Whilst I admit that I don’t always quite fully subscribe to this idea, I am a firm believer in giving things a go and, if I make a fool of myself in the process, at least I will die knowing I gave life my best shot rather than wondering, “What if?”. Take my trip to Peru for example. I’ve wanted to go for years and came to the conclusion that if I didn’t just get up off my arse and book the trip for me, myself and I, I’d probably never get there. Then there are my attempts to find a publisher – and now an agent. Okay, so the rejection letters suck, but I’m never going to get anywhere if I don’t take them on the chin and keep trying. And now I find myself in the throes of training for the Great North Run. So far it could be going a bit better (not having thrown myself down a mountain on said trip to Peru would have helped) but, you know what? Even if I crawl around the course, I will be able to say that I gave it a try.
It interests me when I tell people about my escapades and they look at me and say, “Oooh, I could never do that! You’re so brave!”
I apologise if you’re one of the people who has said this to me over the last few months, but I disagree. I don’t think that I’m brave. I’m not doing these things because I’m heroic, I’m doing them because I want to achieve something, to experience something, or to move on to better things in my life. Okay, so sometimes I have to take a deep breath before I march into my next scheme and ignore the little voice inside my head (or the negative person I’m talking to in the pub) telling me that it’s a stupid idea and I’ll just end up with egg on my face. But essentially my motivation is purely selfish.
Over the last few weeks I have heard lots of stories of true bravery. Of course there is the woman who faced up to the Woolwich murderers. On telly last week I saw Eye Spy on Channel 4 and watched with amusement at how bystanders reacted to blatant sexism, homophobia and racism – and was proud to see my fellow Brits stand up for those being discriminated against without a second thought.
Closer to home, I see people being brave every day of their lives. An old friend of mine has a niece who, at thirteen, has just had surgery to try and reduce the curvature of her spine caused by muscular dystrophy. The surgery left her very weak and for a while my friend and her family thought she might not recover. But she’s still fighting – a fact that, having known her for quite a large part of her life and admiring her feistiness in the face of her circumstances, doesn’t really surprise me. An attitude that takes guts, if you ask me.
At work, my colleague and good mate Chris recently sent an email around the office, not asking for sponsorship for something stupid like a half marathon (ha!), but reminding everyone about the importance of being a registered organ donor – and making sure your registration details are up to date. Her niece Emma, who was only twenty, had been given under one year to live unless she could find a donor and have a lung transplant before cystic fibrosis would take her life. A couple of days later I was sat in the pub with Chris and asked her how Emma was coping with her prognosis. I know I for one would struggle to keep going in the knowledge that, unless I was lucky enough to have someone with the same blood group as me who also happened to be a registered donor die in a relatively short period of time, I was done for. But was Emma sat at home feeling sorry for herself and bemoaning her fate? On the contrary. In fact, she was rocking out at the Isle of Wight festival along we me and thousands others only three weeks ago.
Yep, that is one brave lady.
Luckily for most of us, we don’t have to climb such huge mountains on a day to day basis. But I think we can all be a little bit braver. When we see something that we don’t like or disagree with, we can take action, whether it is supporting a campaign or just speaking out when someone in the office makes a derogatory comment about the homeless person selling the Big Issue outside or the transgender waitress in the canteen. Of course I’m not suggesting we wade in if we see a fight in the middle of the street, but rather than rubber-necking along with everyone else, we can call the police - something I’ve felt compelled to do twice in the last few weeks.
The other thing we can do to show our distaste at a situation (or of a person for that matter) is to simply walk away. Whether that be boycotting an unethical business or turning our back on people whose behaviours or beliefs we do not accept, it can often be more effective than arguing with some narrow-minded people will ever be.
In short; as long as you aren’t harming anyone else, do what you want to do, be who you want to be, stand up for yourself and for others and you can’t go far wrong. Oh, and be thankful for what you’ve got. It could so easily be taken away from you. Sadly, that is what happened to my mate Chris and her niece Emma today. As I left my last meeting of the day and headed to M&S to buy that well-earned bottle of white, I received a text message telling me that Emma lost her fight today and had passed away just an hour earlier. I admit I shed a tear as I walked through Camden this evening, but then smiled to myself knowing that this plucky woman had lived her life to the full right up to the end of her tragically short life.
So, tonight I am raising a glass to Emma and everyone else out there who shows such incredible courage in spite of illness, persecution or discrimination. They are the real heroes in my book - and a true inspiration to us all.