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On Courage

Emily, our BIN editor, finds out where Brooke gets her bravery

The way we see it, fear can be a pretty useful tool. Sometimes it’s the little (or big!) nudge you need to listen to your gut and run the other way. But sometimes you have to face that scary thing head-on—because it’s the right thing to do, or because if you do it you can help other people, or because if you do it you can help yourself. That kind of fear or anxiety often goes hand in hand with new beginnings, but that’s where courage comes in. Brooke knows that kind of courage first-hand...and she has some thoughts. (Read on to find out the bravest person she knows…)

So, what does courage mean to you?

“Courage sometimes has a little blind faith sprinkled in it. It’s scary to be courageous. But you don’t know if you don’t try, and you can guarantee not achieving something if you don’t go for it.”

Blind faith, huh? And that’s a good thing?

“In every new beginning I’ve had, you kind of go into it blindly, not knowing everything: going to college, having children, going into a marriage…or two! You know there’s going to be change, you just don’t know what it is yet, and you have to have the courage to go forward not knowing what’s going to happen. I think if we knew how difficult things are going to be, how hard—we might not try to do anything. That is a leap of faith. Courage is a willingness to fall on your face, but know at least that you tried running.”

...But what if you do fall?

“I’m really stubborn. I have that thought: ‘You don’t think I can do this? Watch. This.’ I want to prove people wrong. I didn’t want to just go to college anywhere—I wanted to go to Princeton! I wanted to be on Broadway and show that I could do it, even though no one expected that I could.”

How did you get that way?

“From the time I was a little girl, in order to survive, I had to have courage. I was young in a very crazy business, I had an alcoholic mother, and I had to find the courage to take care of her and understand my environment.”

Isn’t it ever just too much?

“The times I’ve found most difficult to be courageous was recently in the hospital after breaking my leg, when I was faced with obstacles that I couldn’t control. My physical therapy was something I could manage, but the possibility of infection, or blood clots? Those are things that you can’t do anything about. That really challenged my courage.

And having postpartum depression almost undid me. I had no courage in me. I was unrecognizable to myself. But in times when I felt helpless or when I feel I’m way over my head, I’ve had the courage to tread water long enough to find a raft. You may not be a very good swimmer, but you’re not going to die!”

What if I feel like it’s just not in me?

“We’re more courageous than we think, from the time we’re little babies. Think about what it must be like to walk for the first time! You must have to find courage to do that. You’ve been held your whole life, then all of a sudden you’re walking on these squishy little things with no muscle, you don’t know what you’re doing, you stumble...and then you just keep going. Sometimes I feel like that, wobbling like a little drunk baby. I think we all have courage in us, and it’s just a matter of summoning it and getting out of its way.”

So, who’s the bravest person you know?

“Me! Maybe also my daughter Rowan. She has had to deal with a lot, and I've never seen it let her bring her down.”

Okay, let’s say you’re facing something new and scary. What do you do?

“I think new beginnings can really nurture courage, actually. You have to not let in the naysayers who are going to tell you why you’re going to fail. You have to have blinders and earmuffs on and pretend you have courage. You know, fake it till you make it!

My mom would always say, ‘never let ‘em see you sweat.’ What she meant was sharks smell fear in the water. You have to walk into a situation in a way that is not meek. She would say, ‘if you fall, get up, dust yourself off and start all over again.’ You fall, you pick yourself up. You trip, you stumble? Just right yourself and don’t look back—look forward.

I have literally fallen on stage and had to whip myself right back up. You just have to plow through and keep going. I do believe in learning from your mistakes, but in that moment, that mistake can’t define your next move. That’s courage.”

Thanks, Brooke!


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