Karla Walsh: Courage, Redefined

When I say “courage,” what comes to mind?

In my first 30 years, I admit I never put a lot of consideration into this. I used to think it was an “I’ll know it when I see it” scenario.

But after being involved with a Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa event this spring highlighting and awarding people who live the group’s core values of confidence, character and courage, I began to home in on—and expand—my definition of courage.

Courage is all around us, in tiny and huge ways. For me, I realized that many times in my life, I didn’t recognize courage until years later.

I moved to New York City about a week after graduating from Iowa State to begin my dream job at Fitness magazine. As a meek 20-something who grew up in the suburbs, it was quite the change to build a home at a tiny studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens. Those 380 square feet never really felt like home. Neither did the city, not once. As much as I loved my job and the opportunity to see my onetime dream come to life, the excitement and challenge during those 10 hours of the day couldn’t make up for the deep, unexplainable sensation that there was something else out there. Something that felt more like home.

So after two years, I decided to put in my notice and move to Des Moines—where Meredith, my employer, was headquartered. It was 2012, and for the second time since my Cyclone days, I packed my bags to move to a city where I didn’t know a soul and didn’t have a place to live (yet). Moving to the Big Apple might seem more courageous from an outside perspective, but I think the latter transition was the courageous one.

Making that move meant I was giving up the job that I had hustled so hard to get during college. It meant giving up benefits that come with said full-time job. It meant giving up. Period. Which is something I hated doing.

But it also meant I had a chance to start fresh, bringing the lessons from that previous move with me. And it meant I could at least get out of whatever funk I was in.

At the time, I never could have dreamed how much that one decision changed—and eventually drastically improved—my life. But looking back, that was the first time I really embodied the “what’s the worst that can happen?!” mantra I now live by in terms of any calculated risk. I think of that often when I step outside the status quo or outside of my comfort zone. To me, that is courage.

Whether it will be written about in history books, is hidden or visible, feels huge or tiny, I hope we can all take some time to acknowledge and celebrate the courageous moves we make every day.


Karla Walsh is a freelance writer and editor who’d love to hear about your most courageous moments. Email her at karlawalsh@gmail.com about this (or other topics you’d like to see covered in future No Filter columns). You can also keep in touch on Instagram @karlawalsh.

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