My daughter is the bravest person I know. Perhaps there are others equally brave, but it’s her I know best. Because of our relationship, in blood and as her confidante, I know in intimate detail the ongoing bravery with which she lives her life. I would like to share this with you today and I hope you will listen.

Bravery does not exist unless there is fear. And every day my daughter is fearful. She fears the effects of her lifelong anxiety disorder and she fears the memories of the sexual assault that increased those effects a thousandfold. There is the fear that she will not sleep at night, overwhelmed by her thoughts of how she might have failed the day before, or go on to fail the next. There is ongoing fear of how others judge her to be lesser than them, to be ‘weird’, to be less capable, to be capable of failure only.

And this failure is not in the way she lives her life. Despite the impact of her low mood, of her sleeplessness, of her sensitivity to stimulation and of her constant self-doubt, she lives a life of independence. She lives away from home, in another state. She lives with people who were all strangers when she first met them age 19. She attends university, also a new experience when she left home. She keeps herself clothed and well fed. She attends to her medical needs – since she was a young teen she has taken full responsibility for addressing her condition with health professionals and seeking alternative mental health management practices. She keeps in close touch with relatives and friends and offers consistent, ongoing support to them because empathy is her second most striking quality.

She cares for and supports a child with cancer, fearlessly facing the effects of her illness, the requirement to spend long hours monitoring her frightening condition and the challenging task of supporting the child’s parents. One of those parents was her teacher when she was only eleven, yet given my daughter’s courage and caring nature she has the status of a strong adult in that family.

She is a passionate member of her youth group, provides ongoing mentoring to young people, delivers moving speeches and effective programs and turns up to assist even when most demanding in terms of time and distance.  And she reads, writes and speaks, advocating for justice and equity in the world.

Perhaps in advocating for equity she is at her bravest. Because sometimes fairness seems a hopeless cause. For the vulnerable in the world and for her. Everywhere there are the doubters, the people who do not recognise she is living her life harder than others. Who will pass her over for leadership, for recognition, for academic opportunities, for the chance to be treated just like her peers.

I said my daughter was brave. So here is more proof. Every day she looks doubt at her capabilities in the face. And every day she works at her social work studies, does her share of household tasks, cares for animals, prepares youth leadership programs. Every day she makes contact with friends and family, checking in that they are travelling well. Every day, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she resolutely looks forward to better times, and expresses her gratitude for all that life has given her.

My daughter is my teacher. She has taught me about commitment, about caring and most of all she has taught me about courage. Please allow her to be your teacher too.

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Avril Janks
Avril Janks is inspired by her two adult children who live their lives connected to community and passionate about making a difference. She works in communications in the not for profit sector and is a writer, translator and serial volunteer.

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