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Learning To Be Fearless,...Kind Of - Antonio Martinez 26

Experiences are like pieces to puzzles we call life. Each experience, book we read, talk with mom or dad, and lesson learned at school is just another piece to all that puzzles us. Each piece alone doesn't look like much, but they are a different story all together. Each victory, epiphany, or problem solved is another completed puzzle, but getting there is hard to do sometimes. This is because no one can put the pieces together for us. We have to move pieces around, twist and turn them, or start at the edges with the easy ones. It all takes much time, thought, and plenty of effort. It takes time to learn or do something new, and trial and error is part of the process. In this case, it’s about trying to fit pieces together. By the way, in the process, time sure flies by! We can go on forever without slowing down to really think about what our experiences mean or how the pieces to our puzzles connect with one another.

For a long time I had stacks of puzzles just waiting for me to figure out. Life can be cruel. Not dealing with the puzzles in my life didn't mean that they stopped piling. There has to be a better way, I thought. Thought is about asking questions that lead to choices and actions. How do these pieces fit together? Is there a missing piece? If so, where do I find it? How do I get it? Sometimes doing more or trying something different can add another piece to the puzzle. And after feeling discouraged, effort is the only way to get there. For me, effort was about trying even when I didn't know how to fit the next piece. In the beginning, the pieces are an incoherent, jumbled mess. Planning, organizing, strategizing or using resources helps to connect a few more pieces together in hopes of seeing the bigger picture a bit clearer. Each time we see parts of the whole picture a bit clearer, we become motivated to hunt for the next piece or the next move.

Hunting is about paying attention, reading, slowing down to think, and being relentless about knowing that the next piece is out there waiting to be dug up. Of my many puzzles, my prized puzzle was about figuring out how to be fearless. I had to learn the hard way that fear is quiet, deceiving, and paralyzing. I was already discouraged and stuck by the time I realized that being afraid had already taken over my progress and gotten in the way of the bravery that I knew was within me. The second to last piece to this puzzle helped me see that being afraid or unsure of things will never go away. Life will always give rise to complicated and never before seen problems that just get harder. I had to learn that I could either remain puzzled or start piecing together my puzzles. And I had to believe that there is always another piece to be moved or adjusted, even when afraid. Deeply understanding “even when afraid” was the very last piece that helped me complete my puzzle. “Even when” meant that I couldn’t let being afraid be a reason for doing nothing or giving up. What was I afraid of? It doesn't matter anymore, but I realize that this last puzzle was not exactly about being fearless, but more about being courageous.

~ Antonio Martinez, 26

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