Finding the Fearlessness

Do you live your life fearlessly?

Miles run today: 11

Chapters revised in my novel yesterday: 2

Adults in our household it took to figure out the “new style” long division this morning: 2

When you were 11 years old, would you have been fearless enough to dance around in the center of the stage wearing a turkey hat with flapping turkey legs tied under your chin?

We went to my son’s chorus performance last night, and one of his fearless classmates stole the show. We were all laughing so hard that tears came to our eyes as he moonwalked and bopped along and sang. It was genius, I tell you.

How does a kid achieve fearlessness by age 11?

Back when I was in college, I dated an Actor. Actors live to perform. They love every second of being onstage, every clap, every chuckle. While we were dating, he got to be The Actor.

But when we were on a dating hiatus, I felt free to take acting classes to my heart’s content. I signed up for my first one through the Drama department.

Just by signing up, I felt empowered. Fearless, really.

Until the first day of class when the Drama grad student teacher, a little sprite about 4’11” in heels, said we were all going to sing a song for the class, a capella, the next time we met. There was no grade and no expectation of any complex, Etta Fitzgerald-style phrasing or nuance.

However: panic. Serious panic. I was even taking voice lessons at the time, and still: panic.

The next class period, some of the frat boy types came in and sang “Happy Birthday” in a low, barely intelligible rumble.

But one of the girls blew us all away. She wasn’t a singer, no future American Idol. But she walked right up there on those dusty hardwood floors, the sun streaming in through the tall, drama school windows and sang, “Kumbaya,” as if it were the last song she was ever going to sing. She cried, she raised her hands to heaven, she felt every second of that song.

We were all stunned. I felt as if I had walked in on her naked self while she was performing last rites on a werewolf. I don’t think I was alone in feeling that way.

She explained what the song meant to her, and we were spellbound: she had almost died in a foreign country, and that song had gone through her mind as she beat back Death. It took months for her to get back to the U.S.

As a pampered college student, I was shifting my bones on those bare wood floors, thinking that she had lived about twenty more lifetimes than I had.

Also that I would have trouble coming back to the classroom after that stripped-bare performance.

But she did. Again and again.

And everyone loved her quirky truthfulness, the way she entered each drama exercise with enthusiasm and complete disregard for her dignity.

Twenty years later, I can appreciate her open-armed approach to life’s opportunities. I try to connect with that part of myself that throws caution out the window, the part that says, “I may regret this decision later, but I’m going to go for it, 100 percent.”

But I have to applaud the 11-year-old moonwalking turkeys who have figured out all of those lessons already. They have so many years of living fearlessly ahead of them. And I want to follow in their footsteps, wearing a turkey hat and singing “Kumbaya” at the top of my lungs.

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33 thoughts on “Finding the Fearlessness

  1. Melissa says:

    Oh, that’s a tough one and it gets harder as we get older…sort of. I think it’s a stages thing. When I was younger, I didn’t care. As I got older I worried about what “people” would think. Now, I’m pretty close to “I don’t care” again. The only thoughts that matter are of those that matter to me….I find I embarrass the younger ones sometimes because “moms” don’t “act like that.” Oops.

    • annewoodman says:

      Hmmm. I think it’s gotten easier for me as I’ve gotten older. I tell my kids that as long as it’s not illegal and doesn’t hurt anyone, well… simply making a fool of myself isn’t enough reason not to do it. ; )

  2. Daryl says:

    There was a time that I was so self conscious that I would never do anything silly in public. Now I feel that I’ve earned the right to do whatever I want. At a drop of a hat, I’ll robot dance in the checkout lane and watch the horror on my daughters face. No shame here. I think the majority of people can appreciate the letting go, and those that don’t, are just jealous that they can’t.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Thank goodness for folks like that–they keep us well-entertained. Although most of us have no problem showing off at home to our families (my 12-year-old son can do a mean Gangnam Style dance), it’s a much different thing doing so in front of others. And it’s not really an introvert/extrovert thing, because many actors and comedians are introverts. Perhaps it’s that “open-armed approach to life’s opportunities” you mention. 🙂

  4. jmmcdowell says:

    Ah, yes, when I was really young there were more things I would do, but that gradually lessened as I got older. And even in grade school, I didn’t like people getting mad at me or laughing at me. So the braver things I did weren’t likely to make people laugh if I failed. I’m getting a little better as I get older, but avoidance of humiliation and embarrassment runs strong in me. But blogging and hoping to publish novels is a step in the right direction … I think!

    • annewoodman says:

      Well, sure–if you’re putting yourself out there and risking disappointment online, I think you’re definitely confronting some fears! That’s a tough thing to do.

      Have a good weekend!

  5. Yes, I have to battle through the fear when I do acting, fear is what holds me back in terms of fully going for it, I don’t mean to hold back and yet I often seem to! I admire people who aren’t afraid of maybe making a bit of a fool of themselves in public. The turkey kid sounds great!

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, I’m sure when I was younger and had the opportunity, there were performances when I could have given myself over to it, but fear held me back.

      Good luck with your acting!

  6. David Gentry says:

    I took an expensive speech class given by an actress. She was dead on in her criticisms. She also taught me, at least, that acting is not putting on a face. It is letting part of yourself become alive. I have been in awe of true actors ever since.

    I feel like Daryl. I have earned the right, or maybe just lived long enough, to do pretty much anything I like (that I can afford, which come to think of it, is not much).

  7. 4amWriter says:

    I think fearlessness is definitely age-related, what would it be, conversely? The younger we are, the less fear we have? I have no trouble being a ham in front of my immediate family, but I have my limits with other people. However, I love getting all decked out for Halloween and throwing a kids’ party and getting all crazy wacky. Maybe because I have the protection of an excuse, Halloween, whereas any other day people would think I’m insane.

    Which I am.

    • annewoodman says:

      And I applaud your insanity. ; ) I think I’ve gotten more fearless as I’ve gotten older, because I am able to figure out that if I, for example, run in the elementary school hallways, what is the real harm? Or if I dress up in a turkey costume in July, what is the worst that can happen? People will say, “She’s really weird.” And I can handle that.

  8. Amy Mak says:

    I actually feel like I’m coming full circle. I was a brave kid but seemed to lose a lot of that through middle school and high school. But sometimes I feel like it’s all coming back, like I just don’t care, that I just gotta be who I gotta be and to heck with it. I’d say to hell with it which was the first thing that came to my mind but then I thought better of it… so I guess I’m not totally full circle yet 🙂

  9. Oh to be fearless and immortal again. 🙂

    As we get older, some of us, begin to realize there are consequences to our actions, good and bad. Some people never learn that and others learn but simply don’t care. Do the positives outweigh the potential results? Being fearless by not understanding the potential results is scary. The good thing is that fear can be a great motivator. Fear of not getting 1000 words on the page today is working so far. 😉

  10. Singing in public has to be the most terrifying thing! I wish I could do it, because, like that girl’s moving sone, it’s a great form of performance. I wish I could have seen that kid dancing – it makes me so happy to see kids being able to rise above fear and express themselves. I used to be a bit like that -strangely, it was going to drama school that suddenly brought in self-consciousness.
    (Another lovely photo, by the way.)

    • annewoodman says:

      Whoa. Drama school. I must hear more about that sometime! We saw Macbeth in Stratford, and it was so cool. Definitely memorable. Do you still act?

      • Ha, do I still act? I’m actually writing a post at the moment that mentions my last audition…
        But I haven’t performed professionally for years, though I have begun thinking about putting a show on in the Edinburgh Festival recently.
        Stratford is gorgeous. I have played one of the witches in Macbeth, dressed in a leather jumpsuit!!

      • annewoodman says:

        I already thought you were cool, and now I have decided you are super-cool! ; ) I wish I could come see your show in Edinburgh! (I say that because thinking about it means it will probably happen. ; )

      • As in you coming to Edinburgh, or me actually putting on the show!!??
        It’s always great to pick up your messages first thing and be called super-cool. Well, I say, ‘it always great’ – I mean, it hasn’t ever happened before… 😉

  11. Please do post a video when you get your hat and belt out that tune.

  12. Hi Anne, we are new to your blog by way of 4am writer, & have to say we thoroughly enjoyed knocking around your site. I have 3 posts that were my fav. “But Everyone Has One”, “Reading Is Sexy” & “Finding The Fearlessness.” I figured I’d go for 3-in-1, comments so, here goes. The 1st post, (post #1: FTF): Your so right. Those artistic rebels, who march to the beat of their own drum, make life so interesting don’t they?! But remember Anne. Your one of them now. Even more so than her. Your audience is far greater than hers was that day. Each and everytime, you place your art for all to see, that takes courage and belief in one’s self & art. And considering the format your using to get yours out, (the world)I’d say that boost your confidence way past hers. Go Girl!
    As for (post #3: EHO) Kid’s now a days, are so set! My kids don’t have bedrooms. They have mini-apartments! Stocked with T.V., DVD, X-Box/PS3, cell phones….you name it, they have it. And last year, my son turned fifteen and informed me for Christmas, he wanted his own Sweedish maid, stocked with the little french-maids outfit. That one got him a real quick glare to which he awkwardly turned and left knowing he had put his foot in way too deep. LOL. I grew up with ABC/CBS/NBC/& PBS. Fantasy Island, Love Boat, Charlies Angels & Little House… Now…we have more than one thousand channels in our house. I figure I’ll die before I ever watch every channel pumped into our home. Unreal!
    As for (post #3: RIS) I absolutely loved this post and so true. And we have decided to take your advice, and start now with our two phrases: My daughter’s is, I’m thin and need to eat more. Mine is, I’m rich and brilliant! So cross your fingers for us, and who know’s…maybe we’ll get lucky!
    Really enjoyed getting to know you thru your work and look forward to stopping by in the future to read more. By the way…your pics are awesome!

    • annewoodman says:

      You are very funny! I love the Swedish maid comment from your son. Your household sounds fun. ; ) I grew up with Fantasy Island and Little House, etc., too. I can’t believe the choice now available. My kids watch the computer (YouTube-type stuff) more than they watch TV!

      Thank you for finding my blog and reading through it!

  13. Ravena Guron says:

    I’m unfortunately very self conscious. I wasn’t when I was about nine or ten. Then, I would do anything. It sort of crept up on me. It’s weird though, because my best friend is the more unselfconscious person I know. I’m more quiet… although I wouldn’t go back! My unselfconscious younger self was ANNOYING!

  14. Jay Helms says:

    I think this is my favorite post of yours that I have read. Great stories and awesome insight and encouragement!
    I have to say I did enjoy one fun little fearless moment myself, falling down the hill, trying to make the kids laugh while Daryl was taking their picture last weekend.

    • annewoodman says:

      I heard about you falling down the hill! Daryl was amazed, given his back issues. ; ) What you won’t do to get a smile, right? Well, the photos turned out so well that you’ll be glad you did it.

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