Editor's Note: Vulnerability and Courage
by Cassy Smithies | published Sep. 10th, 2020
When asked about college, I used to force myself to smile and celebrate the idea of moving onto great things as my friends and family expected me to. However, I was actually quite bitter. I did not want to leave behind my comfortable and safe life that I had built in my hometown for the past 18 years. I kept myself so busy that I didn’t have time to let myself acknowledge any emotions or even pursue anything that didn’t lend itself to someone else’s definition of success. It wasn't until college that I realized that I never learned how to be brave enough to pursue something for the passion of it.
While I do believe I achieved many things in high school, I was missing pride in my accomplishments. By stepping out of my comfort bubble, I invited myself to develop in ways I thought I already had figured out. This university may not be perfect, but my experience here has been filled with so many unique opportunities to learn — the majority of which were not in the classroom.
More specifically when I first arrived on campus, I approached the Gymnastics Club seeking to be a competitive gymnast. The club, however, was only at a recreational level and uninterested in the idea of competition. Defeated, I turned my focus to my major that I then developed a hatred for. I found myself being scared, not of failure, but of success. Was I going to be able to be happy?
I can now say that I am quite happy with many things I played a role in during my time at RIT, including changing my major after two and a half years. My proudest legacy is RIT’s first ever Competitive Gymnastics Team. When I was told "no" by others my freshman year, I did not have the courage to take a risk for something I cared about. While it did take me some more time, every roadblock I overcame to develop the team made me brave, uncomfortable and — most importantly — happy.
I challenge you to dare greatly and invite vulnerability into the new lifestyle you’re about to dive into. RIT can be a great place to do something new and connect with others. No matter how long you are here, you have the power to pursue your passions no matter how many people tell you that you can’t. It can be difficult not to let the expectations of your parents, friends, teammates, professors and even social norms pressure you to fall into a comfort bubble.
Vulnerability and courage are an inseparable pair — you cannot have one without the other. There will be times when comfort will be necessary, but when you can choose vulnerability, I urge you to choose it. Happiness through bravery is an incredible reward.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” —Brene Brown