Reflections on Courage

by Orly Wahba

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~William Faulkner

Thinking about this month’s theme of courage, the quote of the month hits close to home for me. Courage can mean a great many things. From strength of heart, to perseverance, to taking a leap of faith, to following your heart even when you’re afraid, to venturing into uncharted territory – and leaving the familiar.

Change has never been something I love. There is a sense of comfort and security in the familiar; a warmth and homey feeling to it. But change, when you allow it to, can bring with it adventure and new beginnings. Seven years ago I took a leap of faith, probably one of the biggest in my life to date. I decided to leave a job I loved; truth be told it was more than just a job – it was a calling. I’ve always loved kids and having the opportunity to come to school each day and not simply educate, but inspire, empower and motivate my students to be the best they can be, to see themselves the way I saw them — that was the greatest gift of all. Those 7 years teaching were amongst the most transformative of my life. They set me on a path, they helped me tap into a strength that I never knew I had. I was only planning to take one year off to see what would happen if I threw myself into a dream I had; a dream to start an organization that would infuse this world with kindness like it had never seen before. A dream to shift the way people saw one another, by helping us begin to shift the way we see ourselves. I didn’t know it would turn into a 7 year journey to date and going strong. I remember how anxious I was. I didn’t know what would be. Could I possibly make something of this dream of mine? Would I impact change? Would I fail? Was I just kidding myself? It took all the courage I had and a whole lotta faith to jump in with both feet, willing to let the pieces fall as they may.

I still miss teaching every single day. The joy of connecting to your students, helping them navigate through the rough patches that come about as they discover who they are and what’s important to them. But I must say that taking that leap of faith, having the courage to bet on myself even though everything and everyone around me thought I was nuts – has proved to be an amazing life changing choice. The impact, the lives touched, the worlds changed over these past 7 years is incredible. I’ll never truly know, as we all won’t, the extent of the positive change our actions have. However, I am thankful every day to have been chosen to serve this organization, Life Vest Inside, from a place of such pure and deep love for people. Without COURAGE I wouldn’t be who I am and this organization would have remained just another dream propped up on a pedestal.

7 years has passed and I’m now faced with another choice. Another opportunity to be courageous and see where the pieces may fall. This past summer I had a chance to spend a month in Israel. I’ve spent many summers there growing up and those experiences are amongst some of the greatest memories of my life. Something inside of me began to speak, calling me to make a move. I’m a huge family person; my family means the absolute world to me and I’m lucky enough to live in such close proximity to all of them here in Brooklyn, NY. So when the thought of moving away popped into my mind, I don’t think anyone thought I would actually listen to it – I don’t think I thought I would listen to it, to be honest.

After a lot of back and forth and emotions running wild, I finally made the decision to move to Israel for the year to test it out and see what it’s like. I’ve been finding myself walking around my house late at night with flashbacks of all the good times that happened in this home, the home I grew up in. I’ve always had a close attachment to my home, especially after finally moving back in 6 years after we had a fire my sophomore year of high school. My home has always been my safety net, my haven – the place that carries the essence of my childhood.

At the end of this month, the month of COURAGE, yet another 7 years from my last big courageous leap – I’m taking yet another one and heading to Israel. If I said I wasn’t nervous – I would be lying. There are loads of emotions flying about. I choose to see this as an adventure and what a great place to begin an adventure.

As William Faulkner so wonderfully writes, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” And so I’m setting sail, on yet again another exciting adventure. I look forward to what’s to come and how I can bring Life Vest Inside’s message of kindness, connectivity and respect to the region as well as the personal growth I will likely experience.

To those of you out there fearful of the unknown, fearful of failure let me remind you of the words of C. JoyBell C., “Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”

Here’s to a courageous start for us all! May the pieces fall as they may…