Climbing the stairs: How do I practice being brave?

Casey Scavella stands at an intersection of two roads. Monday, April 11, 2022.
(Photo Illustration by: Xander Ordinola)
Casey Scavella stands at an intersection of two roads. Monday, April 11, 2022. (Photo Illustration by: Xander Ordinola)

In the 20 minutes it takes to walk from the Southern Village apartments to Lynn Wood Hall (I know how long it takes because of the Fit for Hire Polar watch), I almost turned back. At around minute 18, my strides began shrinking, and I realized it would be much easier to walk back home and skip my counseling appointment. It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve bailed on my counselor like this. 

Even though the counseling session would be with a licensed professional, my mind couldn’t let go of the notion that I would be sharing my baggage with a relative stranger. For most of my life, I’ve been uncomfortable and misunderstood in new situations. Often, I felt as if others weren’t listening, or worse, that I wasn’t explaining myself properly enough so they could even begin to understand. 

I knew from how depressed I was last semester — the nonexistent social life, the burnt-out senioritis, the occasional inability to get out of bed — that I needed to at least see a mental health professional and try. But I couldn’t let go of nagging questions like, “What if I can’t open up to my counselor?” Or “What if I can’t even bring myself to talk about my baggage?” Or “Even if I could, what if after a near hour of emotional dumping onto my counselor, I still felt misunderstood?”

There’s a quote on the internet that helps when I get anxious like this. It says, “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” 

There are variations of this quote from famous individuals such as Mark Twain, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ambrose Redmoon, but I like this anonymous internet version better because, without the grand fanciful wording, it feels like anyone could have said it. 

It reminds me that there is nothing wrong with feeling scared, even if that fear is about something that I know is ultimately good for me. Fear doesn’t make me cowardly; rather, facing my fears head-on is what true courage looks like. 

That week, I didn’t skip on my counseling appointment — and wow, did I need it. February proved to be one of the toughest months of my life (one of my friends said my life was uncharacteristically drama-filled during this time). 

My counseling appointments didn’t just give me space to air out my frustrations. It was also a conversation with someone who knew how to ask the right questions and dig deeper into who I am and what I believe. Ultimately, I think I’m stronger for it. 

There are plenty of scary things you might be facing as this semester ends. You might be facing big changes such as graduation and job hunting (like I am). You might be anxiously delaying to shoot your shot with that attractive person or you might be procrastinating by not asking for help from your professors or other campus resources. It’s okay to be scared of all these things. 

But if I can climb those Lynn Wood Hall stairs and show up at my counselor’s office, and even reschedule an appointment with them, I think you can do scary things, too. 

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