I spent this past summer encouraging children to be BOLD. When my daughter asked me what makes me bold, it forced me to think.
I was 15 years old in High School when I was presented with the challenge of completing my Grade 13 thesis. Truthfully, I had no clue what a thesis was, and when I saw the options offered I knew it wouldn’t have ended well.
You see, I was never an academic rock star. In fact, I hated numbers and calculations, although my mother reminds me that I got a 1 in CXC Math. Science confused me, History frustrated me and Geography went straight over my head. But people always excited me. I knew I was artistic, but I wasn’t an artist. My obligation to complete school at the high level, forced me to think outside the box.
Me, 15 years old, at Ridley College
I approached my Art teacher – a burly and kind-eyed soul who had little patience for ‘foolishness’ in his class. Being new to the country and their school system, I silently hoped my strong Jamaican accent would woo him and elicit some compassion for the ‘new foreign student’. I told him that I didn’t know what to do or how to do the assignments presented. I asked him very kindly, if I could create my own project and still be judged by his criteria. “What was my proposal”, he wanted to know. I was nervous because I fully anticipated that he would dismiss my idea and me, and that I’d be relegated to analyzing Claude Monet’s Poppies, or some other revolutionary great who bored me stiff.
The Way You Make Me Feel (Art Project Fashion Show, 1989)
Instead, I wanted to produce a fashion show, soliciting the support of businesses in the small town where we lived. Apparently he listened while he laughed. He would give me no money to do it he said. I had to present a project plan and periodic analyses. It had to be presented to the entire school body and I had 8 months to complete it. He eventually said yes, and I then realized what I had done.
Now imagine, in a then-hick town with no black folk (the only ones were the 7 of us students at my boarding school), I walked the town for days canvassing support for a project I really had no idea how to do. I had doors closed in my face, and was ushered out of stores when owners assumed I came to steal. But I found support in a few students who thought my idea was ‘rad’. Yes, that word was cool then.
After months of dreaming, creating, researching, planning, praying and working, I presented the most out-of-the-box assignment to an audience comprised of the students and faculty of my entire school. Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” was still topping the charts and that song became the theme for my Grade 13 thesis. The show was a hit and the A+ that I got, contributed significantly to balancing what would otherwise have been an ‘average average’.
The Way You Make Me Feel (Art Project Fashion Show, 1989)
My teacher told me that I was brave and stupid at the same time, because if I’d gotten a failing grade, I would also have set a precedent of preventing students to attempt non-traditional projects. He told me that the teachers in the Art Department had discussed my proposal and though they agreed to let me proceed, the decision was an arduous one.
That’s the first time I remember being deliberately BOLD.
Since then, I’ve been scared as many times as I’ve been bold, if not more. The ‘NO’s weren’t easy then and they’re no easier now, but having tasted the sweet nectar of what felt like success, I know that there is no greater feeling than accomplishing a task set.
Today I’ve learned that boldness does not happen on it’s own. It co-exists with fear, and in a weird yet almost logical way, the two thrive on each other. The one that wins is inevitably the one that had received most of my attention.
I was 12 years old when I first travelled alone. I went to visit family in Houston and to this day, I clearly remember the trepidation I felt when I was leaving. The anticipation of spending 2 weeks with my Texan cousins had me excited in the weeks before – much like the thrill I get when I think of the end result of a new project. But when I was finally faced with the act of leaving the safety and familiarity of my parents and home, I died a thousand deaths. My mother ignored my separation anxiety and the tears that came with it, and I boarded the plane for the first time without my family. I traveled solo, as a UM; airline lingo for unaccompanied minor. Looking back, I think this may have been the root of the genuine care I gave the UM’s I encountered in my former life as a Flight Attendant. (side note)
The amazingness of that summer remains with me today. I made my own decisions during those 2 weeks, albeit while in the care of guardians, and I began to develop a sense of pride in doing things on my own.
I acknowledge that as parents, sometimes we have to thrust boldness upon our children until they actively seek it for themselves.
My son loves the ‘video light’ and my daughter is naturally very shy. I accept that when parenting multiple children, we must recognize that boldness comes in many forms. The praise and encouragement that my daughter needs to come out of her shell, doesn’t always work with my son who doesn’t even know where his shell is. I want them both to be BOLD, but I have to approach them differently.
I try to teach my children about the spoken word, constructive criticism and negative comments. They’re all a part of life and to me, the earlier they understand the power and purpose that each serves, the sooner they’ll be able to fend off some of the realities of life. From bullying to bad grades to heartbreak – and everything in between. Boldness involves many things, but giving up is not one of them. I can’t fight their battles for them, neither do I wish to, but I can provide them with the tools to protect themselves as best as possible.
Being bold doesn’t mean that we’re invincible. Nor does it mean that every goal will be accomplished. It simply means that the fear of failing is smaller than the hope of succeeding, and that hope is bigger than the dream itself.
I have undertaken a retail store, a magazine, series of events, public speaking ventures and now my boldest move to date – a children’s modeling agency!
When the butterflies flutter uncontrollably, and my nerves rattle louder than the naysayers around me, I still choose to be #BOLD. That is what I want for my children… and yours. Each and every time.