The sentence that is getting me through this

An old, true story that is suddenly relevant

Scrolling through Facebook, I saw it. That quote. Under my breath, I muttered,

“F—k you, Helen Keller.”

I’d first read those words about ten years before. Helen Keller — educator, humanitarian and co-founder of the ACLU — wrote 12 books, but this is her most famous quote:

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

That first encounter with the quote was in my early twenties, when I was working in radio, defying norms and conventions, and feeling powerful.

YEAH!!!! I’d think. Life is a daring adventure!! Only losers make the boring choices!! I choose EXCITEMENT!!!!!

But eight years ago, scrolling through Facebook, it didn’t make me feel powerful. It made me angry.

A year and a half before feeling this fury, I’d moved from the UK to Toronto. At the time, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. People at home in London were saying, “You’re so brave!” and I’d reply, “No I’m not, if I don’t like it, I’ll just move back!”

18 months later, I understood what they meant.

Everything was unfamiliar. I experienced a surprising amount of culture shock, given the shared language.

I didn’t have a job, or really any idea of what I wanted to do. I’d been a radio DJ for so long that, even though I knew I needed a change, I felt qualified for nothing else.

Plus, I didn’t have any friends.
In London, I had made them compulsively. But here as a grown up, I’d found it exceptionally difficult.

What I hadn’t anticipated is that I would find the move almost impossibly hard — but also know that moving back wasn’t an option, because I didn’t want to be in London either.

I was miserable. And it was my own fault.

So when that Helen Keller quote showed up, I was MAD.

F— a daring adventure. I thought. I wish I wasn’t daring. I wish I wasn’t brave.

I wish I’d picked a safe job and a safe relationship and lived in a safe suburb with a safe life.

Then I wouldn’t be in so much pain.

Except… then, someone in the comments under that Facebook post shared the full quote — the words that came before it in Helen Keller’s book.

And I realized I’d got it wrong.

I had read the quote as meaning “BEING BRAVE = COOL AND GREAT.” But here’s what the fuller quote actually is:

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

And it shifted everything. Because here’s what it says to me now:

You can try and avoid hard things. You can pick the safe job and the safe relationship and live in a safe suburb with a safe life. But it won’t be safe. Someone you love might get sick. Your job might get axed. A worldwide pandemic might cause you and everyone alive to have to stay in your houses and spend all the energy you have trying not to touch your face.

So you may as well do brave things. It’ll prepare you better.

Every time something crappy happens, I try and remember this quote.

Security is mostly a superstition.

Every time I’ve lost someone and I’m in the rage of grief; or work has taken a dip; or I’ve made some far back choice that has come to bite me in the ass and I’m filled with regret, I come back to this quote.

For the last few weeks — in this wildness we’re in right now — it’s been at the front of my mind.

Security is mostly a superstition.

If you’re someone who does not ever take brave choices, then think of what we’re going through as a chance to strengthen your courage muscles.

And if you are, then remind yourself: you’ve been training for this. You’ve got this.

Thank you so much for reading. I was going tell you about the online storytelling show I’m running this Tuesday, to tell you about the daily check-ins we’re doing in my Facebook group, to tell you how I’m trying in the dark times to look for the magic (while also, checking and recognizing my privilege).

But for now, I wanted to remind you of that sentence:

Your brain is built to handle this. I promise.

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS if you’d like to get more things like this, along with free email coaching on storytelling and business, AND get my epic guide for the magic bullet when it comes to telling captivating stories: Pop your details in below and you can get ALL of it when you join the Yes Yes Family. It’s FREE! And I’d love to see you in there:

 

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