An Ode to Living Fearlessly

jaclyn munson

New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing. In fact, I disdain the entire concept because it rests on the assumption that January 1st of any given year is a better day than today to start going after the things we want. Isn’t there a better measure of our worth and time?

A few years ago, I stopped defining my goals as resolutions and decided my only commitment would be to live fearlessly.

I avoided this for a long time because I knew it would mean living in the margins of discomfort and occupying new and unfamiliar spaces. I was afraid of being fearless, not because I didn’t think I would succeed but because of what it means to be a fearless woman in a world that would rather we smile than speak. Being a woman in the world feels a lot like meeting the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. On the surface it may appear welcoming, but it is deceptive and can swallow us whole.

Once fearlessness became my only goal, I truly met myself for the first time. I stopped delivering what society expected of me and finally started living.

For me, living fearlessly means manipulating gender roles. It means being dissatisfied with the system and wanting to create a better one. It means speaking out against sexism. It means rejecting the idea that I am a mere vessel whose utility is only measured in reproductive value. It means demanding equal pay and being both seen and heard in professional settings. It means recognizing the personal is political and that the stakes are as high as the glass ceiling. Most importantly, it means not leaving anyone behind because we must all rise together.

Living fearlessly as a woman has not been easy, but it has been the right thing to do.

When I think about life before fearlessness, I’m consumed with a sense of lost time: time that I spent living up to societal expectations and believing that we have a predetermined path that begins and ends with marriage, kids and white picket fence. Being fearless meant admitting that I didn’t want any of it and that all I wanted was the freedom to live unrestrained from rigid, normative values.

The day I sat down to write this post about fearlessness was on the twenty-eighth birthday — the same day that I found an old photo album tucked away in a drawer from my move to Boston this past August, undeservedly covered in dust. The first two pictures in the photo album are of me: one taken when I was two years old in 1989 and another taken a few years later. The first picture is of me in pigtails holding a bottle of Johnson & Johnson lotion upside down and squeezing it all over my parent’s carpet. In the other, I am wearing an old wedding gown and veil, decorated with my mom’s costume jewelry. Side by side, these pictures were perfect examples of dualities women face; the desire to make a mess but to also behave exactly the way society expects.

If I could tell my pigtailed-mess-making-of-a-self anything, it would be to keep making a mess in the best way possible because a life worth living is not measured in acceptance but in resistance.

Cheers to 2016 and another year of living fearlessly.

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