It’s Wednesday again, and that warrants a healthy walk around campus today, on my lunch break. I always relish a long walk to nowhere in particular, with hopes of finding something new to see or photograph. Not all weeks offer that specific reward, considering that I’ve covered much of the college campus by foot over the last year and a half.

Today was a welcomed change to the usual monotony. Until today, I had avoided walking through the grounds of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Well, avoided seems like a deliberate circumvention, so that’s not the proper word. The reality is much more in the vein of I usually walk another route or two on a regular basis. Don’t you too always walk along the same sidewalks, in favor of the familiar?

With my iPhone in my pocket, my expectations for creative image-making were really low for the hour lunch break. Sure, I brought my Canon digital camera with me to work, but couldn’t justify toting the machine around the neighborhood today. Call me lazy, I don’t mind.

I strolled through the memorial grounds, along the paved walkways. Honestly, I never got this close to the building’s front door, for whatever reason, I’m just not sure. Numerous statues and war relics memorialize soldiers and sailors of the U.S. Navy—two statues, a large bell, a submarine torpedo, and cannons with cannonballs decorate the front lawn.

I’m not a veteran, myself, but I appreciate the service and dedication of any man or woman who pledges to defend our precious country. I walk around the back of the sailor statue. As he clutches a telescope in both hands, his stoic gaze is fixed upon the horizon. The afternoon sun, high in the sky, shines on the front of the sailor, and I can see his form—saber mounted on his side—silhouetted against a blue canvas. A pinch of sun pierces the space between his holster and his forearm.

I pause for a moment of respectful reflection.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear ~ Nelson Mandela

It seems to me that many of us—humans in the largest scale of the word—are simply afraid. Sure, our specific fear may be unique to us, and only us, but nonetheless we own our own fear or fears. And conversely, we allow (sometimes we even enable specific fears, encouraging and perpetuating their existence in our lives) those fears to own us, year after year.

The type of fear in the world, in all variations, is bountiful. We can bear the Fear of Failure, or even fear the Fear of Success, for that matter. We can be fearful for our own safety, paralyzed by endless what-if situations:

  • what if my plane crashes?,
  • what if a terrorist strikes my hometown?,
  • what if I emotionally put myself out into the world and no one responds?,
  • what if I get hit by a bus while crossing the street?,
  • what if I am rejected?, and so on, ad nauseam.

But what if we simply turned our backs to fear?

I am not suggesting that we ignore rational fear—rational being the key word here—but embrace the possibility of living a full life, a meaningful life, despite the possibility of our fears becoming manifested in our daily activities. Sometimes that requires consciously understanding our fear, finding a legitimate solution, or pushing through the realities of that specific fear, in a structured and logical manner. Courage is what we need more of, and that’s a great starting point in conquering fear.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear ~ Mark Twain

I sincerely doubt, and wholeheartedly refuse to believe, that any man or woman who has served in the military was 100% fearless, oozing with an unbridled sense of bravery. If I were in the armed forces, I would be scared to death, and I’m not sure that is a bad thing. More importantly, courage is not the complete absence of fear—just keep that in mind.

So, despite your specific fear, do not let fear determine the What or Why or How or When of who you are today. You are more than the sum of your fears, you just need to realize that on your own at some point in life.

Be brave. Be courageous. Turn your back to fear.