A Coward in Recovery
Welcome to my nightmare, my dream, my newsletter.
You’ve arrived to a creative experiment. Trials are currently underway. To partake in the project, you must be brave. You must be prepared to potentially shit your pants and push forward anyway. Ready?
To get started, read the essay about a coward in recovery below. Then, scroll through the illustrated Brazenface about page for a story about how this experiment—and its test subject—ended up here in the first place.
Last month, I was hospitalized for an abnormal COVID-19 booster reaction. Thankfully, I was okay—but frankly, I was also furious.
If I had died then, I would have died a coward. I would have died with a head humming with ideas and only a handful of journals and a few Google folders to show for it. I would have died wanting to do 8,320,324 things—things I could create! Things I could afford! Things I could attempt!—but failing to show up and make them happen. I would have died leashed to my doubts, defeated.
This is not to say I haven’t done things I’m proud of, or pursued ideas that greatly please me. I have a happy history of creating—both for work and for play. But for the past year and a half, I’ve lost momentum, often dreaming up endless “what-if’s” and deserting them as too-scary to-dos. There, they tease me. My inertia is their inertia. If I don’t take action, these ideas don’t exist; they’ve been born to and starved by the same creator. And the guilt adds to the torment: How dare I feel the electric magic of an idea, or the wonder of a want, and cruelly ignore this kind of gift?
Until now, I blamed my inaction on the pandemic, an unprecedented period where fear is rightfully justified. But I believe self-doubts are unrelated. While the pandemic has made it acceptable—if not encouraged—to be complacent with what’s comfortable, the fear of attempting is another fear entirely. The terror of this-will-be-tough-but-I-want-to-try-anyway is exactly the mindset I’ve avoided, instead opting for the slow lane on Route Safe.
But life does not reward this. From what I’ve been able to understand in my 24 years, there is little fulfillment when fear leads the way. You end up ignoring life’s biggest magic: the gift of our callings. These glorious desires within are often what scare us most—and what satisfy us even more. There’s something powerful about living courageously in pursuit of what we desire. It’s a thrill I long to taste again in supersized supply.
Some of my most vibrant moments have also been my most nervous moments. Racing adrenaline has a weird side effect: increased satisfaction. When I’ve done things that terrify me, like declaring I hate dogs, or saying “I love you” first without knowing if I’d hear it back, the reward has been infinitely richer. Why? Because I’ve conquered from within. Most of the people we admire—the leaders, the creators, the warriors—are willing to be brave. They’re able to say hi to the fears holding them back, stride right on by, and cultivate what calls them.
Left unattended to, these internal itches become all-out affronts. What started as a small squeak becomes a seismic shake—crippling the cowards and unleashing weapons of guilt and rage. After my day in the hospital, I let myself fully feel that rage. In fury, I was able to comprehend my cowardice and my desperate need for recovery.
As “a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things,” a coward is someone we might know intimately. “Unpleasant” is everywhere: writing for fun can be unpleasant, learning a new skill can be unpleasant, risking rejection can be unpleasant, setting boundaries can be unpleasant, having a difficult conversation can be unpleasant—basically all things of value have some degree of unpleasantness within them. But there’s beauty in overcoming barriers.
Now, I’m ready to chase that courage at full blast. In fact, I am officially committing to it: in 2022, I will be doing everything that terrifies me for an entire year. The things I have dreamt of doing but disregarded. Launching this newsletter is move number one, and it is debilitatingly daunting—but if not now, when? And if not here, where? Rather than waiting for an opportunity, I am creating my opportunity.
Brazenface is a newsletter and a creative experiment. I am the researcher, the creator, the test subject. What will 365 days of conquering my cowardice lead to? Who will I meet, where will I go, what will I build? Given that fear is subjective, I need to make it clear that I’ll be taking on my own personal horrors, not rational fears like jumping off a bridge. Those kinds of potentially lethal fears are not what this experiment is about.
Instead, I’ll be doing and making desired things that I would have otherwise talked myself out of—pursuits in my social, professional, and creative life. I’ll be chronicling the adventures of my newfound cojones with essays, photos, short films, illustrations, and whatever other medium I dare to explore. For an extra taste of what’s to come, I illustrated the story of how this experiment came to be on the Brazenface about page.
As for now, I am that electric mix of terrified and thrilled. For the first time in a grand ol’ while, I spent the entire weekend and all of last week working on the launch of a new project. Sleep? Social life? Sofa? Not for this girl. When you’re galloping forward with the buzz of a concept being created, your priorities shift. You start dancing with the delight of doing. You have that internal going-for-it glow.
Finally, after a year and a half of inaction, I’m being brazen in the face of my fears. I’m smiling at my self-doubts. I’m answering life’s call. Hello?
Tatiana Gallardo is a writer and coward in recovery. She’s currently based in the suburban jungle. Soon, she’ll be braving South America.