My first full-time job post-college was at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel in San Francisco. I was the number two person (!) in a two person public policy department with a great activist named Eileen Hansen. The job of our office was, essentially, to agitate for better HIV/AIDS policies in San Francisco, in California, and in the country. No, people shouldn't be forcibly tested for HIV; yes, prisoners should have access to meds and doctors who know how to treat HIV. You get the idea.
I'd been an activist for a long time at that point, but this job entailed a different type of confrontation than I was used to as an activist - this was face-to-face meetings with the bad guys that didn't come about because I chained myself to someone's desk. I was testifying in the state legislature, drafting bills, being an expert witness. It felt like a big adult job for someone who didn't think of themselves as much of an adult.
Without ever thinking about it, one day I wrote the word COURAGE in big black Sharpie letters on a piece of paper, and taped it up on the wall next to my desk. I think I'd been saying that word to myself over and over and over again so much that I decided to just write it down, the way writing down song lyrics sometimes makes you get the damn song out of your head.
You never could have talked me into admitting I needed a courage-booster at that time in my little egotistical life. But I did need it. And I still have that little piece of paper, taken carefully off the wall next to my desk when I left that job. It's filed under "Misc" in my filing cabinet, along with other stuff that's too important to me to narrow down any further than that.
If you haven't already visited our new Becoming Fearless section, click here for more blog posts, news stories, and special features on relationships, work, parenting, health, sex... life.