Georgia O’Keeffe once said, "I've been absolutely terrified every single moment of my life, and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." Isn’t she brilliant?!
I've been afraid most of my life - afraid of not doing big things, afraid of succeeding, afraid of being noticed, afraid of what people will think about me if I am noticed, afraid of pain, afraid of apathy, afraid of missing out. Basically, I’ve been afraid of life and and all that comes with really engaging in it. I was also born a dreamer with a heart for people and have constantly found myself in quite the back and forth. I'm done with it. I've decided I'm adopting Georgia O'Keefe's famous quote as my new motto. Every day, I am going to "get my Georgia on!"
Two years ago, my then three year old daughter became really obsessed with princesses and superheroes. She would alternate between playing Ariel and playing Batman, or sometimes both at the same time (which was pretty creative).
I began to wonder how I could provide her with even better role models than these two fictional characters. I don't wanna knock 'em, but their brave isn’t nearly as inspiring as real people's brave. How could I help her understand that REAL people, REAL women, make the very best heroes? An idea came to me, an idea that got me so excited, it woke UP the dreamer in me. But, I made excuses. At the time, I had a job I loved, and it just seemed too big, too hard, too scary to start something new. So, I let it go. But, like most dreams, it wouldn't stay quiet. It kept coming back to me. I started to learn about women who did brave things, and they inspired me, and fed my dreams.
1) Bessie Coleman - Bessie was the first black female aviator. In the early 1900s, when women still weren't allowed to do pretty much anything, and black women were allowed even less access to things white men were doing, Bessie decided she would fly. She described the air as the "only place free from prejudice." This inspiring lady tried everything to find a teacher, but no one would help her learn to fly. In France, things were a little more progressive, and so she could attend aviation school. But Bessie didn't speak French. At this point, I would have super given up. Not Bessie. She would go to language school in Chicago, learn French, and then travel across the Atlantic to become a pilot. Keep in mind, this was in a time when ocean voyages weren't the safest (#Titanic) or readily available. Still, Bessie went to France and became the first American -- male or female -- to receive an international pilot’s license. Returning to the US, she still couldn't find work as a black female pilot, so she went BACK to France to learn how to become a stunt pilot. Then, she created her OWN job in the US performing stunts and tricks for adoring audiences all over the country. It gets better. She dreamed of starting a school for other people of color who dream of flying and began saving money to make this happen. She was offered a high-paying job in a movie, but she turned it down when she learned the character she would be playing was a caricature of how most whites viewed black people at the time. Bessie Coleman is one inspiring lady - full of a crazy amount of grit and absolutely fearless.
2) Or what about Susan La Fleshe Picotte? Susan became the first Native American female doctor in the late 1800s. The late 1800s! She took a salary that was ten times less than what she would have made had she practiced medicine elsewhere, in order to bring better medical care to her people on the Omaha Indian Reservation. She worked tirelessly to help her people make crucial changes to cut down on the spread of tuberculosis and other diseases. She worked 20 hours a day in order to see all of her patients until she became too sick to care for the sick. Even after she got better, she would suffer from chronic pain the rest of her life. This didn't stop her. She'd continue to fight against alcoholism, advocating for Native American religious rights, leading educational efforts for disease prevention, and more. Daaaaaaaang, girl! Susan La Flesche Picotte spent her whole life trying to help other people, with a ridiculous amount of compassion, boldness, and tenacity. She got things DONE.
3) And Clara Barton. I never learned about Clara in school. I didn't know until recently that she suffered from almost paralyzing shyness as a child, as well as depression. Yet, this timid little lady would go on to become the "Angel of the Battlefield" during the Civil War. When she was 10 years old and her brother became very ill, doctors gave up on him. Not Clara. She took over nursing him full time, including placing leeches on his body regularly to bleed him. Seriously, seriously, gross. She became a teacher, then earned a clerkship in a federal government office and was paid THE SAME SALARY AS A MAN in the mid-1800s, LIKE A BOSS. Then, off to war, where she provided medical care, worked on the front lines, and was put in charge of army hospitals. After the war, she helped find missing soldiers -- thousands of them. Then, this formerly timid kid, started a nationwide lecture circuit about her war experiences. Oh, yeah, and she started the American Red Cross. No biggie. Clara Barton was an unstoppable force, a true leader...I like to think of her as the "original Leslie Knope.”
These women were amazing. Other women, and certainly every little girl, including mine, must meet Bessie, Susan, Clara and the thousands of other women who were fearless. By fearless, I don't mean they never experienced fear. They must have. Of course, they must have. But they pushed past it. They didn't let fear of other people, their own insecurities, or anything else keep them from doing exactly what they wanted to do. They got things done for themselves and for other people. These were women who did BIG, but also many very ordinary, things to make the world better.
This is where my idea, or my dream, comes back. I decided to go for it. With three other women who have also struggled with being afraid, we decided to start a company that would celebrate fearless women. You learn by osmosis, right? The mission of our company, Big Little Ones, is to inspire little ones to fearlessly do BIG little things to help make the world better (that's not a typo - we think little things make a BIG impact. Not everyone can win a Nobel Prize, but everyone can do things each day that makes things better for other people). The first thing up for Big Little Ones? We are launching the GIRLS CAN! CRATE, the first subscription box designed to inspire little girls by celebrating fearless women who have helped make the world better. We can't wait. It's going to be awesome, and it's almost here. SPOILER! Our first crate features Bessie Coleman and encourages girls to be BRAVE!
But, my goodness, the fear keeps coming up in me. Every day, there's something new I'm afraid of and something new that makes me want to quit and go lay down on my couch. But then, I think of women like Bessie, Susan and Clara, who did WAY beyond what I'm taking on, and I keep going. I get my "Georgia on." Let's do this.
I'm pretty fortunate. I have a little safety net in starting this business...a net that includes 3 awesome partners, a super supportive family, and other things I won't get into right now that make it a little easier to push back against fear. But there are countless other women, and girls, who have BIG IDEAS that don't have that same safety net. This is why we are committed to using a portion of EVERY single GIRLS CAN! CRATE to support nonprofit organizations working to give women and girls the concrete tools needed for them to succeed. Learning from Bessie, Susan, and Clara, we think we have a responsibility to not only pursue something we love, but to help other people lead more fulfilling, rewarding, healthy lives.
What are you afraid of? Get YOUR Georgia on! Inspiration is all around us, not a pretend princess or superhero, but real people who can inspire us to become more and more fearless; more and more ourselves. Support us in what we’re doing and subscribe to the GIRLS CAN! CRATE this fall or share about it with all the 4-8 year-olds you know (or adults responsible for them). You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, where we'll highlight pretty inspiring ladies. Keep your eyes peeled on Fridays for #FearlessFridays where we'll celebrate the small and not-as-small ways ladies are being fearless (share yours with us at firstname.lastname@example.org). Share with us how you are being as fearless as you can. You inspire us too.
We can do it!