At some point in my 20s, I began using fear as a compass.
After increasingly discovering that the things I was most afraid to do eventually became many of the most gratifying experiences of my life, leading to wonderful new relationships and opportunities that could have otherwise had laid dormant or disintegrated, I embraced the fact that the path to fear was in fact the path to fortune.
It is my belief that fear cannot be completely eliminated, at least as a gut response, or that it should. After all, on a primal level, it is a basic survival tool designed to warn us of impending threat. But, in many everyday situations, I’ve grown to acknowledge the importance of converting one’s fear into an energy source that greater serves a goal, energy that enables us to act, in spite of any initial trepidation. I feel lucky that, more often than not, the rewards of this decision are plentiful.
That in mind, though I am not able to personally recall any such experience, history has taught me that there was a time where my bravery, in almost every sense, would have been perceived as recklessness, stupidity, even a potential death sentence. Whether it was the physical signs, or verbal justifications for my then called sub-humanity, by no other differences by being wearing a colour different to the perceived norm, I would have been born into a world enveloped in systematic persecution, having to exist in a society with a overriding, overwhelming negative opinion of my race. A world of hate; a world of fear. A world in which every day would take no small mettle to even step outside one’s door; to be black was to be brave. I often see that it still is.
Sometimes, I think of the circumstances under which many of the individuals we celebrate, whether in this specific month or throughout our lives, were able to make these contributions; to be taught of the violence and abuse inflicted, and then, rather than looking today and seeing comprehensive and complete change, there is still abuse inflicted in modernity, and sometimes in frighteningly similar ways to the past. For all that these people fought for, all that some people’s brothers, sisters, and beacons of hope died for, we still have far to go.
But the nature of evolution springs hope. For we have always had the tools within us to be bolder, stronger, kinder, should we chose; and over the years we have increasingly risen up to use those tools in the face of historic inequity. And if the figures we celebrate could see the way we live today, the rights we posses, they would know that their fight was not only not in vain, but that it continues to be fought. The distance ahead didn’t stop those individuals from extending their arms wide, raising their voices strong, and reaching out to countless others who had felt the same, but had otherwise been too afraid to fight, too afraid to hope; people who needed the bravery for another to be a catalyst of their own.
I find bravery in my chance to serve a compass for people who, somewhere along the journey of their lives, find themselves in at a similar crossroad to myself. To surpass my potential both for those that fought for the right for freedom of expression, but also for those whose lives will be benefitted by the rights we obtain today.
In this month of bravery, readers within in this wonderful community of artists, dreamers, and believers, I ask you to look for those chances to inspire others. Pluck courage, pursue boldness, own your (positive!) audacity. Draw awareness to your comforts, and then ease away from ease itself. For in discomfort lies development and expansion, as we are forced to confront what it is that unsettles us. We expand across the threshold of our current playing space and breakthrough to higher levels of consciousness. Champion your strength and the strength of others; others that will stand by the side in solidarity and thanks.
For who knows what our seemingly small individual actions of bravery can inspire? We only have to look at history to know that their impact can be extraordinary. Be it on-stage, or in life, the very act of watching someone stand up for themselves, or another, is inspiring. And if it reaches but one in a full house, then it has reached many more in the days and years to come. No matter how we appear and to whom, human rights are held to be universal and self-evident. Once our belief in that is unwavering, by living bravely we pay that behaviour further forward. That is what one alone can do; before we know it, one becomes two, and two becomes both a revolution and a revelation.
I live a life determined by a combination of many of my attributes. With the characters I play and the work I write, I seek to pick out the essences that are embracing the fullness of the human experience. My race has informed my work, as has the circumstances I’ve been born into and the ones that I’ve been led to either intentionally or surprisingly. They have shaped my story, my body, into its uniqueness. A body that I have to allow to express itself, and a mind I have to free to express its thoughts, opinions, and debates. Because there was a time when that would have been unimaginable; in this world where we have greater liberty to speak, love, march, and live, courage is the key to liberating our peers and loved ones to do the same.
I imagine bravery as a flame, struck alight in times of darkness and disorientation. And the same way performing sets the soul alight, bravery leads a way for ourselves and the friends and allies we make on journey.
Photo by CRISTA LEONARD | Self portrait by Abiola Ogunbiyi
Written by Abiola Ogunbiyi, dear friend of Fit for Broadway, previous podcast guest and luminous spirit residing in the United Kingdom.