Community//

THE MOST COURAGEOUS THING I’VE EVER DONE

2021 – My Year of Courage

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.
THE MOST COURAGEOUS THING I’VE EVER DONE

When I decided to make 2021 my Year of Courage, I was thinking about the future, all the courageous things I may be doing, how I could do something courageous every day, this type of thing. Eventually, I realized that, as courage means something else to each one of us, I needed to consider is what it means for me. And that’s when I started to think about what I would call the most courageous thing I’ve done in my life so far.

There are a couple of obvious candidates, among them me moving to the US by myself in my mid-20s for my first job out of grad school, to a place where I had never been and didn’t know anyone—but quite honestly, this never felt particularly courageous to me. I am not saying that moving abroad isn’t courageous—it may well make top of your list if you did something like that right—but for me, it was just this big adventure I was so excited about and courage didn’t come into play.

So I took more time to journal, and I found a couple of other things—like giving up my admission into a highly competitive MBA program to go for a master’s in literature instead, or being the first person in my family to ask their spouse for a divorce. That all felt closer, but not what I was looking for quite yet. I didn’t want my most courageous thing to be a decision against something my family or society would have expected me to do (get that MBA and stay married, damnit!). I wanted it to be something meaningful for me and my life. The real thing came as a surprise, but I realized immediately that this is it—my most courageous act.

The most courageous thing I’ve done in my life is deliver the eulogy at my father’s funeral. That took a lot of courage in so many respects. First off, it was a really large audience of several hundred people. I didn’t care too much about all the strangers from the various stages of my dad’s career I didn’t know. But there were dozens and dozens of people who had made up the fabric of my early life it was almost overwhelming.

I never thought about not doing it, though. The thing is, when my dad—himself a great speech writer and speaker—died, I owed him a speech. He had asked me for years and I had, well, not exactly bailed but put it off because speeches are a big deal in my family, and I knew the expectations were sky-high. I was supposed to speak at his big 70th birthday celebration, but then I was in the U.S. having the job I mentioned earlier and flying to Europe for a weekend was something that seemed completely unrealistic and crazy to me back in the day. As my thinking went, this gave me just a couple extra years to speak at his 75th or 80th or both. No big deal, right? And then he just died, at 72.

Instead of me shining bright with a witty birthday address, my speech became a eulogy.

There was no question that I would do it. For my dad was my person, and this was my first speech for him—and my last—so I needed it to be true and raw and real. A thing between him and me, but in front of a huge audience.

So I sat down and wrote. I expected to need a few drafts, but I didn’t. The whole thing flowed out of me in one session—one painful, heartbroken hour—and it was done. It was everything I wanted to say. It still is when I reread it today.

Why I consider it the most courageous thing I’ve ever done? Because I laid my soul and my love and my grief bare for hundreds of people to see (not an easy feat if you are German, I can tell you), because it mattered to me to really do it. To honor my dad and the promise I had made in happier days. It was the last thing I would ever do for him, my final goodbye. When I stood there delivering the eulogy, I knew he would have been so proud of me.

By loving me unconditionally, he had given me so many gifts along the way—confidence and strength and a bit of a rebellious streak come to mind most of all. And those helped me to muster the courage and get up and say my piece as I felt it, conventions be damned. And I guess, with this my dad gave me a last gift: For the past 22 years I haven’t been afraid of any stage, no matter my topic or the audience. As public speaking goes, it’s all been downhill from here.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    By GaudiLab/Shutterstock
    Wisdom//

    Harnessing Courage to Overcome Fear

    by Cindy Jorgenson
    Community//

    Saying Yes To Courage

    by Brandi Lewis, M.Ed, LPC
    Community//

    Courage Will Set You Free

    by Dr. Barbara Schwarck

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.