Is Not Being Afraid the Same as Being Fearless?

Next up in the #BeFearless series, my friend Sarah, who works in online communications at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. You can read more of her stories at her blog,

Traveling alone...and fearlessly!

A little more than five years ago, an amazing opportunity was presented to me: a chance to go to Thailand for work, to do a press check on a book we were publishing. My boss agreed to my request to take a couple of weeks of vacation there after my responsibilities were finished, and I got to planning my trip. I had little advance warning (just a few weeks) and quickly realized I’d be going alone — none of my friends could get time off from work on such short notice. Undeterred,  I reserved hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and researched the train schedule that would get me between the two. I booked a flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, not knowing if I’d ever be so near again. As far as I was concerned, I was planning the trip of a lifetime.

And it was, without a doubt. But even before I left home, I noticed a recurring theme from a lot of the people I told about the trip: amazement that I was flying halfway around the world, to a county that had just experienced a coup, alone. I was told it was bold, and brave, and fearless. Once I was there, everyone seemed shocked to meet an American woman traveling alone in Asia. (Apparently, it would have been less stunning if I were European, or perhaps Australian.) I was such a novelty that a group of Buddhist monks in Cambodia wanted to have their picture taken with me, to prove that they had seen such a thing.

Not surprisingly, I found this hilarious, and more than a little strange, because it hadn’t occurred to me that making the trip required any sort of fearlessness until people started mentioning it. I wasn’t afraid to be making the trip, therefore, I wasn’t being fearless — I was just doing what I wanted to do.

I don’t remember exactly when or how I developed that attitude — I just know that at some point I realized that being afraid was an incredibly lame reason not to do things I wanted to do or see places I wanted to see. From that point on, whenever I would hesitate to do something because I was fearful, I would remind myself that fear was, for me, not an acceptable out, and I would force myself to do it. Eventually, I got to the point where I needed a reminder less and less, because I at some point I stopped overcoming fear and just stopped being afraid.

Mostly, anyway. I’ve got it narrowed down to spiders, heights, and walking up to strangers and saying hello. And I’m working on those. Well, not the spiders. I don’t think being afraid of them is negatively impacting my life in any way.

Defining Fearless

Ready to take a swing at the world!

A few weeks ago I shared a post from my friend Lauree to kick off my personal series on being fearless, taking inspiration from my organization’s commitment to the movement. You’ll be seeing more from my friends in coming months, but for now, I wanted to share my own thoughts on what it has meant to Be Fearless for me in the past, what it means now, and what it could mean in the future.

As a little girl, I jumped into the swamps of Louisiana without a care for the alligators and snakes that could bite or kill me. I wanted to ride the boat or the jet ski or the bumper cars or four wheeler faster and farther. I loved playing hide and seek in the dark with my cousins in the old barns and sugarcane fields.

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Living Fearfully

Last week, the organization I work for declared its intention to Be Fearless in all that we do in 2012 in beyond. Inspired by our new message and journey, I am starting a Be Fearless blog series on Lagniappe, in which I’ll feature Fearless stories from guest bloggers, and my own reflections, in coming months. The first up is from my friend Lauree Ostrofsky, a DC-area life coach, who lives by the phrase “I’m scared and doing it anyway.”


I'm scared & doing it anywayHow will I live fearlessly this year?

My first answer: I won’t.

Fearless – living without fear – sounds like a hero in an epic movie like Braveheart or Gladiator.

I’m more like Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. I’d rather yell “get me out of here,” than face awful things. If I can’t be granted that, then I’ll begrudgingly do it.

How’s that for inspiration from a life coach?

I write about fear a lot. I face fear a lot. A recent blog post took me weeks to publish out of fear…of what the response might be, of how much I exposed about myself.

But, I published it.

If that is living fearlessly, than that’s what I do.

I have a mantra that began years ago while having surgery to remove a benign brain tumor: “I’m Scared & Doing it Anyway.” I believe that you can take fear by the hand and walk through the door. Fear is there. You see it. I see it. Move forward with it.

It’s living with fear, rather than without it.

Fear is there to keep you safe. Usually the thing you want most is not in the safe, comfortable territory you’re already in. So you and fear need a little chat: Yes, we want that…shiny new whatever. Yes, it’s outside of our comfort zone. Yes, it’s worth it. Let’s do it.

Back to living fearlessly. This year I will:

Be my own best friend. I will notice how I treat myself, what I tell myself, and choose better. The more I believe I’m worthy of loving kindness and generosity – and treat myself that way – the more I will receive it.

Date. (I may have just broken out in hives.) I will go on dates this year and meet a great guy. For some reason I’m scared about it right now, which means I need to do it. Gulp.

Challenge what is possible. There is no reason to settle. If I’m “trying to make it work,” whatever it is, it is a sign to find another way.

Being scared and doing it anyway, and living fearlessly, all comes down to starting. I will start this year. I will put one foot in front of the other. I will open to a blank page and write.

Who knows what will happen next?

Happy living fearfully to you.

Family matters: a Cajun story

In the swamp
In the swamp

Anyone that knows me knows how much I value my family. As an only child, I’m very close to my parents, and as the only “only” in my huge family, I was very close to my cousins growing up, and to all of my aunts and uncles. Moving away from my home state of Louisiana at a young age made it hard to stay close over the years, so I cherish every phone call, email, or visit with my relatives. I was fortunate enough to see both an uncle and an aunt this weekend in DC when they were passing through on business, and of course, there is always some reminiscing.

People who know me also know how much I love my Cajun heritage: with that comes our love of gathering over food, especially boiled seafood. So with that being said, at the risk of embarrassment, I’m going to share a story that I wrote in high school about one of my fondest memories growing up with my family in Louisiana — hanging out at my aunt’s camp on the lake and having a crab boil. The story itself doesn’t represent one particular day, but is more of a conglomeration of memories from over the years. It remains one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written, and when I do get together with my family for a crab or crawfish boil, I’m in my element, and at my happiest. So, please enjoy this little piece of me… lagniappe:


Cajuns, Crabs, and Comfort

I was on my way home from a friend’s one afternoon, and I was in one of those nostalgic moods, the kind where everything suddenly seems dreamy and sad and I kept thinking about my innocent days as a child. Going forty-five on the road just before my neighborhood, I passed the familiar building which always has the two jet-skis parked out front. Usually I just think, “Oh, I wish I had a jet ski,” and drive on. This time was different. It brought me back to a place I used to go: a place of happiness, of family, and of love.

“Who wants crabs?” Aunt Denny’s rhetorical question rings out from inside the screened porch. Would anyone in this family ever not want crabs?

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DC Bucket List Redux: 5 year anniversary

The view from Sugarloaf

A year ago, I created a DC bucket list for my fifth year here, as a I celebrated my fourth anniversary of moving to the city. Below is the original list with the items I’ve completed crossed off. So I still have the remaining items to check off, and I’ve also added a few more things I want to do as I embark on my sixth year in DC. Thanks to all who have joined me in my bucket list adventures (and sorry to those that I haven’t yet arranged something with!) – I’m now accepting rolling offers to complete the rest and ideas to add to it! This year I will be much more diligent; I learned my lesson from the 11 things by 11/11/11 journey. And check out my Top 11 of 2011 for a short recap of what happened in my fifth year.

Must Do for Year 5

  • Go to the top of the Washington Monument
  • Eat at Art & Soul
  • Visit Ben’s Chili Bowl (I’ve only had it at Nats Stadium)
  • Attend a Caps game
  • See a concert at Verizon Center
  • Hike the Sugarloaf trail (thanks, Kim!)
  • Visit Mt. Vernon
  • Visit the Library of Congress
  • Visit the Supreme Court
  • Run the Capital Crescent trail
  • Do a night monument tour  (technically complete as I did a night run around the Mall.)
  • See a full show at the Kennedy Center (only saw a Millennium Stage show once)
  • See a play at the Shakespeare Theater  (ahh- I came so close to this!)
  • Eat at Ray’s Hell Burger
  • Visit the botanical garden
  • Visit all the museums that I’ve missed so far
  • Visit the National Archives

In addition to the yet-to-do above, here are some new ones for the list for year 6:

  • See a show at the 9:30 Club
  • Go ice skating in the sculpture garden
  • Attend a DC United game
  • Eat at all the Jose Andres restaurants that I haven’t covered yet
  • Eat at Old Ebbitt Grill
  • Fly a kite on the Mall
  • Visit the Goethe Institut
  • Attend an embassy event

I have my work cut out for me! Thanks DC for another great year, and I look forward to another amazing one!