Fall Quarter 2017 Magazine Publication students are once again reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, but this time they’ll be reporting on the “Big Magic” day they led in class. Students, divided into groups based on each chapter, will facilitate a discussion and lead activities that integrate the ideas from Gilbert’s book. Here, Cascadia students Anthony, Mariah, and Zaynub share their experience of exploring COURAGE.
Living with our Fears
by Anthony Lee, Mariah Carpo, and Zaynub Khanam
Courage, a characteristic that effects and envelops most of our daily lives. It is the factor that could change the course of our day, for better or for worse. It could be as big as a resounding call to action, or as quiet and reserved as a small gesture. It is the outcome of each and every one of us working together to create a bigger impact, or it could be the outcome of a single person who fanned the flame that kindled in everyone’s hearts. It may be difficult to muster up the strength to produce such a characteristic due to one’s own fears and doubts, until one realizes that to speak the mind is a gift. This goes to show that courage, even the smallest influence, can change a person entirely. It is how and by whom courage is used that will ultimately determine whether or not we move towards a right path or a wrong one.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Courage” chapter in Big Magic is a nurturing subject that helps people develop a stronger sense of self and awareness. Our team felt passionate about advocating Gilbert’s idea that courage isn’t about beating your fear or getting rid of it. Bravery is being scared and acting on that fear anyway. Embracing this idea, our team of courage decided to create our own whiteboard that headlined “I Fear….” followed by empty lines. It was Oct. 9th and a beautiful day in the middle of fall. We were all a little nervous to show this board to the class since we weren’t entirely sure how our whiteboard would be received. Thankful for the great weather, we went outside for some fresh air and warm sun (and some light lo-fi music). We gave everyone a personal poster board, and told them to write as many fears as they wanted. This is where the vulnerable transition takes part in this story. We asked everyone in our HUM 210 class to have the courage to write one fear they had on their poster board on the whiteboard in front of the class and share a bit about that fear. In the beginning, we meant to capitalize on the idea of accepting our fears, having it right there in front of us, and accepting that fear for what it is.
We each shared a fear of ours on the board and talked about why we feared it, but then it was time for the class of HUM 210 to share. There was a hesitation at first, but then our first volunteer with all his bravery came and wrote, “I fear anxiety.” It was a beautiful story and moment to witness as he truly embraced the meaning of courage. Even though this individual had a fear of talking in front of people, he believed in the courage to go up there and do it anyways. The shift in energy after he shared his story was a beautiful opening to a sense of community in our class. One after the other, each and every classmate shared a fear and their story. Our empty lines were now full, outside in the open on a sunny day in the middle of fall. At the end of the activity session, we weren’t expecting to feel so connected to everyone’s stories, but in some small sense we could relate to a lot of everyone’s fears, and there was comfort in that. The final cherry on top was leaving this whiteboard of “I Fear…” in public breakout space in the CC1 building of Cascadia College. Here is a picture of the few but powerful responses we had from the community of Cascadia.
To have courage within your creative life, it is important to learn to accept and work with your fears. When we all spoke about our fears as a magazine publication class, I realized one thing most of us had in common was our way to combat our fear, and how we learned to make space for it, which was pushing ourselves to do things that made us uncomfortable or even seem scary because we’ll never know if we really like it or not otherwise. The very first step to learn how to live with your fear is accepting it, and I was so proud that every single person in our class got up and shared a fear of theirs. Allow yourself to be self-expressive without limitations. Don’t let what you fear hold you back, but at the same time, don’t try to get rid of it or ignore it. Know that fear will always be there, but let yourself become comfortable enough with it so that it doesn’t control you. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, “If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere or do anything interesting” (26).