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Finding the Courage to Be Brave

Courage and bravery, sometimes I’m still not sure what they are. In truth, I learned what these words meant through an obsession that can only be seen as healthy: Harry Potter. However, it took longer to understand that bravery is a concept that is different to everyone. We are all afraid of different things. Having grown up as individuals, we handle ourselves differently. 

When I was a kid I didn’t see myself as a brave individual or anyone that could stand up for myself and others. In all honesty, I didn’t really care what character traits I did or didn’t have. I looked in the mirror and saw me, and that was it. Nothing else to it, right? Wrong.

I give young me a lot of credit. The world is big. While I have seen more of it while living abroad than most six year olds, I had never given a second thought to the idea that not everyone had moved around and lived abroad.

I remember very clearly being a tiny first grader, trying to explain the concept of a country that, to most American children, was named after a food. Turkey. Such a simple 6-letter word, yet I could find no others to explain it.

I remained in the United States for a total of six years before leaving again to live in Croatia. By the time I moved, I was no longer the kid that ran around not caring about differences, just wanting to play with whoever came around. I was now very aware of my appearance, my gender and that I was incapable of many things kids my age were capable of.

None of this was my fault. I had been through quite a lot while living in America and had fallen behind my peers. Nonetheless, I blamed myself and no longer understood who I was. I very much did understand who everyone wanted me to be.

I am disappointed to say I obliged and played along for a time. However, the longer I was there, the more I began to feel comfortable. By my third and final year, I had found a group in which I could begin to be myself. I was learning and growing, becoming more and more of an individual with each passing day.

But then, it was time to move again, this time to Jerusalem, Israel. I was very much unhappy about this move, and I made this clear. This was no surprise, though. I knew from the day I arrived I would leave in three years time.

Jerusalem was a completely different environment; one I found very hostile and oppressive, particularly to women. At first this pressured me, it controlled aspects of my life. But eventually, it came to a point where I took this hostility and oppression to heart and used it to fight back.

Granted, it was all small things: little comments or saying no when I wanted to.

I learned to pull when pushed and push when pulled. I eventually stood up for my friends when I could and developed a habit of trying to help everyone.

It took me a long time to understand that this was my form of defiance as well as self-preservation. By “acting out,” I was being brave for myself and for my friends.

There is more to every story and there is definitely more to this one. However, even without explaining or understanding my point stands: our individuality and our strength is not something others can take or give unless we let them. We, as people, learn things the hard way. It seems to be the only way we really grasp the gravity of situations.

Friends, family and partners give us a kind of openness and freedom that only comes from trust and love in another. Saying this is different than knowing it, though. This seems to be a concept that humanity can only learn through experience and, unfortunately, pain.

Pain, sadness, anger and hate are all a fact of life that we will never be able to avoid. All we can do is find the courage in ourselves and strength in the people we have around us to be brave and stand up in the face of everything that threatens to harm us or those we care for.

By being mature and owning up to our mistakes, we can protect ourselves, yes, but also others. Being honest and having the courage to be honest offers better chances for forgiveness and stronger bonds. It offers us the chance to grow and live more out of the shadows.

Understanding yourself is no easy task, and we will likely require our entire lives to truly know ourselves. But what we know now is not only who we think we are in a moment but also who we could be if we were to change one thing: say one truth, make one move, learn one thing, love one more person.

College is something we are told will be some of the best years of our lives. But so much came before, and there is still so much more to come after. We have every opportunity to try and try again. In all that freedom, we should be brave and courageous and willing to attempt anything and everything that comes to mind.

We put ourselves out there to experience and learn, and then we let ourselves become comfortable and settle with whatever comes our way first.

Continue to grow, learn, screw up, and fall down. The best part is getting back up again.

So hold the door for someone and strike up a conversation. Share a table with a stranger at a coffee shop. The little things offer us the biggest opportunities. Find the courage to be brave.​

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Madison Nardi

Virginia Tech '23

My name is Madison Nardi and I am a junior at Virginia Tech. I grew up all around the world and have become invested in global affairs. The empowerment and voices of women and those not not spoken for is something I find very personal and important to today's developing society. I hope to be able to able to empower and encourage others through writing while I'm a member of Her Campus.
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