“I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare”. In homage to Maya Angelou, who died just yesterday, I’m starting this blog with a truly inspirational quote from this truly inspirational person.
I love that quote and think that daring to dare doesn’t just apply to the big things like travelling the world, quitting your job to write a novel or moving to Hollywood to become a star. Daring to dare encompasses whatever grand dreams you have but also the little challenges that we all face on a daily basis. Those seemingly smaller things, insignificant to many, but daunting to you.
I think the idea of doing things which scare you can often lead to positive results that you never would have foreseen, even when things don’t quite turn out as planned. For example, this week I finally dared to get on my bicycle after having brought it across to Switzerland and then looked at it for three months being too afraid to take it on the road.
Here’s what happened: I went to the shops, I came back. I got a little confused and ended up in the wrong lane when I wanted to turn left. The lights went green but I couldn’t go immediately so carefully watched the traffic on my side waiting for a chance to switch lanes and cross. Unfortunately I failed to register that when the traffic on my side had finally eased up the lights had changed. I was completely oblivious to the fact I was running a red light until I was crossing the road with two lines of traffic coming at me in the other direction.
To add insult to injury I then got pulled over by the police and fined. Upsetting at the time, sure. But actually I am a little proud that I managed to have a conversation in French under stressful circumstances. I got to try out some new phrases such as ‘je suis bête’ (‘I am stupid’) and could give my year of birth without hesitation. So as much as getting fined and almost being run over was rubbish, it wasn’t wholly negative: I got to practice my French, I am now much more safety conscious when cycling and it makes a good story!
Cycling in Switzerland may have been a smaller dare than actually moving to Switzerland but for me it was a dare nonetheless.
The concept of daring to dare wasn’t something I was aware of when I first encountered Maya Angelou. I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I know why the caged bird sings when I was about 15. The first of her autobiographical works is not an easy read, Maya experienced things that no-one should have to, but in spite of all the difficulties she faced she didn’t let these define her but kept on trying.
What I recall most about the book was how bewildered I felt when she finally achieved her goal of becoming a tram conductor, a feat which seemed tremendous as she was the first black person in San Francisco to do this, but then didn’t want to just revel in this. My teenage self, still a strong believer in the fairytale, RomCom perpetuated, ideal of the happy-ever-after just didn’t get it. I thought becoming the bus conductor was her happy ending and at that time found that part of her narrative really hard to understand.
I continued to hold onto this idea of life neatly tying itself up into a perfect state and had this idea that I would reach my happy ending just as soon as I found someone to love/owned my own home/had the perfect job/reached the perfect weight…
But real life, and not the Hollywood illusion, isn’t like that and thank goodness! Imagine how incredibly dull it would be if everything had worked out as I’d imagined at the age of 15 and that by the time I was (almost) 30 I had achieved everything I’d hoped for in life and contentedly spent the rest of my life patting myself on the back. I think the smug satisfaction would have got a little tedious after the first couple of years.
Now I comprehend exactly why Maya Angelou wasn’t happy to be a tram conductor even until the end of the book, because I’m like her. I have a goal, I work to achieve it and then I start looking for something else.
I hadn’t finished my Masters before I’d signed up for Law Diploma, and as that came to an end I applied for an internship in Cambodia. The world isn’t going to stop turning because I achieve something and nor would I want to.
I still want to be learning and trying something new, still daring to dare, until the undertakers come to prise me away from the world of the living. That’s just part of who I am and I plan to keep on challenging myself as I get older, whether this be crocodile wrestling, completing a novel or learning crochet, it doesn’t matter.
As the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez said: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”