remember that when I was in college, one of my dreams was to write for an entertainment publication. It was my senior year and I was applying for internships and sending samples of my writing to any music-based magazine that listed an editorial email on its website. After taking some time to think about the publications I wanted to write for, I narrowed it down to about four or five. I got busy reaching out to the editorial departments, sending in my writing samples, following up, and crossing my fingers that someone would be interested – or at least give me a damn shot! Weeks and weeks went by… and nothing. It seemed like everyone else was landing their dream internship, and I was stuck trying to land anything I could.
I finally decided to settle, concluding that maybe my writing wasn’t good enough at the time. I recall the conversation I had with my grandmother about my failed attempt to land my dream internship, and as I starting shooting off my list of complaints and telling her how unfair it was, she said, “One person might tell you ‘no,’ but not everybody is going to. Eventually someone’s going to say ‘yes.’”
Although my life had always revolved around music, I ended up interning for a local film production studio, which turned out to be just as exciting and fulfilling. I understood that I could still write for an entertainment-based publication like I’d always wanted to do, but those internships that I’d applied for were not the right opportunity for me just then. I knew that I’d have to keep trying, because I believed that eventually someone would say yes. And, shortly after the internship episode, I ended up landing a freelance writing position with a local music magazine. I got to interview some pretty well-known local artists and the press pass allowed me to cover performances and events. Sometimes, all it takes is that one moment of “yes” to get you closer to your dream.
Losing my grandmother was a catalyst for me to move forward with the ambitious goals I’d set for myself years earlier. No matter what I was doing, whether it was working for a company or setting out to lead my own ventures, she was always 100% on board and eager to push me further. She believed in her grandkids’ and was always there to support us financially, spiritually, and emotionally.
She was the one person in the family who saw the potential in each of us, no matter how much the outside world conspired against us or tried to reinforce the notion that our goals were ridiculous or impossible to achieve. Her ability to encourage was phenomenal: after a conversation with her, you’d feel as if you were able to accomplish anything, no matter how far-fetched or unlikely. After that it was simply up to us to bring it to life.