Show Me How Big Your Brave Is

I have no clue if my family has a real, official family crest. When I consider what image or symbol might be fitting for our group, one idea comes to mind. One characteristic demonstrated in more than six different ways. Our common denominator is “bravery”. What do you think of when you hear the word “brave”?

The first idea that comes to my mind, is what I call “courageous bravery”; someone who is willing, someone who opts in/chooses to do something most others would be afraid to do, someone who is courageous in a visibly dangerous circumstance. My husband emulates this kind of bravery. He is a former fireman, correctional officer, EMT/first responder, former hockey player and MMA fighter. A long time ago, while we were dating, someone asked me early on if I loved him, and if so, when I knew it. There was no doubt of when it was. It was when he took me ice skating and held my hand and didn’t laugh at me when I tried to skate for the first time. Why this day? And how did I know? I felt safe. So incredibly protected by him. So taken care of. So able to be me, the real me. My husband is tough, so tough, and he always knows what to do in an emergency. He spent two decades of his life volunteering to walk into burning buildings, all so he could help people. It’s the ultimate brave that holds our family together. He exudes this can-do/will-do anything for someone he loves attitude.

Similar to my husband, Mikey’s brave is most often visible in a physical sense. The best way I can distinguish the difference I see between Todd’s brave and Mikey’s brave, is choice. While Todd chooses to put himself in dangerous situations that require bravery, Mikey doesn’t have any conscious thought process when it comes to fear. Mikey doesn’t go out of his way to put himself in dangerous situations or be brave; he just IS. There’s no hesitation in him. No doubt in his actions. Whether it’s jumping off things outside, doing flips off diving boards, or trying to carry things that weigh twice as much as he does, there is no pause in him. He puts his hands by all the animals in the zoo, and wants to hug every dog he meets. He loves to be on camera, and talk to new adults like he’s known them for years. It’s like he can’t see danger and/or he’s not afraid to be vulnerable. I call Mikey’s brave the “fearless bravery”. There is no doubt in my mind, that Mikey has the most giving type of brave I’ve ever felt. When I feel my worst, my most incapable, I go to Mikey and ask him to give me all his brave, all his strength, because he has the kind of brave that I don’t have. And you know what? He is more than happy to share his brave with me through his famous hugs.

Isabella just turned 10 months old, so we’ll see what kind of brave she has as she gets older. But for now, based on her multiple ambulance rides, endless diagnostic tests, and several weekends spent in the hospital, Isabella’s brave also shows through in a physical way. She had a spinal tap, MRI, EKG and a handful of other tests I can’t remember, when she was only 5 days old. She’s had RSV, pneumonia, and the flu all before she was 8 months old. She had no idea why she kept getting sick, or why people kept poking her and shoving things up her nose, or that we were trying to help her feel better, but she found a way to rest and did what she had to do to get better. Even when she was her sickest and most exhausted, Izzy has a reassuring smile and she’ll squeeze your finger or put her hand on your cheek as if it say, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I will be okay. Don’t worry mama.” Right now I call this “baby bravery”.

Scarlett was born into a house with two older brothers and dogs who were constantly running and wrestling and she’s gotten stepped on, knocked down, and pushed around more than she should have. For those reasons I’ve always referred to this as Scarlett’s “tough bravery”. The other kind of bravery I see in Scarlett has to do with her spirit; it is what I call her “individualistic bravery”. She has her own sense of style, picking out her clothes for as long as I can remember. She loves creative expression and goes against the grind when working on an art project at school. Just because everyone else’s snowman, pizza slice, or cow looks one way, Scarlett chooses to do something different. The cow’s eyes don’t go where you’d expect them to be. Instead she’ll put them on the cow’s ankles or knees. The nose might also show up at the top of the snowman’s head instead of on his face. And it’s easy to spot Scarlett’s pizzas; the crust goes through the triangle slice of pizza and all the pepperoni is stacked on top of each other in the corner of the triangle, instead of spaced out like everyone else’s. As she gets older, and when appropriate, I hope this “rebellious bravery” stays with her. I hope she believes in herself enough to go in one direction when everyone else is going in another.

Oscar’s brave is easy to miss if you’re not playing close attention. Oscar is quiet and does not draw a lot of attention to himself. Throughout his life, he’s experienced a lot of change; multiple daycares, many different schools, several moves, countless baseball teams, coaches and teammates. Every other weekend he lives with his biological father and step mom. He has two separate families, with two different cultures, religions, values and home environments. He’s been the new kid more than most but he always finds his place and thrives. This part of Oscar, is what I call “adaptable bravery”. The word constant also comes to mind when I think of his bravery compared to others. It’s not episodic, it’s daily and hourly. It might not be visible or obvious, but it’s always there, sustaining him. There’s another type of bravery Oscar portrays every time he steps onto a baseball field. He trusts himself. His self-confidence is through the roof when he is on the mound. While other boys might not want the game to rest on them, Oscar wants that responsibility. He knows he can come through to close out the game. He knows he can strike out the best hitter on that team. No matter the pressure, no matter the stakes, when all eyes are on him he shows me his “self-trusting/confidence bravery”. The confidence he has in himself is not cocky at all, it’s a familiarity with his abilities, with what his body can do, and a trust in himself to do what he practices thousands of hours to do. His calm and confidence bravery in these situations is so unbelievable to me, it literally takes my breath away.

And what about me? Without a doubt I am brave; but not like the rest of them. How would I describe it? The first word that comes to mind is resilience; I can and will get through something, even when it takes everything out of me physically or mentally for days, weeks, or months without relenting. Even when new obstacles come up, new challenges, new road blocks, my “resilience bravery”, my ability to tolerate and endure, and get through each day is something I’m proud of. I can say ‘I did that’ or ‘I lived through that’ or ‘I survived’. To be fair though, it’s a combination of voluntary (somehow I can tolerate pain and sickness more than most) and involuntary (something gets me through it all I have to do is hold on long enough and not give in.) As for choice, I’d also like to say I have grown into a “no regrets bravery”. Life is too short. I don’t want to waste any time or look back on my life with shoulda wouldas. I won’t say yes to something that I really want to say no to. I won’t go along with something that I don’t understand, just because it’s easier. I’ll ask the questions no one else will. I’ll have the unpopular opinion. I won’t put off my dreams because anyone tries to make me feel bad about my choices. If I have the opportunity to go to Europe by myself for 10 days, I’m going. If I’m the only one who sees a risk in a plan of action everyone else is on board with, I will speak up, even if that puts me in the spotlight, even if I upset someone, because who knows….the ability I have to see things differently might be what makes the difference in the plan, and it might turn into a promotion. Just because I know I’m brave, that’s not enough for me. I wanna see how big my brave is. Something I’m trying to practice at least weekly if not daily, is “testing my limits bravery”; I’ll force myself out of my comfort zone, even if it’s scary, because in the end, no matter the result, the experience and lessons learned will be worth it. “Don’t stop until you’re proud”, that’s what I tell myself when I’m aware I’m avoiding a challenge. And when I need an extra push I give myself a pep talk and sing along to Sara Bareillis….”I wanna see you be brave”.

There are so many kinds of brave and the world needs all of them. What kind of brave are you? In the words of Ms Sara Bareillis…

Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave with what you want to say, and let the words fall out. Honestly I wanna see you be brave. Say what you wanna say…


Katie Helgesen

Katie Helgesen is the Senior Director of Business Intelligence at Dealer Inspire, a fast-growing and award winning technology company near Chicago. Katie and her husband, Todd, have 4 awesome kids and love living in a small community centered on a lake in northwest Indiana. Baseball, t-ball, and soccer schedules are just a few pieces of Katie’s Mom Hustle. Her daydreams revolve around finding more “me time” and traveling. In real life, Katie keeps herself sane with naps, Netflix and eating out as often as she can.