It was a muggy sweltering day in WA’s Kimberly, but early-career-wild-spirit-brave-heart me was ready and busting at the seams for adventure.
I’d left my family, cancelled a speaking engagement and 24hours later I was sitting on a plane ready to help a community of 300 who had been displaced from a flood that destroyed their little remote home.
Somewhere in between so excited I could wet my pants to panic attack terrified, I lay in my not-sure-if-these-sheets-have-been-washed caravan park bed, feeling like I was living the dream.
I was ready and waiting to change the world.
Day 5 in and my heart had fallen in love with the sweetest tanned skin five year old, Alisha*. Her darling lisp still makes me smile today. In her dreadlocked hair and food stained singlet, she was perfect.
I spent two weeks with that sweet little girl. We climbed red stained rock faces, ate gelato that she would spit out (give me a paddle pop any day) and car danced to Katey Perry’s ‘you’re a firework’ like no-one was watching.
Driving over the bridge to the rapids one day, I said to her, ‘I haven’t met your Mum and Dad yet’. Her little friend piped up in the back, ‘They’re always in town, they’re always drunk’. She looked up at me with a nod.
I worked long hours, terrified of being on my own I’d push my suitcase in front of the door to sleep, and sometimes had to fight to get the resources and activities that these kids deserved.
Several years later, I’m now not so new to my career. The older you get the seemingly less praised you are for being ‘a passionate upstart’ and the more conversations you have about your ‘unrealistic and naïve’ expectations.
The further you go in your career, the riskier brave becomes. I have a husband, a mortgage, a career reputation to consider.
But the truth is, little dreadlocked haired, singlet stained girls like Alisha still need the wild-spirit-brave-heart me, not the tired-spirit-disheartened me.
And so in the face of being labeled naïve, we need to choose to turn up anyway. We need to choose to take risks, believing that we can make a genuine difference to kids that need us to believe that on their behalf.
And taking from the words of Jo Biden, we need to choose to continue to let brave reside in us. Let it be clear and let it be fierce.
*name changed for confidentilaity
Image by Peter Hershey