On the crisp morning of my birthday, the Trailblazer Fellows met in a sports hall with champion boxer Bianca Elmir. As I raised my fists to my face and sketched an imaginary foe before my eyes, my body seemed to uncoil, snapping into place, remembering.
Remembering what it was to own my body.
Blessed with a relatively healthy upbringing, my childhood body was all mine: to roll in grass, cut on concrete, stain with textas, kick, scream, scribble and burrow with. I can’t say exactly when this began to change—but I do remember an early primary school teacher sitting me down with a comment I’d made, and telling me, with a sternness I didn’t understand, that I was not fat.
When I got to high school, I was shocked at first to see no playground, and wondered what on earth grownups did with their time. Well, I learnt before long—learnt to sit down, learnt to notice the length of my skirt, the height of my socks. And I stopped screaming—in fact I grew so quiet that some people struggled to hear me.
Over time, my body went from something that did to something that was.
It sat while I studied, digested my food, groaned to carry me places. As my mind whirled upwards through higher education, my body was somewhat of an annoyance. The way it would tire, hurt, shiver, sicken, present in front of a mirror, itch, sweat, gather dirt and dust—I took it all for granted, and for the rest of the time forgot about it.
What the Trailblazer Fellowship gives, I think, is space. With this group of women and girls, I breathe in, and with each out breath fill the space up again. Space for right hooks and uppercuts, for giggles and backflips, wrestling and posing. Finally, my body is free. And when I’m exhausted, it’s because I earned it, and I wonder how I ever felt guilty about being tired.
The other half of the Fellowship is space for the mind. Sitting around a sunny table at the McDonalds across the road, we each held our hands out to the futures we dreamt of. But not only that, we swapped them. We chipped at parts, we shared in wisdom—and in doing so we gave our wildest dreams space to grow just a little bit more, outside of us.
I once thought that bravery never meant fearlessness—it’s always been in spite of fear. But it turns out that fearlessness is possible too. Just create a space where the rulebook that’s been written for you over the years is stripped back. Back to the basics of saying what you wish to say, doing what you wish to do—and letting all what ifs and buts come later. Learn to carry that space with you, in a safe and exquisite little box, so you can open it when you need to. That still doesn’t make it easy. But it makes it possible—and eventually, it makes it habit. Until bravery is just walking on top of fear—still there, of course, but an old enemy.
"What the Trailblazer Fellowship is doing is tremendously generous"
Trusting in enough in each one of us to put a pen in our hands and ask: what is it you want to do? Not your duties or what you can offer to others, but an arrow shot straight from the heart. And not just leaving it at that, but taking it seriously. Asking how we can start to walk in that direction. Giving us each other so we can explore the future together – fearlessly.
My younger self might be disappointed to know that after twenty years, I’m still just starting to figure out that worn-out platitude, ‘be yourself’. But I’m already luckier than most. Some people never get to that point after a whole lifetime. So thank you, thank you, Jasiri, for what you are doing. I can’t wait to find out where this Fellowship takes us.